Just like that, the Spooky Nook Summer League is over for the Elizabethtown Area High School boys basketball team. The Bears played eight games across five weeks and came away with mixed-to-positive results, finishing with a record of 4-4. They closed up their slate on Tuesday, July 2, with a pair of matchups against Cedar Crest and Middletown.
The first game against Cedar Crest went back and forth for much of the first half before the Falcons scored seven straight before halftime, taking a 25-19 lead into the break. The Falcons were carried by rising seniors Ileri Ayo-Faleye and Trey Shutter, who each had 11 first-half points. They then increased their lead to 33-22 early in the second half, aided by a flurry of points from rising junior Max Scipioni.
Elizabethtown worked its way back, however, gradually cutting the deficit down before taking the lead with five minutes remaining off a jumper from rising senior Ryan Parise. The Bears held a 46-43 advantage late after rising senior Elijah Eberly knocked down a pair of free throws to try and stave off a Cedar Crest run.
However, the Falcons were able to respond; Ayo-Faleye pulled down an offensive rebound off a missed Shutter 3-pointer and converted an and-one with 20 seconds left to tie the game at 46-46. After both teams missed potential winning baskets, the game went to sudden-death overtime, where Ayo-Faleye came up big again; he chased down a fastbreak Bears run and came up with a block, then found rising senior Derek Kern for the game-winning jumper. It was the latter’s only points of the game. Thus, Cedar Crest escaped with a 48-46 victory.
“We learned some stuff at the end of that game that’s gonna help us,” Elizabethtown head coach Rocky Parise said. “So while the ball didn’t bounce our way, there were some individual things that will play a factor during the season.”
Ayo-Faleye was brilliant for the Falcons, leading the team with 16 points. He finished with 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 blocks as well. Shutter knocked down three 3-balls en route to 15 points, while Scipioni had 12 points (all in the second half) and 6 rebounds. Rising senior Jason Eberhart scored just 2 points, but he led all players with 12 rebounds.
Meanwhile, Eberly notched a double-double for Elizabethtown, putting up a game-high 19 points in addition to 11 rebounds. Ryan Parise and rising senior Brody Beach each finished with 11 points as well. Despite the loss, it was an impressive showing for the Bears, who only had six regular players available due to prior obligations.
“It shows how much our guys have been working and how in shape we are,” Coach Parise said. “It’s not like they haven’t been doing anything this summer. The fact that they can just roll out and play two full games with that many minutes shows you how much they’ve been practicing to get better.”
Elizabethtown had its last summer league game shortly afterward vs. Middletown. The two sides were slow to start out; the score was tied at 9-9 eight minutes in. However, the next eight minutes were much different, as the Bears held the Blue Raiders to no points over that length of time. They would close the first half on a 20-7 run to go into halftime with a 29-16 lead.
To the Blue Raiders’ credit, they did not give in, eventually trimming the lead to single digits midway through the second half. Elizabethtown put its foot on the gas pedal though, exploding on another run from there thanks to some 3-pointers from Beach to cruise to a 61-43 win.
“I thought Middletown did a lot of good things, and they kept coming back at us,” Coach Parise said. “But I just feel like the confidence from winning games last year and going as far as we did has carried over, and that makes a difference. I thought it was a very mature win for us.”
The Bears had three players in double figures. Eberly tied for the game high in points with 18, also finishing with 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Beach had 17 points, 12 from beyond 3-point range, as well as 5 assists. Rising junior Luke Pierson scored 15 points and forced 3 steals. Ryan Parise (6 points) led all players with 9 assists, while rising sophomore Pat Gilhool had 5 points and 5 rebounds. Elizabethtown finished with 23 assists and 7 steals as a team.
“The offense came from our defense,” Coach Parise said. “We were getting stops and rebounds, and we were running like we like to do. I think that was the biggest part. But it’s just passing the ball to the open ball and keeping things simple. These guys are buying into that.”
Rising junior Julian Nester matched Eberly with 18 points for Middletown, also nabbing 3 steals. Rising sophomore Tajae Broadie chipped in with 13 points
All in all, it was a productive stretch for Elizabethtown at Spooky Nook, and the end results could pay dividends down the road. Eberly led the team with 16 points per game. He also averaged just over 8 rebounds and 2 blocks. The other two return starters, Pierson (10.5 points, 5.13 rebounds, 3.13 assists, 1.63 blocks and 1.88 steals) and Ryan Parise (8.5 points, 2.88 rebounds, 5 assists, 1.75 steals) had balanced stat lines, while Beach (10.63 points per game) emerged as a scoring threat after serving as a top reserve last season.
Most importantly, the Bears were able to get a lot of their up-and-coming players some valuable court time. Pat Gilhool (6.38 points, 4.75 rebounds) and rising senior Alex O’Shea (6 points, 5.17 rebounds, 2.33 assists) stood out the most, though rising senior Gavin Gilhool, rising junior Brandon Lewis and rising sophomore Tech Gonquoi flashed as well. Still, there’s plenty of work to be done.
“We’ve been great in terms of moving on offense and getting to the right spots,” Coach Parise said. “Defensively, we’re figuring out our identity and how we want to play. I think that’s really been apparent the last few weeks. We need to continue to work on our strength. We’re gonna be lifting a lot in the fall. Other than that, it’s just shots, shots, shots, and continuing to keep guys in front of us on defense.”
With Spooky Nook action concluded, the team will shift its focus to its annual trip to Alvernia University’s basketball camp in a couple of weeks. If the summer thus far is any indication, Elizabethtown should be a force to be reckoned with there and beyond.
“We’re feeling real good, and we’re excited to get ready for team camp with a bunch of more open gyms and see what we can do,” Coach Parise said. “It’s just one game at a time. If we keep progressing the way we have at Spooky Nook when we get to Alvernia, we’re gonna set ourselves up for a good year.”