A Section Two title is within reach for the Elizabethtown Area High School girls basketball team. It would be the first for the Lady Bears since 2005. With three regular season games to go, they’ll have plenty of chances to clinch it outright.
The team hosted Donegal in a rematch from earlier in the season on Wednesday, Jan. 23. The Indians won the first matchup 48-35, but Elizabethtown was without its leading scorer, senior Marena Lonardi, who had to sit out due to a foot injury.
Lonardi proved herself as a difference maker this time around, scoring 11 of the team’s 15 points in the first quarter. The Lady Bears played shutdown defense as well, holding Donegal to just 4 points. The Indians did have runs of 6-0 and 5-0 in the second to tighten the game, but Elizabethtown still went to the break up 26-19.
The second half opened with back and forth scoring from both teams. At the midway point, however, the Lady Bears caught fire, going on a 10-3 run to grab a double-digit lead. Donegal closed the quarter with six straight though, which narrowed the score to 43-33.
Neither squad did much in the initial stages of the fourth, outside of a putback from Lady Bears sophomore Carly Sedun. With the game at 51-39 right at the two-minute mark, the Indians frantically attempted a comeback, going on a 7-0 run to briefly cut it to 51-46. Free throws from Lonardi were enough to end it, however, and Elizabethtown escaped with a 55-47 victory.
“We found our rhythm,” head coach John Myers said. “I loved our intensity on defense. The kids really want to win the section. That’s the goal. It’s been 15 years.”
Lonardi went off, scoring a career-high 33 points and notching 5 steals as well. Fellow senior Sydney Pierson had a double-double, finishing with 10 points and a whopping 19 rebounds. She also had 3 blocks. Freshman Ainsley Raybold (7 points) and sophomore Emma Blyler (2 points) combined for 10 assists.
Junior Kiera Baughman led Donegal with 17 points. Seniors Cheyenne Livelsberger and Summer Steffy had 8 points each, with the latter hitting two 3-pointers.
Elizabethtown had another home game in Daubert Gym on Friday, Jan. 25, against Conestoga Valley. Both teams struggled to score in the first quarter; the Lady Bears were up 10-6 heading into the second. There, they opened up the offense a bit, with Raybold knocking down a pair of 3-pointers and Lonardi going to the half with 12 points, enough to give them a 26-16 advantage.
Raybold nailed two more 3s in the third, while the Elizabethtown defense held the Buckskins to just 4 points, extending its lead to 43-20. The Lady Bears had just 9 points in the fourth (7 coming from Lonardi) but held Conestoga Valley off to grab the 52-36 win.
Lonardi hit 11 shots to finish with 23 points. Raybold had a career-high 14 points as well, 12 from behind the 3-point line. Pierson chipped in with 8 points as well. For the Buckskins, sophomore Ashley Andrew led the way with 12 points.
Finally, the Lady Bears returned to Daubert Gym on Saturday, Jan. 26, for a non-league game against Red Lion. Much of the game was a defensive struggle between the two teams, and it showed early on. The Lady Lions were up just 4-2 midway through the first, eventually holding a 14-12 advantage ahead of the second. Both sides combined for just 10 points in the second as well (6 from Red Lion, 4 from Elizabethtown), putting the score at 20-16.
The offenses came alive somewhat early in the second half, with lots of back and forth action. Red Lion began to pull away by the end of the third though, holding a 35-25 lead going into the fourth. There, the Lady Lions broke the game open, holding the Lady Bears to just 7 points and hitting a slew of free throws to eventually win 50-32.
“Red Lion is a good team,” Myers said. “They’re well-coached and disciplined. This is one of the toughest teams we’ve played this year near the end of our season. Honestly, this prepares for the home stretch here. The goal is still to win the section. That’s a great practice for what we’ve got coming. We’re not hanging our heads; we’re happy for the experience. Could’ve done several things better, but it was a four-point game at the half. It just kind of got away from us late.”
Red Lion’s offense scored mainly through the trio of senior Alleney Klunk, senior Paige Frey and sophomore Makiah Shaw, who each had a game-high 12 points. Sophomore Asia Eames and senior bench player Riley Miller both had 7 points as well, with the former getting all of hers from the foul line and the latter hitting two 3s.
“The strategy was to play them zone and make them shoot jump shots,” Myers said. “We did that, and we were in it during the third. We just didn’t pull enough balls through the hoop tonight.”
Raybold (7 points, 4 assists) and Blyler (5 points, 2 steals) contributed significantly for Elizabethtown, but it was the team’s two starting seniors, Lonardi (8 rebounds) and Pierson (6 rebounds) who shared the lead in points at 10. That was fitting, considering that the Lady Bears held their Senior Night festivities at halftime, with reverse senior Ashleigh Matter getting recognized too along with receiving her first career start.
“They’re awesome kids,” Myers said. “It’s been longer than four years working with Marena and Syd. They’re great for the program; they’re competitive as can be; they’re really good leaders, kids and students. We’re gonna miss them. They’re just a lot of fun to work with.”
The Lady Bears (13-6) had their home game against Lebanon on Tuesday, Jan. 29, moved to Wednesday, Jan. 30, due to inclement weather. They’ll also host Hempfield on Thursday, Jan. 31, followed by the regular season finale at Ephrata on Tuesday, Feb. 5. One win will clinch them at least a share of the section title, while two will guarantee it outright.