It may sound strange, but the Elizabethtown Area High School boys basketball team should consider itself fortunate to be at 6-6 with 10 games to go in the season. The Bears have had to fight and claw their way through the majority of the games, and their recent run was no exception.
Elizabethtown’s first game back from the holiday break came on the road at Hershey on Wednesday, Jan. 2. The first half was a high-scoring one for both teams, with the Bears leading 26-17 after the first quarter and 40-34 at the break. Three steals from junior Elijah Eberly early on helped kickstart the offense, after which fellow junior Ryan Parise took over; he had 16 points in the half, including two 3-pointers.
However, a steal-and-score from Hershey just before halftime helped the Trojans build momentum in the third. They opened with an 11-0 run to take a 45-40 lead, though 5 points from Ryan Parise tied the game before the start of the fourth. After some back and forth action, Hershey senior Griffin Jackson hit a 3 to put his team up 58-50 with just under four minutes left in regulation.
With the Trojans up 61-55 with just over two minutes to go, Elizabethtown had to make a move to stay alive. A steal from senior Larry Locker led to a resounding dunk, and after Ryan Parise made two free throws to cut the lead to two, senior Amos Kollie drove the length of the floor to tie the game at 61-61 with just a minute remaining. Neither team scored before the end of regulation, sending the game to overtime.
Both offenses were gassed when OT came; they each had 4 points, with all of Elizabethtown’s coming from Eberly. The game went to a second OT tied at 65-65 and nearly went to a third with the score at 68-68.
However, the Bears improbably went ahead 70-68 with just 2.2 seconds on the clock after sophomore Luke Pierson chased down a missed layup from Ryan Parise and converted on the putback. Hershey’s halfcourt heave went wide to give Elizabethtown the win and send Pierson, who had struggled for most of the night, home the hero.
“He’s a sophomore, and that shows you what he’s made out of,” head coach Rocky Parise said. “I sat him on the bench a lot during the fourth quarter and the overtimes, and for him to come out and make a game-winning play like that, that just shows you what kind of kid he is, and that’s why we have all the confidence in the world in him.”
The Bears got major contributions from across the rotation. Locker had 18 points and 7 rebounds, while Eberly (13 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 steals) was a force statistically. Kollie (6 points, 5 assists) was clutch in the fourth quarter and overtimes as well. However, it was Ryan Parise who ended up carrying the team for much of the night. He finished with 29 points (12 from behind the arc), as well as 4 assists.
“It’s kind of the way our season’s gone,” Coach Parise said. “It’s just up and down. These guys have shown in spurts that they’re a really good team, but then we’ve shown the other way too. This game, in particular, we went on a stretch where we couldn’t score, and I haven’t seen that a lot this year. I think we got to be a little bit more patient and work off each other. Honestly, the best part about this game is we dug in and started to get stops in man (defense), and that’s where we’ve really struggled. The fact that they proved that they can pressure the ball and get stops is gonna be really big for us in the stretch run.”
Sophomore Jackson Mescari led Hershey with 26 points. Senior Ben Hand added 15 points, while Jackson (11 points) made a trio of 3-pointers.
The team began its Section Two slate on Friday, Jan. 4, at Warwick, who shot out to an early lead thanks to an 8-0 run. Elizabethtown responded with a 6-0 run of its own to put the score at 12-8 at the end of the first.
A 12-4 run from the Warriors, highlighted by 10 straight points from senior reverse Brock Fassnacht, put them up 24-14 midway through the second. The Bears were able to cut the lead to 29-26 by halftime but were unable to answer during the third, where Warwick outscored them 25-12.
Elizabethtown tried climbing back into the game late in the fourth, at one point narrowing the gap to 66-57. Some free throws from the Warriors were enough to put it away though, and the Bears ended up falling 71-57.
Fassnacht tied for the game-high in points with 22 off the bench for Warwick, who also got contributions from senior Ryan Shirk (18 points) and sophomore Joey McCracken (12 points). For Elizabethtown, Locker led the team with 22 points and 7 rebounds. Eberly (12 points, 5 rebounds) and Kollie (10 points, 5 assists) were solid as well, though the Bears did commit 18 turnovers.
Lastly, the Bears returned to Daubert Gym on Tuesday, Jan. 8, to square up against Conestoga Valley. Elizabethtown absolutely trounced the Buckskins in the first quarter, outscoring them 23-4. A brief push for CV in the second did get the score to 32-17 at the break, but the worst was yet to come.
In the third, the Bears outdid themselves by scoring 28 points while holding the Buckskins to just 8. They were able to glide their way to victory in the fourth, eventually winning 70-39. Locker posted a career-best 31 points to lead Elizabethtown, with Pierson and Kollie scoring 11 and 9 points, respectively. Junior Will Stone led Conestoga Valley with 9 points.
The Bears are slated to play three games in four days during their upcoming schedule (with that number jumping to four in five days if the Conestoga Valley game is included). They are at Twin Valley on Wednesday, Jan. 9, and at home against Lebanon on Friday, Jan. 11, followed by a matchup against Northern York in the L-L League/ Mid-Penn Showdown at Manheim Central on Saturday, Jan. 12.