The Elizabethtown Area High School boys basketball team has certainly been hot in the month of January. Since the beginning of the month, the Bears have won eight out of 10 games, with the latest coming against a Section Two rival.
The team had an away tilt at Conestoga Valley on Friday, Jan. 25. After a bit of a slow start, the Bears kickstarted things on offense thanks to a trio of 3-pointers from junior Ryan Parise. From there, Elizabethtown was able to the first quarter with a 22-12 lead.
More success from behind the arc followed in the second; the Bears nailed 5 more 3-balls to put their team total at 8 in the first half alone. That was enough to give them a 42-27 advantage at halftime.
Elizabethtown stepped up defensively during the third quarter, forcing a number of steals that led to fastbreak points. A 6-0 run helped extend the lead to 51-32 by the midway point, which eventually swelled to 57-40 ahead of the fourth. Senior Larry Locker scored 10 of his team’s 15 points during the quarter.
Locker later assisted to junior Brody Beach on yet another 3-pointer, which put the Bears up 67-45 late in the fourth. The team’s backup unit came on from there and closed out the game, a dominating 75-51 victory for Elizabethtown.
“We wanted to come out, pressure them and be aggressive,” head coach Rocky Parise said. “Our guys really feed off of that, and we wanted to dig in and play man for most of the game. We did struggle a bit (here and there). We would get five or six ball reversals, good closeouts and switches, and then something funky would happen and it’d lead to a layup. It’s still just execution. Finishing those defensive possessions is gonna be key for us down the stretch.”
It was a shooting showcase for the Bears, who finished with 10 makes from behind the 3-point line. Senior Dylan Sweger came off the bench to lead the team with 4, which comprised his 12 points. Ryan Parise (11 points) had 3 in the first, while senior Amos Kollie (10 points) hit 2 and Beach (3 points) had the backbreaker late.
“They came out in their zone, and Ryan banged three quick ones,” Coach Parise said. “I think that just kind of set the tone for the game. It drug them out of the zone, and everyone else just got confidence. Confidence is a crazy thing, and we got a lot of it right now.”
Locker had a game-high 26 points in addition to 5 rebounds and 3 steals. He’s now 25 points away from the school’s all-time scoring mark of 1,087 set in 1971 by Terry Parks. Junior Elijah Eberly had 9 points and 6 rebounds as well.
What put the Bears over the top shooting wise was their passing. They finished with a combined 24 assists on the night, their highest of the season. Eberly led the way with 6 assists, while Locker (5), Beach (4), Ryan Parise (3), Kollie (2) and sophomore Luke Pierson (2) all had major contributions as well.
“That’s what we’ve preached for the last three years, and I think these guys finally get it,” Coach Parise said. “They’re starting to trust each other and talk about the things to look for when you’re passing the ball. I think the confidence is the thing we’re going for now with passing and shooting.”
Senior Jordan Ransing led Conestoga Valley with 9 points, hitting two 3-pointers. Junior Will Stone and senior bench player J’Vhante Perkins had 8 and 7, respectively.
The Bears (12-7) had their Tuesday, Jan. 29, game at Lebanon moved to Monday, Feb. 4, on account of snowy weather conditions. They’ll be at Hempfield on Thursday, Jan. 31, as well and will have their regular season finale at home vs. Ephrata on Tuesday, Feb. 5. A win in any of those games will secure them a spot in the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs.