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IMG_6788BY JEFF FALK

LEBANON – At the beginning of seasons, players always think they’re ready to play. Coaches, on the other hand, want to coach. They’re constantly looking for just a little more prep time.

Guess which group is usually right. Well this time, it was the players who were correct.

On Friday night, in the opener of the Lebanon High Booster Club’s annual tip-off tournament, the Elco boys’ basketball team was so ready to go it nearly left head coach Brad Conners on the bus. The Raiders notched the contest’s first 18 points on their way to a 32-2 lead and never looked back, during a 78-33 demolition of Muhlenberg.

IMG_6879An athletic, veteran club with high expectations, Elco’s triumph earned it a shot at the host Cedars, a 69-56 winner over Lancaster Mennonite in the nightcap, and the first championship of the year. The Raiders and Cedars will throw down in Saturday’s highly-anticipated title tilt, at 7:30 p.m..

Elco is a season removed from a 13-10 campaign, one in which it qualified for the District Three Class AAA postseason.

“We were ready,” smiled Conners. “This is something we’ve been preparing for. This preseason we had a lot of our stuff in, so we could focus on other things.

“We talk about taking one step at a time,” continued Conners. “Today was the first one. Tomorrow is the second one. To get to the top, you’ve got to take it one step at a time. But if you miss a step, you can fall all the way to the bottom. It’s another chance for our kids.”

IMG_6759There was a lot to like about the Raiders’ performance all night long, and especially early on.

Employing some pressure defense, the Raiders got out in transition, shot the ball extremely well, and not only looked for, but found each other. Defensively, Elco contested every Muhlenberg attempt.

The result was an 18-0 run to start the season, as seniors Caleb Buchmoyer and Colton Lawrence and junior Mason Bossert stoked the Raider fire. The hot, fast start lasted all of 6:25 of the first quarter, and when Muhleberg did interrupt Elco’s momentum, it was only momentarily.

Elco followed it up with 14 more straight points, and opened a 30-point bulge on a conventional three-point play from Lawrence, 1:39 into the second period.

IMG_6768“I liked watching our kids getting up and down the floor,” said Conners. “When they get up and down, that’s when they’re at their best and having furn. Defensively, we’ve got a lot of work to do. But it was encouraging. We shot the ball well.

“That was nice,” Conners added. “It was a nice opening night. Everything seemed to be going good early on.”

Just for good measure, Elco closed out the first half with a 14-1 burst, and the Raiders owned a 46-6 halftime advantage. That particular run was highlighted by eight points from the prolific Lawrence.

IMG_6858“I love this tournament,” said Conners. “It’s so much excitement staying in the county. There’s so much tradition here in this gym.

“Last year kept flashing back to me,” Conners continued. “It reminded me a lot of last year. We shot the ball well. Part of it was we sped them (the Mules) up a little bit.”

Buchmoyer and Lawrence tied for game-high scoring honors, pouring in 22 points apiece. Bossert contributed 16 points.

The Raiders drained seven three-point attempts.

Included in Lawrence’s output was the 1,000th point point of his career. He became only Elco’s third 1,000-point scorer on a jam 1:22 into the second half, a bucket that gave Elco a 50-6 lead.

“Caleb can score,” said Conners of Buchmoyer. “He’s going to continue that role of defensive stopper. But he’s strong. He’s as strong as anyone we have on our team. He’s as strong as anyone in the section. He’s one of my favorite players.

IMG_6840“We tell Nate (Beamer), ‘Just be you, because the less you think, the better you’ll be,'” added Conners. “That’s how it is with a lot of athletes. We are absolutely athletic. When we finish practice it’s fun to hang around and watch what these young kids can do. These kids are fun to be around.”

Muhlenberg didn’t reach double-digits on the scoreboard until 3:12 of the second half had elapsed.

IMG_6769“Defensively, I thought our help-side was lacking,” said Conners. “I thought our athleticism bailed us out. We played a little zone, and that’s a little bit of a concern. We don’t want to give up a ‘three’, but we don’t want to give up dribble drive either.

“We want to win the section (Three of the Lancaster-Lebanon League),” concluded Conners. “We’re not overlooking anything. Winning the section is on our list of goals. Winning this tip-off tournament is on our list. We want to take it further than we’ve ever been before. We do have some high expectations around Myerstown. We love it. I do like the expectations. I think it’s healthy for us.”

To purchase images in this article email jkfalk2005@yahoo.com, or to see more go to www.http://lebanonsportsbuzz.com/gallery-ten/.

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2015 Elco Boys’ Basketball Schedule

DATE OPPONENT TIME LOCATION
12/05 #
@Lebanon
7:30 PM Lebanon High School
12/09
Conestoga Valley
7:30 PM Elco High School
12/11
Lebanon Catholic
7:30 PM Elco High School
12/14
@Columbia
7:30 PM Columbia High School
12/16
Lancaster Catholic
7:30 PM Elco High School
12/18 *
@Cocalico
7:30 PM Cocalico High School
12/21 *
Lampeter-Strasburg
7:30 PM Elco High School
12/23 *
Manheim Central
7:30 PM Elco High School
01/05 *
@Northern Lebanon
7:30 PM Northern Lebanon High School
01/08 *
Donegal
7:30 PM Elco High School
01/09
Tulpehocken
1:00 PM Elco High School
01/09
Tulpehocken
2:30 PM Elco High School
01/11
@Pequea Valley
7:30 PM Pequea Valley High School
01/13
Annville-Cleona
7:30 AM Elco High School
01/13
Annville-Cleona
7:30 PM Elco High School
01/15
@Lancaster Mennonite
7:30 PM Lancaster Mennonite High School
01/19 *
Cocalico
7:30 PM Elco High School
01/22 *
@Lampeter-Strasburg
7:30 PM Lampeter-Strasburg High School
01/25 *
@Manheim Central
7:30 PM Manheim Central High School
01/28 *
Northern Lebanon
7:30 PM Elco High School
02/02 *
@Donegal
7:30 PM Donegal High School

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