It’s always nice to walk away from a holiday tournament as champions. It’s even better to do it while on a winning streak. That’s exactly what happened to the Elizabethtown Area High School girls basketball team just a few days after Christmas.
The Lady Bears took part in the Northeastern Holiday Tournament, winning 48-31 over West Perry on Thursday, Dec. 27, and beating the host Bobcats 42-32 on Friday, Dec. 28, to go home as champions and increase their consecutive win total to five.
“West Perry’s always tough in the Mid Penn,” head coach John Myers said. “Northeastern’s getting a lot better; their coach is doing a great job with them. They were two tough opponents, and it’s nice to play this well over Christmas break. Minus the last quarter (against Northeastern), we played seven really good quarters this week. That’ll help us carry this momentum.”
The game between Elizabethtown and West Perry was expected to be a low-scoring one, and that was the case in the first quarter. Both teams finished the period tied at 8-8, with both defenses making numerous strong plays.
The Mustangs briefly held a 13-10 lead early in the second, but the Lady Bears finished the half hot, scoring seven straight points to carry a 2014 advantage into the break. Six of those points came from senior Marena Lonardi, four of them off steals.
The start of the third was much of the same, as Elizabethtown had another run of seven straight points, this time thanks to a layup from sophomore Carly Sedun off a pass from freshman Ainsley Raybold, followed by senior Sydney Pierson assisting Lonardi on a layup and a 3-pointer. The Lady Bears would end the third up 3522. They finished well in the fourth, holding West Perry to just nine points (and a total of 17 in the second half) to coast to a win.
Lonardi was brilliant, leading all players with 27 points, her third straight game with at least 20 points. She also had 5 rebounds and 3 steals. Pierson (8 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 blocks and 2 steals) had a healthy stat line, while Sedun (8 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals) had her highest scoring output of the season. Raybold didn’t score but did finish with 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 steals.
Margrett Brown led West Perry with 12 points, hitting two 3-pointers. Tiara Johnson contributed 8 points as well.
Elizabethtown faced Northeastern in the tournament final after the latter beat Columbia the previous day. The first quarter moved quickly, with the Lady Bears holding a 16-10 lead at the end of the period. All of their points from the field came via assists from Lonardi, Pierson and Raybold.
The second quarter slowed down quite a bit offensively for both teams. Northeastern had just a single made free throw, while Elizabethtown scored just 7 points, going up 23-11 at the break. That defensive dominance continued in the third; before a 3-pointer late in the quarter, the Lady Bears had gone nearly 16 minutes in the game without allowing a field goal, leading 35-16.
“In our winning streak, every team’s been in the 30s,” Myers said. “There’s been a huge push for team defense and working together as one unit. Those first three quarters were tremendous. We lost our heads a little bit in the fourth, but that’s the best three quarters we’ve played this season.”
Northeastern finally came to life in the fourth, working its way back into things and eventually narrowing the deficit to single digits. To their credit, the Lady Bears kept their heads and were able to pull out the victory, though Myers admits that the slight downturn is something they’ll have to address.
“I thought we could’ve done a better job with it,” he said. “We had such a nice cushion that we were able to get frazzled a little bit, but that can’t continue. We need to shore things up headed in Section Two, because we’re gonna be in some tight games. That needs to improve.”
Pierson had a double-double, scoring 14 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. Lonardi was solid as well, finishing with 12 points, 4 assists, 3 blocks and 4 steals. Sedun (7 points, 6 rebounds) and Raybold (5 points, 5 rebounds) also chipped in.
“The more balance, the better,” Myers said. “It’s good to have multiple weapons that we can use, so that’s great. We like a more balanced box score, instead of a lopsided one. We got great contributions, and it’s getting better.”
For the Bobcats, Megan Elzinga led the way with 11 points. Jordyn Jennings had 8 points, knocking down a pair of 3-pointers.
The two wins have boosted Elizabethtown’s record to 6-3 on the season, good for first place in Section Two of the Lancaster-Lebanon League. Things won’t get easier, however. The Lady Beras will return from the holiday break on Friday, Jan. 4, for a huge showdown in Daubert Gym against Warwick, followed by an away contest at Conestoga Valley on Monday, Jan. 7. Still, if they keep up the consistent play, they could remain firm favorites in the section.
“We’re gonna take a fourday break here and rest some injuries and our legs,” Myers said. “We’ll be ready for Warwick. Danny (Cieniewicz) is doing a good job with them. They’re much better, so we’ll be ready for that game.”