BY JEFF FALK
LANCASTER – It was not content just to be there, to soak in the atmosphere and see what it was like. But when the adversity came – as it always does – the Elco boys’ basketball team had nothing from which to draw.
Not past experience. Not history.
On Saturday night at Lancaster High School, in the quarterfinals of the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs, history – or much else – wasn’t on the Raiders’ side, as they dropped a 71-55 decision to McCaskey’s Red Tornado. Elco trailed hot-shooting McCaskey the entire way, and fell behind by as many as 20 points in the first half.
The Raiders took their first timeout before they scored their first point.
Last night marked Elco’s first appearance in the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs since 2003. The Raiders, the runner-up from Section Three, fell to 0-9 all-time in the league tournament, and 19-4 on the year.
Section One champion McCaskey, now 17-5 overall, is looking to add to its record 13 Lancaster-Lebanon League championships.
Elco will see its next action in nine days, when it hosts Steel-High in the opening round of the District Three Class AAA playoffs as the fifth seed.
“My message after the game was ‘not to be satisfied’,” said Elco head coach Brad Conners. “We’re not satisfied making leagues, coming down here and not showing up. We could’ve played better. But I got the sense the kids were satisfied being here. I want them to know it’s not OK.
“That entire conversation was about: ‘In ten days, Steel-High is coming to our place’,” continued Conners. “They are a storied program too, but we’re the five-seed. We expect them (his players) to perform.”
On the opening possession of the game, the Raiders attempted an ally-oop for star Colton Lawrence at the rim – a play they had gotten a lot of mileage out of this season. But the pass was just slightly off the mark, the timing was just a bit off and Lawrence clanged it off the rim.
After that, it was all downhill for Elco.
It took the Raiders all of the opening 5:30 to actually net their first points. But by then, McCaskey was sitting on a ten-point cushion.
“It was never a game tonight. It was never competitive,” said Conners. “I understand nerves, but slow starts have kind of been our Achilles’ Heel this year. It was a problem in both games with L-S (Lampeter-Strasburg). Despite that, I thought things were going to turn around and go our way. But they never did. Maybe we were tight. Maybe we were feeling a little quick.
“We couldn’t make our shots,” Conners continued. “Maybe we were squeezing the ball a little bit. It just wasn’t going. It (the alley-oop attempt to Lawrence) was a called play. I thought maybe I could get our guys fired up.”
The Raiders did pull to within 15-9 of the lead late in the opening stanza, on two charity tosses from Lawrence. But it would prove to be the closest the Raiders would come all night.
McCaskey opened the second quarter with a 10-5 spurt to extend its advantage to 27-14. Then the Red Tornado closed the first half with a 9-2 burst to take a 41-20 bulge to the break.
“It’s a big game for them. It’s a big game for me,” said Conners of his troops. “We were all about embracing everything. I told them, ‘Let’s embrace the nerves.’
“The perfect scenario would’ve been Colton getting that dunk at the beginning of the game,” Conners added. “Then we get a stop, and a lay-up on our next possession. We wanted to get lay-ups or wide-open ‘threes’. But we struggled scoring the ball. And it was in the blink of an eye.”
Lawrence, Caleb Buchmoyer and Mason Bossert all netted 14 points for the Raiders. Elco drained nine three-point baskets compared to McCaskey’s eight, but the Raiders’ came late and the Red Tornado’s came early.
McCaskey outscored Elco 47-28 inside the arc.
“I wanted our kids to know they could play and compete,” said Conners. “We didn’t want to talk to them (the Red Tornado). We didn’t want to wake a sleeping giant. But we wanted them to know we were here.
“We wanted to play our game,” added Conners. “We didn’t want to get caught up in the running game. But we wanted to do what we do.”
If the outcome was still in doubt at halftime, McCaskey settled it further by registering the first five points of the third quarter. That increased the Red Tornado lead to 26 points.
“We feel like we’ve got a team that can compete with anyone in the district,” said Conners. “That’s why I’m disappointed about tonight. We wanted to give McCaskey a better game.”
The Raiders did show signs of life early in the fourth quarter, when they notched six unanswered points on the strength of a Ryan Eshleman stick-back, a Nate Beamer drive and two foul shots from Nate Beamer. Elco was within 62-47, but only four minutes remained.
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2015-16 Elco Boys’ Basketball Results
|6:00 PM||W 78-35|
|7:30 PM||W 61-60|
|7:30 PM||W 69-61|
|7:30 PM||W 69-55|
|7:30 PM||W 80-59|
|7:30 PM||W 67-51|
|7:30 PM||W 61-57|
|7:30 PM||L 42-62|
|7:30 PM||W 72-50|
|6:00 PM||W 70-42|
|7:30 PM||W 74-44|
|7:30 PM||W 83-57|
|7:30 PM||L 68-70|
|7:30 PM||W 72-30|
|7:30 PM||W 80-54|
|7:30 PM||W 61-30|
|7:30 PM||W 65-47|
|7:30 PM||W 64-50|
|4:00 PM||L 60-70|
|7:30 PM||W 72-52|
|7:30 PM||W 52-47|
|7:30 PM||W 68-60|
|6:00 PM||L 55-71|
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