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The Raiders are engaged in a game of high-stakes poker. 


  They know they’ve got an ace in the hole.

  But they may have a pair.

  Or it could even be three of a kind.

  Of course, they’re hoping for a flush – everybody in the same suit working together.

 The Elco boys’ basketball team isn’t playing its hand close to the vest. The Raiders simply don’t know what cards they’ve been dealt.

 It’s hard to play anything not knowing what you’ve got.

 To some degree, the on-going Coronavirus crisis has left Elco a bit in the dark. Until the Raiders can get back together in the gym on January 4, they really won’t know what kind of team they’ve got.

 It’s almost assured that the Raiders will be figuring some of those things out as they go along.

  “I have that same question,” said Elco head coach Brad Conners. “Right now, we haven’t done anything as a team. In our drills, the guys look really good. But until we get out and play, you just don’t know. We haven’t filled roles yet. We’re going into it with a lot of questions. We’re still figuring it out.”

 While Elco’s dealing with the same COVID-19 restrictions that every other high school basketball team is, the Raiders’ situation may personify it.

 Elco started its pre-season practice on time, but after its initial two sessions, the Raiders were shut down. Then, they got five more practices in, before Governor Tom Wolf effectively paused practices and pushed back the start of the season on December 11.

  “We’ve been Zooming every few days,” said Conners. “But I know the guys are ready to get back into the gym. When I’ve talked to the kids, they’re like ‘Yeah, we’re ready to go.’ But from my perspective, we’re a little behind. We didn’t get to do anything over the summer and we graduated some experience.

 “We’re trying to do bonding and connecting over Zoom,” Conners added. “They (his players) were given conditioning drills. We’ve given them some dribbling drills and routines. I’ve been encouraging them to get out and play, and I think they’re trying to play. The accountability piece is the tough part, just because I don’t see them.”

 Elco returns a pair of known quantities in senior guard Braden Bohannon and junior forward Luke Williams.

 Bohannon, an athletic combo who can score from anywhere, is the best player in Lebanon County. Williams is a tough, physical presence on the inside who will be counted on for defense, rebounding and increased offense.

  “They’re really nice kids, just enjoyable to be around,” said Conners. “We have a lot of team size. It’s probably the biggest team I’ve had at Elco. It’s a different team than we had last year. I like that Bohannon kid. I think he’s pretty good.

 “Taking care of the ball is going to fall to Braden,” added Conners. “Right now, we’re searching for guys to take the burden off of Braden. But after seven practices, I just don’t know.”

  Elco does possess some additional pieces, whose roles are yet to be defined. Rheece Shuey, a junior forward, Cole Thomas, a junior guard, Corey Attivo, a 6-8 junior forward transfer from Halifax, Dakota Smith, a senior forward, and Dallas George, a freshman guard, comprise the Raiders’ top seven.

  “The goal is just to get better every day, whether it’s conditioning or taking care of the ball,” said Conners. “In Zoom meetings, that’s what we talk about. I think Luke Williams put it best, ‘Let’s get one percent better every day.’ Because we’re so young, that’s the goal. I want us to show improvement from one day to the next.”

  Currently, Elco will open its 19-game schedule with a tough test on Friday, January 8 at Lancaster Catholic. Depending upon how the season unfolds and the state of the Lancaster-Lebanon League and District Three playoffs, the Raiders could add contests along the way.

  “We will learn a lot,” said Conners, of the season-opening match-up with Lancaster Catholic. “One of the hopes I have for the kids is to get in a full season. I know the league playoffs are going to come into play on that first or second weekend of March, but I really don’t know how things are going to shake out. I’d like to play as many games as possible, and if we get into the playoffs, that’s great.”

  To purchase images in this article email jkfalk2005@yahoo.com.

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