In sports, there are always bumps in the road, even during otherwise great seasons of play.
The Elizabethtown Area High School’s girls varsity basketball encountered such a bump in their recent game against the Section 1 rival Penn Manor Comets on Friday, Jan. 26, a contest Elizabethtown lost by the thin margin of 34-32.
“Both teams played really hard,” Elizabethtown head coach John Myers said after the game. “Penn Manor came in and played a really good game. They played really well. She (Penn Manor head coach Megan Collins) should be very proud of her kids. A lot of that had to do with their defense.”
The loss marked the Bears second Lancaster-Lebanon League loss on the season, and dropped the team to a record of 14-4 overall.
In the game, Elizabethtown’s offense struggled to find a rhythm in the first half, as missed shots limited the team to just 16 points scored over the first two quarters. After rallying to a five-point lead entering the fourth quarter, Elizabethtown struggled to overcome stout defensive play by the Comets, who sealed the win with a two-point put-back jumper with fewer than ten seconds on the game clock.
“Penn Manor is a good team,” Myers said. “They play great defense. They played great tonight, and we just didn’t. You’re not going to win many games scoring 32 points. So we need to score more, which we usually do.”
Indeed, the Bears had averaged 50.2 points per game entering their matchup with the Comets. Their 32-point tally was their lowest since being held to 33 points against the West Perry Mustangs on Thursday, Dec. 28.
“We knew it was going to be a really tough one,” senior point guard Amber Orban said. “We knew they were going to be good.”
The Bears rallied to outscore Penn Manor 9-5 in the third quarter. However, the fourth quarter proved to be the mirror image of the team’s strong third. Elizabethtown’s offense logged just seven points, and their defense, which hadn’t allowed Penn Manor to score double-digit points in any of the first three quarters, buckled and allowed the Comets to put up 14 points, including their win-sealing jumper.
“We just couldn’t put the ball through the hole tonight, and that happens sometimes, that happens,” Myers said.
The Comets’ two-point winner came on an offensive possession immediately following a thrilling three-point shot from Elizabethtown junior guard Marena Lonardi that tied the score at 32 and brought the home crowd in Elizabethtown to their feet. The Comets then silenced the crowd when sophomore Ella Hart grabbed on offensive board off her own shot attempt and put the ball through the net.
Top performances in the game for the Bears came from junior forward Sydney Pierson, who logged 16 points and made one of two free throws, and Lonardi, who continued her strong season by posting ten points and making her lone free throw.
“I’m proud of them for what they’ve done this year,” Myers said. “And we’ll keep it going as long as we can.”
Coming into the Penn Manor game, the Bears had not lost since a 57-43 road loss to the non-league opponent Hershey Trojans on Saturday, January 20. The team had not lost to a Section 1 opponent since a 61-46 loss to the Manheim Township Blue Streaks on Friday, December 15.
A victory by the Bears would have given Elizabethtown sole possession of first place in Section 1, courtesy of the Cedar Crest Falcons sneaking by the Manheim Township Blue Streaks by a score of 35-34 that went final minutes before Elizabethtown’s own game. Instead, their loss to Penn Manor creates a three-way tie atop the Section standings with each team having three games each left to play against Lancaster-Lebanon League opponents.
The Bears set themselves up well for the home stretch thanks to a 48-40 win over Big Spring on Monday, Jan. 29. In that game, Elizabethtown jumped out to a 21-17 lead by halftime, and scored 27 points in the second half on their way to the win, moving their season record to 15-4.
However, since Big Spring represents a non-Lancaster-Lebanon opponent, the Bears’ Section 1 record remains at nine wins and two losses. By mid-week, the Bears could find themselves one game behind in the standings needing to make up ground over the season’s final week.
Myers said he embraces such excitement late in the season and is encouraging his players to do the same.
“It’s a lot of fun playing here late in the season where every game is big and every game is important,” the coach said. “The atmosphere in the gym is great. So just enjoy it.
The coach’s players agree with him.
“We’ve got to make sure we’re really prepared for this game,” Orban said.
“We’re still in it,” Pierson said. “We just have to keep our focus and keep working hard at practice.”