Sometimes it takes a shocking defeat to jolt a team back into reality after a decent winning streak. The Elizabethtown girls basketball team certainly experienced that during its first two Section Two matchups of the season.
The Lady Bears hosted Warwick in Daubert Gym on Friday, Jan. 4. Both defenses were strong to start the game; Elizabethtown only led 6-4 at the end of the first quarter, as neither offense was able to get many clean looks at the basket.
Things picked up slightly in the second. Freshman Ainsley Raybold knocked down a pair of 3-pointers midway through the quarter to tie the game at 15-15. A layup from sophomore Carly Sedun and a steal-and-score from senior Marena Lonardi near the end of the half was enough to put Elizabethtown up 21-17 at the break.
Early second-half buckets from Lonardi and sophomore Macy Seaman boosted the Lady Bears’ lead. They held a 33-26 advantage at the end of the third, which held firm at the halfway point of the fourth. Elizabethtown was up 39-30 with just under four minutes to go. Shortly thereafter, the game went off the rails.
After a Lonardi free throw to put the LadyBears up 40-30, Warwick came alive. A pair of 3s from junior Lailani Batty and senior Sydney Weismandel cut the Elizabethtown lead to four. The Warriors then took advantage of some Lady Bears turnovers to tie the game thanks to two free throws from sophomore Lauren Pyle and a reverse layup from Batty, who was then fouled going for a loose ball on the next Elizabethtown possession to go to the foul line for a one-and-one, giving her team its first lead in the second half at 42-40.
Another Warwick free throw put the score at 43-40. Elizabethtown senior Sydney Pierson made two foul shots to make it a one-point game with just over 40 seconds to go. However, she got whistled for her fifth foul at the other end, resulting in another Warwick free throw. Pyle made two more afterward to give the Warriors a stunning 46-42 victory.
“The mindset is to play smart and close out the game,” head coach John Myers said. “We’re up nine with four minutes left, (so) that’s a game we should be able to close out. We don’t have to shoot; we can drain clock and play a little bit under control, and we didn’t do that.”
Batty led Warwick with 18 points, hitting two 3-pointers and 6 free throws. Pyle wasn’t far behind, finishing with 16 points, 9 of them from the foul line.
“They’re a good team, so playing them’s gonna make us better,” Myers said. “Lauren Pyle played really well, and Batty hit some big shots. (But) we can play better than that. It’s a learning experience for down the road.”
Lonardi had a game-high 19 points, along with 4 rebounds and 2 steals. Pierson added 8 points, as well as a whopping total of 12 rebounds and 4 blocks. However, both of them fouled out with less than two minutes to go, leaving Raybold (6 points, 5 assists) and a large group of freshmen and sophomores to try and mount a comeback that didn’t come to fruition. The initial part of Warwick’s late-game heroics arguably came from the Lady Bears trying to avoid fouls; they were ultimately called for 19 in the game as a whole.
“Once we get into foul trouble, we don’t really want to touch anybody,” Myers said. “(The underclassmen) haven’t been in spots like this yet to close out games, so when our two oldest players foul out, that doesn’t help. But bottom line, if we’re gonna compete for the section, we got to be able to close out games.”
Elizabethtown went on the road Tuesday, Jan. 8, to face Conestoga Valley. Given the way they lost against Warwick, the Lady Bears made certain to keep the pressure on the Buckskins throughout the night. They held them to just 10 points in the first half while scoring 27 themselves (13 in the first quarter, 14 in the second).
Conestoga Valley was more active on offense in the second half, scoring 15 points in the third and 10 more in the fourth. However, Elizabethtown continually kept the Buckskins at arm’s reach, eventually coasting to a 57-29 win.
Lonardi played terrifically for the Lady Bears, scoring 24 points. She’s now at 978 for her career, 22 away from the 1,000 mark. Pierson contributed 11, while Raybold and fellow freshman Jade Love-Morris had 5 each. For Conestoga Valley, senior Kenzie Reed had a team-high 9 points, with sophomore Ashley Andrew not far behind at 8.
The Lady Bears (7-4) will have another Section Two bout on Friday, Jan. 11, at Lebanon. They’ll also be on the road Monday, Jan. 14, for a non-league game at Cedar Cliff.