BY JEFF FALK
DALLASTOWN – The playoffs are a place where great teams go to shine and good teams go to die.
But the postseason is also a great place for young teams to gain experience and grow. For there is little experience that is more valuable than playoff experience.
On Saturday night at Dallastown Area High School, in the quarterfinal round of the District Three Class AAA postseason, the budding Elco girls’ basketball team gained a little invaluable experience, and in the process gave a good account of itself, before eventually falling to defending district champ Greencastle-Antrim, 39-26. After the Raiders led most of the first half, the Blue Devils asserted themselves in the third quarter and took control of the outcome.
Thirteenth-seeded Elco, which had shocked number-four seed Susquehannock in Wednesday’s opening round, slipped to 16-8 overall and into the consolation portion of the Class AAA bracket . A win in either Tuesday’s – against York Suburban at 6 p.m. back at Dallastown High School – or Thursday’s consolation contests would qualify the Raiders for the PIAA Class AAA tournament, and provide a huge lift for a team that starts two freshmen and a sophomore.
Greencastle-Antrim, the number-five seed, improved to 22-2 and moved into Wednesday’s semifinals.
“It’s one game at a time for us,” said Elco head coach Ashli Shay. “It’s win and advance. It’s survive and advance. We had won something like 11 out of our last 13 games. We’re a young team. We’ve continued to get better. We’re not afraid of anything. We thought this was a winnable game.
“We feel good about ourselves,” continued Shay. “There’s nothing to hang our heads about. We needed a couple of ‘stops’, and a couple of buckets to go our way. I thought our defensive game plan was executed.”
When Elco frosh Ryelle Shuey stroked a pair of free throws 2:32 into the second half, the Raiders still owned all of their halftime lead, up 17-14. Two minutes later, Raider ninth-grader Julia Nelson knocked down a jumper to knot the score at 19.
But after that, it was pretty much all Blue Devils.
Greencastle-Antrim ended the frame on a 12-2 run and carried a 31-21 bulge into the final period. After being held to a dozen first-half points, Greencastle-Antrim posted 19 in the third quarter.
The Blue Devils’ momentum spilled over into the fourth quarter, as they netted the session’s first four points to open a 35-21 advantage, with under five minutes to play.
“I thought we gave them three quarters of really good basketball,” said Shay of the Blue Devils. “We made them work. That was our goal. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, we ran out of gas. It just takes your legs, especially at this time of the year.
“We knew pretty much about them,” Shay continued. “We saw them play last year and saw some film of them this year. We wanted to neutralize (Jenay) Faulkner and (Hannah) Crist as much as possible and make the other three beat us. But they wore us down. Faulkner and Crist wore us down.”
Crist amassed 17 points and Faulkner piled up 13. No Raider scored more points than Chandelle Keller’s seven, while Shuey was slowed by some first-half foul difficulties.
“She hasn’t been feeling real well lately,” said Shay of Shuey. “We were asking her to guard their best player (Faulkner). I was surprised by how long Faulkner’s arms are, but she (Shuey) did fine defensively. But the fouls didn’t help her cause.”
The Raiders played the first half like they were ready to spring another upset.
Down 5-2 in the opening minutes, the Raiders notched the last seven points of the first quarter, on a Nelson jumper, an old-fashioned three-point play from Keller and a bucket from Jordan Rosengrant. And when Keller drained a jump shot to open the second period, Elco had itself an 11-5 lead.
“The first couple of quarters our offense was fine,” said Shay. “Against their 1-2-2 zone, we didn’t have any trouble. Julia Nelson really stepped up and hit some shots. I wish they would’ve stayed in that zone. We were hitting our shots, moving the ball and playing defense.
“But in the fourth quarter, we ran out of gas,” added Shay. “We couldn’t drop anything. You need shots to go in to gain momentum.”
A jumper from Nelson midway through the second stanza gave Elco a 13-9 edge. And a similar shot by Alexis Thomas three minutes later provided the Raiders with their 15-12 halftime margin.
“It would mean a lot, just the experience,” said Shay of a possible trip to states. “The taste of what it takes to get to that level would be a positive. We’re excited. We’ve got two more opportunities, and we’re going to work our butts off to take advantage of them.”
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