BY JEFF FALK
MYERSTOWN – Some aren’t basketball first. Some are other sports first. Some aren’t any sport first.
Others don’t even pick up a basketball out of season.
But do you know where they are first? They’re athletic first. They’re competitors first. And they’re students first.
The Elco girls’ basketball team is an interesting study in what exactly is required to play the game at a high level.
The Raiders are a group of players who aren’t basketball players in the traditional sense. But their skill sets – good feet, elevated hand-eye coordination, quick decision-making – relate well to the game.
In some ways, that hinders their collective ceiling. In others, it elevates their ceiling. But it also serves to enhance the intrigue about exactly what Elco can accomplish.
Never a dull moment.
“That’s where we’re so lucky,” said Elco head coach Ashli Shay, herself a former basketball player through and through. “We have kids who are multi-talented. Not many are basketball-first kids, but they’re very athletic and they’re very talented. It makes a statement about their flexibility. It certainly raises the ceiling when you do have something unexpected happen.
“It depends on who you are talking about,” continued Shay. “As a group, you’re talking about a lot of kids who play soccer year-round. But at the end of the day, they’re doing something. You can’t coach grit. You can’t coach desire. No matter how much they’re picking up a basketball out of season, we’re thrilled they’re playing. It adds to their versatility.”
A good portion of the Raider roster is comprised of players who contributed to the success of the Elco girls’ soccer team this fall. That squad won its first 18 games on the way to a second straight Lancaster-Lebanon Section Three championship and appearances in the league and District Three postseasons.
“I absolutely love this group,” said Shay. “They work hard, very hard. That’s one thing you can’t complain about – effort – which makes life easier. The chemistry is there. This is a group that we will continue to be very excited to see what they can do, and intrigued to see who far they can take themselves.
“It’s something they deserve as they to through games,” Shay continued. “They’re confident, but they’re gaining confidence as they go along. Certain things you’re never able to control. We’ll always be one injury away. But we feel we could be very successful.”
The Raiders were dealt a serious blow when they lost senior Alexis Thomas for the season to a torn ACL. But on the bright side, Thomas was the only 12th-grader who was expected to contribute.
So Elco is young. Not as young as last season, but still very young.
The Raiders are relying on heavy contributions from 5-10 sophomore Ryelle Shuey, one of the top talents locally, and 5-1 junior guard Taylor Bossert, one of the top shooters in the County. Julia Nelson, a 5-4 sophomore guard, Emily Bidelspach, a 5-8 junior forward, Jalissa Nolt, a 5-10 junior forward, and Jordan Rosengrant, a 5-6 sophomore guard, all bring their own special talents to the table.
“I like how we’re been able to push the ball up the floor in transition,” said Shay, who’s in her seventh season of heading the program. “I’ve been happy with our rebounding, which is important because we’re not the biggest team. A goal of ours is to out rebound teams. And our defense has looked good. Those three things will keep you in a lot of games.
“For everybody, we want to be solid in our decision-making with the ball,” added Shay. “We’re on our way. We want to make sure every loose ball is ours. We want to make all the hustle plays.”
The presence of 5-4 senior guard Adrianna Sonnen and 5-5 sophomore guard Kayla Gerber will make the Raiders eight deep.
“I think we’re definitely ready to test the waters and see where we’re at,” said Shay, of Friday, December 9th’s season-opener against Boiling Springs. “Our first scrimmage went well. We all feel positive about where we’re at it this point.”
With an unproven cast, Elco sort of came out of nowhere last season. The Raiders went 16-10 overall and advanced to within a single game of qualifying for the PIAA tournament.
“Last year was a very positive season,” said Shay. “We truly got better each week. It was nice to see the progression. From where we started to where we finished, the improvement was amazing. We didn’t know what to expect. We knew we were very athletic. But they (her players) were certainly ahead of schedule.
“It certainly doesn’t lower our expectations for this year,” Shay added. “Our big thing is getting better everyday. I feel where we started this season is further along than where we started last season. Our goal is to get better everyday, to get better as a team. We always expect positive things from this group.”
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|12/09||@Conestoga Valley||7:30 PM||W 50-34|
|12/11 *||@Lebanon Catholic||7:30 PM||W 45-42|
|12/14 *||Columbia||7:30 PM||W 55-29|
|12/16 *||@Lancaster Catholic||7:30 PM||L 27-70|
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|12/28 #||@Blue Mountain||3:00 PM||L 37-57|
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|01/05 *||Northern Lebanon||7:30 PM||L 34-51|
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|01/11 *||Pequea Valley||7:30 PM||W 66-43|
|01/13 *||@Annville-Cleona||7:30 PM||W 40-37|
|01/15 *||Lancaster Mennonite||7:30 PM||W 66-30|
|01/19 *||@Cocalico||7:30 PM||L 44-50|
|01/22 *||Lampeter-Strasburg||4:00 PM||W 55-40|
|01/28 *||@Northern Lebanon||7:30 PM||L 32-40|
|01/29 *||Manheim Central||7:30 PM||W 49-32|
|01/30||Hamburg||2:30 PM||W 46-31|
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