Just over a week before the start of the PIAA state playoffs, the Elizabethtown Area High School boys basketball team had one last District 3 playoff game to get through, against a team the Bears had previously upset just a couple of weeks prior. This time around was different, however.
The Bears went on the road to square up against Lampeter-Strasburg, the No. 2 seed in the Class 5A bracket for District 3, in the fifth-place game on Thursday, Feb. 28. In the last meeting between the two teams during the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs, Elizabethtown shocked the Pioneers with a game-winning basket from senior Larry Locker late in regulation to win 47-44.
L-S didn’t let that happen in the rematch. An 11-0 run early in the first quarter placed control firmly in the Pioneers’ hands. The first eight of those points came from junior Seth Beers, who nailed a long 2-pointer from the corner and two contested 3s.
Not helping matters were Elizabethtown’s turnovers; the Bears had a string of six possessions where they turned the ball over five times, and the other ended with Locker having a layup blocked. All of this gave L-S a 14-8 lead heading into the second
The Pioneers continued to direct traffic, briefly taking a 25-14 lead, which ended up being the largest of the night. However, Elizabethtown closed the first half with an 8-3 run via short-range buckets from Locker and junior Elijah Eberly, cutting the score to 28-22 at the break.
The Bears stepped up defensively in the third quarter, holding L-S to just 7 points. They had a 7-0 run of their own to end the period, with a 3-ball from junior Brody Beach tying the score at 35-35 ahead of the fourth.
Baskets from Beers and senior Patrick Holmes gave the Pioneers a small advantage by the midway point of the final period. Beach knocked down another 3-pointer to cut their lead to 43-42 soon afterward, but then things fell apart for Elizabethtown. Beers answered with a coast-to-coast layup, then forced a steal and found Homes for a fastbreak score.
After a missed Bears shot, L-S senior Zach Kingsley went to the free-throw line, making the first and missing the second; a scramble for the loose ball sent it careening out of bounds, and the Pioneers ended up keeping possession. Holmes would then flash to the hoop off an inbounds pass for a wide-open layup. With that 7-0 run, L-S went up 50-42 with just under two minutes left.
Senior Amos Kollie did convert a mid-range shot for Elizabethtown on the next possession, but the Pioneers came up big at the foul line from there to cruise to a 54-44 victory. They were 7 of 9 on their free throws in the fourth. Meanwhile, the Bears shooting went cold; they were 4 of 12 from the field in the final period, with three of those makes coming from Beach.
“We just made a few mistakes on top of each other,” head coach Rocky Parise said. “We always talk about not compounding mistakes, and we did. We had 7 turnovers in the first quarter and only 2 the rest of the game. We definitely settled in, but it’s something we need to correct this week.”
For the second straight game, Beach notched a career-high in scoring, leading all players with 16 points. Locker finished with 12 points, 6 rebounds and 4 steals. Eberly (6 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks, 2 steals) had a balanced stat line, while junior Ryan Parise (6 points, 4 assists) was solid as a passer. Still, the shooting skid in the fourth quarter derailed what could’ve been a nice comeback win.
“Yeah, we just missed shots,” Coach Parise said. “I felt like we got good looks, (but) I do think a few times we could have made an extra pass and didn’t. When we make the extra pass, that shot always seems to go in.”
Beers was steady all night for L-S, leading the team with 15 points, 5 assists and 5 steals. Senior Jarred Getchis chipped in with 9 points, as did Kingsley (8 points, 4 assists). All 6 of Holmes’ points came during the fourth quarter, while senior Chase Broderick (5 points) had a game-high 7 rebounds as well.
“I take the blame for us not being ready to play,” Coach Parise said. “I tried to do some different stuff. If I would have done my job, we would have won the game. (But) this showed how far we have come. We didn’t play well, and the game was still tied going into the fourth with one of the best teams in the district.”
With a sixth-place finish in Class 5A for District 3, the Bears (17-12) will now prepare for the state playoffs. They’ll travel to Central Cambria in Edensburg on Friday, March 8, for a first-round matchup against Greater Johnstown (19-2), the District 6 champs. The Trojans have been one of the top 5A teams in Pennsylvania this season, but Elizabethtown is hungry for the opportunity to get the first state playoff win in school history, so it’ll be anyone’s game.
“We can’t be passive Friday,” Coach Parise said. “I think (we need to show) focus and aggressiveness, (and) we also need to make the simple play and not compound mistakes. (But) we will definitely be ready to go. I guarantee that.”