The Elizabethtown Area High School girls basketball team was able to pull off a first-round upset in districts to clinch a spot in states. However, the Lady Bears ended up falling to two equally talented teams, erasing their chances of finishing higher in the playoffs.
The team traveled to Gettysburg, the No. 3 seed, on Friday, Feb. 22, for a district quarterfinals matchup, falling to the Warriors 53-30. It was a slow game to start out for both sides. Elizabethtown had its only lead of the game early on after sophomore Emma Blyler knocked down a 3-pointer, though Gettysburg took the lead shortly afterward on an and-one and closed the quarter on a 7-1 run to go up 15-7.
The Lady Bears hung around in the second quarter, briefly narrowing the score to 19-14 at the midway point. However, the Warriors responded with a 7-0 run, taking a 26-17 lead to the break after senior Marena Lonardi nailed a 3 for Elizabethtown.
Gettysburg attempted to pull away at the start of the second half, increasing the lead to 31-21 at one point. Elizabethtown threw its best punch back, scoring six straight to cut the score to 31-27. But a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from freshman Anne Bair swung the momentum back to the Warriors, who led 34-27 entering the fourth.
From there on out, it was all Gettysburg. The Warriors held the Lady Bears to just 3 points in the final period while scoring 19 of their own, mostly from the foul line, to cruise to victory. They went on to beat No. 2 Twin Valley on Tuesday, Feb. 26, to advance to the 5A Championship against No. 12 Palmyra.
“We cut it to four, and we were playing well,” Elizabethtown head coach John Myers said. “But then we got in that hole, and we fought so hard to get it to four points, so you run out of gas. They come down and hit a three; we have an empty possession, and they hit another three. That buzzer-beater at the end of the third was deflating. They played well, and we didn’t play as well as we did the other night. The shots just weren’t falling.”
Lonardi carried the Lady Bears for much of the night, scoring 20 of their 30 points. She converted four 3-pointers and also had 5 rebounds. The rest of the team’s scorers were Blyler (3 points, 4 rebounds), senior Sydney Pierson (4 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists), freshman Ainsley Raybold (2 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists) and sophomore Macy Seaman (1 point, 2 rebounds). Sophomore Carly Sedun pulled down 6 boards as well.
Junior Cheyenne Proctor came up big for Gettysburg, matching Lonardi in both points (20) and 3-pointers (4) in addition to going 6-of-6 from the foul line. Bair was a steady presence as well, scoring 16 points and hitting all 7 of her free throws. The Warriors, who have no seniors on their roster, also got 6 points each from juniors Lily Natter and Taylor Richardson.
“They’re balanced, and they have everything,” Myers said. “They’re quick, they’re big, they can shoot and they executed stuff really well. They were up eight or 10 making us chase and play defense for more than a minute. They’re just a good situational team.”
The Lady Bears stayed on the road Tuesday, Feb. 26, for a consolation round matchup against No. 7 Lower Dauphin. Neither team excelled offensively to start the game; it took nearly five minutes for someone to make a shot. The Falcons were the first to strike and proceeded to blank Elizabethtown scoring-wise in the first quarter, taking a 6-0 lead at the end of the period.
Lonardi converted an and-one with about a minute-and-a-half into the second to end a nine-minute scoring drought for the Lady Bears. Still, Lower Dauphin maintained control, at one point going up 17-5. Elizabethtown battled back, however, ending the half on a 10-2 run to cut the score to 19-15.
The rest of the game mostly consisted of the Lady Bears inching their way back into contention, and the Falcons answering. Lower Dauphin continually led by a margin of around five points, taking a 31-26 advantage into the fourth and going up 36-31 with just over four minutes remaining.
Elizabethtown was finally able to get within one thanks to a layup and some free throws from Lonardi, narrowing it to 38-37 with around three-and-a-half minutes left. A layup from Lower Dauphin bumped the score to 40-37 shortly thereafter. Lonardi was able to convert a pair of free throws to make it 40-39 with 12.5 seconds to go, but Falcons sophomore Lauren Kisch responded with two of her own, putting the score at 42-39. Lower Dauphin then forced a turnover and snuck in a fastbreak layup at the buzzer tow win 44-39.
“They played good Mid-Penn pressure defense, which we knew was coming,” Myers said. “It was just the little things. Free throws, missed defensive assignments … that changes the game. I am proud of the way we fought. We didn’t score in the first quarter and got it to a one-point game by the end.”
Lonardi once again had a game-high 20 points to lead the Lady Bears, also notching 4 rebounds and 3 steals. She’s now at 1,320 career points, just 33 away from passing Jen Williams for the all-time program record of 1,352. Pierson added 6 points, 10 rebounds and 4 blocks, while Sedun had 6 points, 4 rebounds and 2 steals. Raybold (2 points) finished with 4 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals.
Senior Grace Day scored 15 points to lead Lower Dauphin, with Kirsch contributing 11 points. The Falcons were able to hold on thanks to their foul shooting, going 9-for-12 from the line in comparison to 13-for-24 for Elizabethtown.
“The fight and effort were great, but when you lose by very close margins, that stuff stands out,” Myers said. “We just didn’t make enough plays. The little things hurt us. We make our free throws, we win that game.”
There’s still one last district playoff game for the Lady Bears to take care of before turning their attention toward the state playoffs. They’ll go to No. 4 Spring Grove, who fell in double overtime to No. 8 Mechanicsburg in the other consolation round game, on Thursday, Feb. 28, for the seventh-place game in Class 5A for District 3. A victory over a strong team like the Rockets would go a long way toward building momentum for states.
“This year, late in the season, we’re seeing a lot of different defenses,” Myers said. “Saw a diamond-and-one (against Gettysburg), and some triangle-and-two. It’s just executing our offensive sets. Sometimes, we get panicked and get off the grid, but when we execute, we get the shots we’re looking for. We can play with anyone. We beat South Western, we were right in this game … it’s just us playing well and executing. It’s the way we play, not necessarily what other teams are doing to us. We just need to play to our potential.”