MYERSTOWN – It’s still extremely early, and the Elco boys’ basketball team continues to learn.
About the standard stuff, things like roles, situational inflections and work habits. But Elco is also discovering that not only is this year different, it’s unlike any one that’s ever come before.
Yet perhaps most importantly, the Raiders are also learning that they’re going to be alright.
On Saturday afternoon, Elco got a little better, during a 65-37 non-league trouncing of Antietam. The Raiders created a little distance between themselves and the Mountaineers on the scoreboard in the second quarter, then blew their guests away in the second half.
The triumph evened Elco’s early-season record to 1-1. The Raiders were about 16 hours removed from Friday night’s difficult 46-39 road setback at Lancaster Catholic.
The contest served as Antietam’s season opener.
“You learned early not to take things for granted,” said Elco head coach Brad Conners. “We talk about it daily, ‘Let’s make sure every day counts’. Just appreciate the opportunity to compete, whether it’s in practice or a game.
“I think what it’s done for us is narrowed our focus to the more immediacy,” Conners continued. “We continue to ask ourselves, ‘How can we get better everyday?’ We can feel good about ourselves, because we got better. The things we’re focused on, we’ve gotten better at.”
Elco shook off any lingering effects from the loss to the Crusaders with a 7-0 start to the game – Cole Thomas posted five of those points and recent transfer Corey Attivo sank a par of free throws. Then, a couple of buckets from Braden Bohannon and an inside move by Luke Williams pushed the Raider advantage to 17-8.
“I wouldn’t say it was a must-in,” said Conners. “But you don’t want to start the season 0-2. You’re busting your hump and you want to have something to show for it. I thought if we pushed ourselves, we’d feel a little better.
“After last night’s really tough game, it was nice to be able to bounce back,” added Conners. “The kids played hard. The kids played well. We saw some improvement. We were focused at the start. I’m happy for these kids because they’ve been working hard.”
But what proved to be the decisive run for the Raiders came in the second quarter, in the form of an 18-4 burst that gave them a 35-19 lead at the break. Bohannon accounted for nine of those points, while Williams contributed seven and Attivo scored on a put-back.
“Last night (Friday) we had a little turnover issue,” said Conners. “In the first quarter, we ended up with five turnovers, and I was a little concerned about that. But in the second quarter, we cut them down. It was good to see the guys take a little pressure and handle it well.
“It’s just nice to validate the things we’ve been working on in practice,” Conners continued. “They’re (his players) giving us everything they’ve got. Last night was tough. We felt like we needed to win.”
When all the stats had been tallied, Bohannon finished with a game-high 26 points, Williams popped for 15 points and Attivo tossed in 14. Elco outscored Antietam 46-26 on field goals inside the arc.
“In the summer time, you get together and work on individual things,” said Conners. “But we haven’t been able to spend a lot of time together as a team. We’re figuring out roles on the fly. Last night typically would’ve been our second scrimmage. We know what we’re going to get from Braden and Luke is a workhorse. Corey Attivo is totally new to the program, so he’s figuring it out. And we’ve been developing the younger guys.
“Braden’s been through some tests, and Luke and Cole Thomas have been in pressure situations in football,” continued Conners. “When they see it, they can compete. We’ve got a group of competitors. Last night we got down double digits, but we didn’t quit. What I knew about Braden I’m learning about the rest of them.”
If the outcome hadn’t been decided at halftime, Elco held the Mountaineers without a point over the first 4:33 of the third quarter just for good measure. The resulting 11-0 run, which featured seven more points from Bohannon and three more from Williams, extended the Raiders’ lead to 46-19.
And when Attivo laid in a deuce three minutes into the final quarter, Elco had itself a 59-30 bulge.
“What did they (the Mountaineers) end up having? 37?,” said Conners. “That’s less than ten points a quarter, so we’ve got to be happy with that. But we’ve got to get better on defense, because that has to be our calling card.”