MYERSTOWN – Roles. Playing time. Rotations.
If you can have too much of a good thing, then the Elco girls’ basketball team has got a big problem. But as far as problems go, it’s a really nice one to have.
And when the Raiders do figure them out, those problems will turn into opportunities.
On Wednesday night at Elco High School, the Raiders’ resolution process continued, during a 52-34 non-league victory over Fleetwood. Elco raced out of the blocks quickly, then turned that fast start into a comfortable working margin by halftime.
The result moved the Raiders to 2-1 overall. Fleetwood fell to 2-1.
“It’s never a bad problem to have,” said Elco head coach Ashli Shay. “We have some depth. We have some size. We have kids who come in who are comfortable in their roles. Tonight, it was really everybody. It’s nice to have all of that. If someone isn’t having a great night, there’s always someone to step up.
“We’re certainly not satisfied,” added Shay. “Am I happy with the progress? Absolutely. It was a tough opener (Jan. 8 against Lancaster Catholic), but from the Catholic game to the Pottsville game, we made some big strides. And from the Pottsville game to tonight, we made some great strides. We feel like there’s been progress, but we certainly haven’t peaked yet.”
Last night was senior Amanda Smith’s night to step up – at least on the offensive end.
Smith tallied eight opening-quarter points, as the Raiders led 15-6 after eight minutes of play. Then she scored six more points during Elco’s 11-1 romp through the second stanza.
Elco enjoyed a 26-7 lead at intermission.
“I thought the start went pretty well,” said Shay. “We turned the ball over a few times, but when we got that cleaned up, the defense took over. Ashley Yoh did a great job defensively, and we had some nice ball movement.
“But the second quarter was probably our best quarter of the night,” Shay added. “It’s very critical to be able to play with the lead. It’s something we’re growing into. The kids were happy at halftime. But they did a really nice job in the second half as well.”
Smith finished with a team-high 16 points and was the only Elco scorer to reach double figures. Senior guard Katelyn Rueppel dished out five assists and took three defensive charges.
The Raiders outscored the Tigers 21-6 from beyond the arc. Elco also out rebounded Fleetwood 29-13.
“We have three game goals every time out, and I feel if we hit those game goals, it’s going to put us in position to win,” said Shay. “Rebounds, points allowed and turnovers – and tonight we got two out of the three. We missed turnovers by a few. But we always feel like we give ourselves a chance at the end, if we reach those goals.
“COVID-19 hasn’t changed our goals, as a team,” continued Shay. “We have a lot of experience, a team that’s been through a lot of ups and downs. We’re focused, and we just want to improve on that.”
The Raiders kept rolling in the second half.
A couple of charity tosses from Yoh three minutes into the third quarter made Elco’s lead 30-11. Three minutes later, Rueppel nailed a three-pointer and Kailey Eckhart worked inside for a deuce to extend the Raider advantage to 39-16.
“I thought we shot the ball very well,” said Shay. “I thought our defense was very good. I’m really happy with our defense, and our rebounding. And I thought we cleaned up the turnovers in the second half.”
The Raiders also notched the first four points of the final period – on buckets from Abigail Sargent and Rueppel – to make it a 41-21 score.
“I think right now every game is important because of the scenario we’re in,” said Shay. “We want the kids to have as much as they can. So we’ve been enjoying ourselves and having fun together. We’re having a blast with these kids.”
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