After arguably the best season in program history, the Elizabethtown Area High School boys basketball team will be facing a bit of a reset when the 2019-20 regular season begins. The Bears have lost just three seniors to graduation, but all three, Larry Locker, Amos Kollie and Dylan Sweger, were instrumental parts of the rotation. Locker, in particular, broke the school record for most career points.
Still, Elizabethtown will have three of its starters back in soon-to-be seniors Ryan Parise and Elijah Eberly and rising junior Luke Pierson. Brody Beach, a key junior reverse last season, is also expected to step into the starting lineup as a senior. That leaves a ton of inexperienced players looking to find longterm roles on the team, and there’s no better time than the summer for them to develop.
As such, the Bears are taking part in Spooky Nook Sports’ yearly high school summer league against other teams in the area. They began their schedule on Thursday, June 6, with back-to-back games against Eastern York and Central York, two teams who made the District 3 playoffs in their respective classes this past season.
Early on against Eastern York, Elizabethtown caught fire, going on a 15-0 run thanks to some 3-pointers from Beach and layups from Eberly to take a 20-3 lead. When the Golden Knights finally came to life offensively near the end of the first half, the Bears scored 13 straight points in response. They would take a 42-18 lead into halftime.
Eastern York did manage to outscore Elizabethtown 26-22 in the second half, but late buckets from rising senior Alex O’Shea put the game out of reach for good. Thus, the Bears opened the summer with a 64-44 victory.
Eberly led the way for Elizabethtown with 16 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks. Beach was solid as well, hitting a trio of 3-balls en route to 14 points. Ryan Parise dished out a game-high 8 assists in addition to 9 points. O’Shea chipped in with 9 points and 7 rebounds as well. In all, eight Bears combined to force 10 steals.
“We were really moving the ball well,” head coach Rocky Parise said. “We were confident shooting and getting run-outs offensively. It’s just the way we want to play.”
Rising senior Trevor Seitz was a machine for the Golden Knights; he scored 11 of their 18 first-half points and would lead all players with 23 points, hitting four 3-pointers. Fellow rising senior Dustin Cunningham had 9 points.
“I thought we did what we wanted to do,” Coach Parise said. “Trevor’s a really good player, so we were putting Elijah on him to try and contest his shots. You could see we were fresh. As our legs start to go, that’s where we need help from the 7-8-9-and-10 guys.”
Elizabethtown immediately returned to the court for its second game against Central York. It was a back and forth game for the majority of the first half; the Bears scored seven straight at the midway point to go up 24-18. However, the Panthers reeled off 13 unanswered points afterward, taking a 31-26 lead into the break.
In contrast to the first half, the second half began extremely slowly; neither team scored until five minutes in. Central York gradually pulled away from there though; another 13-0 run put the Panthers far out in front, and they’d eventually win 59-36, holding Elizabethtown to just 10 points in the second half.
“I think we got to be tougher, which is something I was stressing in the huddle,” Coach Parise said. “They might be bumping and hitting us, but those guys have to play through it. If we learn how to deal with that stuff, then we’re not begging for calls during the season.”
Central York had a balanced scoring attack, with all nine of its players entering the box score. Rising senior Trey Sweigart led the Panthers with 12 points. Rising junior Taylor Wright-Rawls scored 10 points and had a game-high 5 steals, while rising senior Evan Eisenhart had 9. Rising senior Mitchell Saxton and rising junior Kairyn Brown each scored 8, the latter off the bench. The Panthers took control of the game by forcing a whopping 22 steals.
Meanwhile, Beach again hit three 3-pointers, leading all players with 13 points. Eberly finished with 8 points, as well as a game-high 7 rebounds and 5 blocks. Ryan Parise had 8 points as well.
“Brody did great,” Coach Parise said. “He was confident shooting the ball. By him shooting, it’s gonna open up a lot of space inside for Elijah, Luke and Pat. That’s really important to us. We’re just gonna keep working on taking a ton of shots all summer, so hopefully, we can be even better than that.”
Another doubleheader came on Tuesday, June 11, as Elizabethtown went up against Hershey and Lower Dauphin, with the first coming vs. the former. Things didn’t start out well for the Bears, who were playing without Eberly, as the Trojans scored 13 straight points to begin the game. However, they gradually got back into things with a 16-5 run, and a pair of Pierson 3-pointers gave them their first lead late in the opening half. The two sides would go to the break tied at 24-24.
Hershey jumped out to an early lead in the second half, though Elizabethtown would answer back shortly afterward. After a few lead changes, the Bears were up 42-41 with around seven minutes remaining. The Trojans came on strong though, closing with a 10-2 run to win 51-44, with Elizabethtown collapsing thanks to some missed scoring opportunities.
“I think we lacked leadership tonight,” Coach Parise said. “We can talk all the Xs and Os along with the missed shots. That really came out because we struggled. I got the guys who can be leaders; they just have to step up.”
Pierson would lead all players with 17 points, also notching 5 rebounds, 3 blocks and 3 steals. O’Shea stepped up with 12 points and 6 rebounds, as did rising sophomore Pat Gilhool, who had 10 points. Beach didn’t score, but he did lead the team with 5 assists.
All 10 of the Trojans who played entered the scoring column on the night. Rising sophomore Jack Argento and incoming freshman Marcus Sweeney shared the team lead with 9 points each. The former had 7 rebounds, while the latter had 3 steals. Rising junior Jackson Mascari, Hershey’s leading scorer from last season, chipped in with 7 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists.
The Bears’ game against Lower Dauphin saw rising junior Caleb Gibbs score the first eight points for the Falcons, who would continually halt every Elizabethtown rally from there. They took a 41-33 lead into halftime. The Bears tried getting back into late, erasing a double-digit deficit to put the score at 67-60 late. However, Lower Dauphin would survive, eventually winning 71-62.
Gibbs was a machine for the Falcons, hitting six 3-balls on the way to 22 points. He notched a double-double as well with 10 rebounds. Rising junior Josh Gardner was steady with 12 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. Rising juniors Derek McGlaughlin and Nischal Adakhari each hit a pair of 3’s, scoring 10 and 9 points off the bench, respectively. Rising junior Tyson Hofsass had 9 points and 6 rebounds as well.
Elizabethtown was more balanced offensively in this one. Gilhool finished with 12 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals. Beach scored 9 points, while Ryan Parise had 6 points, 8 assists and 3 steals. O’Shea had just 4 points but pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds. However, Pierson was the star, leading all players with 24 points in addition to 9 boards.
“If he goes inside to the basket and posts up, there’s a lot of opportunity for him,” Coach Parise said. “Last year, he was really just a jump shooter, so we’re trying to broaden his game more. He did well with that tonight, which was a positive.”
Elizabethtown (1-3) will have a lengthy break in summer league action before returning to Spooky Nook on Thursday, June 27, for games against McCaskey and Dallastown. The Bears will then face Cedar Crest and Middletown on Tuesday, July 2. Hopefully for them, the positives will eventually outweigh the negatives as the games come along, especially for the younger players.
“It’s tough throwing them out into high school games,” Coach Parise said. “They never played in that environment last year. Luckily, we got Pat and Alex some minutes in playoff games last year, and you can see the confidence from that help those two. The other guys just need to catch up. It’s interesting because, during the past couple of summers, we came out like gangbusters and then tailed off toward the end. We want to trend upwards this time. We know what we have to get better at, so it’s all about working hard across these next six weeks.”