It’s been four months since the Elizabethtown Area High School boys basketball team has taken the court. After a season in which the Bears finished 10-12, fourth in Section Two of the Lancaster-Lebanon League and one game out of the Class 5A playoffs for District 3, they’re hoping to take the next step in their upcoming season.
The summer league at Spooky Nook Sports, 75 Champ Blvd., Manheim, is as good of place as any to start. The Bears began their slate of games on Thursday, June 7, winning a doubleheader against Cedar Cliff and Bishop McDevitt.
“It feels good just to get everything organized,” head coach Rocky Parise said. “We had everyone here except Amos (Kollie) tonight. I really felt good about getting all the guys here and getting them on the same page. I was really happy with our unselfishness, and I thought we really played more mature than we did last year.”
In the first game against Cedar Cliff, Elizabethtown opened up a double-digit lead early in the first half. The Colts played hard, narrowing the gap several times across the rest of the contest. However, the Bears continually pulled back ahead, ultimately winning by a final score of 6156.
While Cedar Cliff was boosted by nice scoring outputs from Joey Zvorsky (16 points) and Werner (14 points), Elizabethtown’s offense was much more balanced. Larry Locker led all players in scoring with 18 points, also pulling down a game-high 8 rebounds. He showed a nice mix of insideoutside play, scoring in the paint as well as in the midrange and from behind the 3-point line, something he’s worked on in Amateur Athletic Union play.
“This is the first I’ve seen of Larry since he’s been doing AAU and baseball,” Coach Parise said. “I think his jumper is much improved, and that was something he struggled with a bit last year. He got a charge or two (driving into the lane), but now I think he’s to the point where he can stop on a dime, pull up and shoot that jumper. That’s probably been the biggest difference with him.”
Dylan Sweger and Elijah Eberly each had 12 points for the Bears. Parise’s son Ryan had 9 points as well, also dishing out 6 assists.
The second game against Bishop McDevitt went very similarly to start. The Bears exploded in the first half, bolstered by a scoring run from Eberly. The Crusaders slowly worked their way back though, later taking the lead in the second half. Elizabethtown was able to regain the advantage with four minutes left in the game, pulling out a 65-59 victory.
The scoring for Elizabethtown was fairly balanced once again. Locker had 10 points and 7 rebounds, while Lukas Pierson was one behind him in both categories (9 points, 6 rebounds), also blocking 3 shots. Ryan Parise scored 13 points, with 9 coming via the 3-pointer. He notched 6 assists again as well. Sweger had just 5 points but led the team with 8 rebounds and 7 assists.
However, it was Eberly’s play that really gave Bishop McDevitt fits. He led all players with 25 points, continually attacking the basket with post-ups, drives and fastbreaks. It was a nice look for Eberly, who was fourth on the team in points per game last season.
“He plays on a really good AAU team and he’s been playing a lot of basketball against really good competition,” Coach Parise said. “(It seems like) he gets taller and stronger every day, and combine all that with his basketball acumen, he’s doing well. Honestly, that’s something we expected out of him.”
Davon Lee led the way for the Crusaders with 16 points, 12 of them from 3-point range. Jaraud Smith was clutch off the bench as well, scoring 14 points and picking up 3 steals. Turnovers were a slight problem for the Bears in both games; they gave up 5 steals to Cedar Cliff and 13 to Bishop McDevitt.
“I think the guys that are coming off the bench need to do a better job of asserting themselves into the game,” Coach Parise said. “That’s a learning curve for them too, and the great thing about playing in an environment like this is we’re getting all that taken care of now, so once the season comes around, we should be ready to roll. I think if the guys comingoff the bench play with a little more confidence and a little more energy, I think that’ll correct itself a little bit.”
Elizabethtown is aiming to use the summer league as a kickstart before the regular season rolls around in December. The quality of the teams they’re facing will certainly be a challenge. Cedar Cliff made the Class 6A playoffs for District 3, while Bishop McDevitt was the runner-up in Class 4A and went on to the second round of states. All but one of their eight opponents made the district playoffs and three of them made states.
“That’s why we do it,” Coach Parise said. “I asked for a really tough schedule this year. Last year was kind of a tweener schedule, but I think they gave us all the top teams this year. I don’t think you can replicate the environment and the intensity you get here in other summer leagues. We have really good officials, we have really good scorekeepers, and there’s a lot of people standing around watching the games. It reminds of an AAU environment where the games are really important. It’s not just ‘roll the ball out and let’s have fun.’ We really worked on stuff that’ll help us get better tonight.”
The Bears will have some time off before their next game on Tuesday, June 19, where they’ll face Central Dauphin and Williamsport. With such a good beginning to their summer slate, it might be hard to find areas of focus to improve upon before then, but Coach Parise is game.
“We’ll have two open gyms scheduled before (our next game), so me and the coaching staff will figure out what we need to address and work on,” Coach Parise said. “These guys are very skilled. I felt like we needed to get our skill up the last two years, but now the skill is there,and it’s just a matter of taking the next step.”