Unlike years past, the first meeting between the Elco Raiders and Lebanon Catholic Beavers will have an unusual feel to it.
And the term “unusual” would be the best way to describe both teams’ young seasons.
While Elco comes into Wednesday’s game still in search of its first win (0-5, 0-2), Lebanon Catholic is just looking to see daily improvement with a roster of nine players – and only half with any sort of basketball experience.
However, a 2-3 start for the Beavers isn’t so bad considering the circumstances, but they are still looking for their first Section 3 win Wednesday (0-2).
And with the physical skills still a work-in-progress, Lebanon Catholic junior guard Humberto Valerio said the mental part will have to be strong before, during, and after if the Beavers are going to have a shot at winning.
“We have go in with a positive attitude and a lot of confidence,” Valerio said. “If we fight with our heats we’ll be good. We should be able to compete with them.”
So far, Beavers coach Scott Clentimack says if he’s learned one thing about his team five games in - it’s their mental toughness.
Clentimack said, “It’s something I was hoping for, and they’re a pretty resilient group for not having much basketball experience. They come out here every day and work really hard. They try to improve and come out and compete. I can’t ask any more than what I’m getting out of them.”
After a 68-40 loss Monday at Northern Lebanon, Wednesday’s date with Elco is just the next step of the process for the Beavers.
“We approach every game the same way,” Clentimack said. “We want to compete and try to improve from game to game. Hopefully, if we can continue doing that, it’ll help us against the teams we match up with as far as enrollment size goes. Five of my nine kids didn’t play basketball anywhere last season. Because of those small numbers, we also didn’t do anything this summer. We didn’t play in the summer for the first time since I’ve been here and we had maybe two open gyms. So we’re at the point where were doing what would’ve spent the summer doing. So we’re behind the eight ball."
Of the few experienced players, Valerio, and junior forwards Nate Hatzfeld and Lebanon High School transfer Kyle Kauffman have been carrying the load for Lebanon Catholic, but aren’t phased by it.
For Valerio, this type of situation isn’t new.
Valerio said, “It’s been very tough. All my three years here, I’ve tried to be the good example, especially this year where I’m the only returning varsity player. But it’s a good challenge for me. I like a good challenge.”
But Valerio is happy to have Kauffman and Hatzfeld alongside to help lead the team.
“All three of us have good chemistry,” Valerio said. “We know the challenge we’re going to face this year, especially against teams like Elco.”
Though this is also his first varsity basketball experience, Kauffman can bring some idea of what it takes to be successful against a team like the Raiders, having seen a higher level of play more often during his time with the Cedars.
Kauffman said, “Because of the lack of varsity experience, a lot of the guys don’t know what top-tier Lancaster-Lebanon League talent is like. Having experience from last year gives me confidence in myself and I’m trying to carry that confidence to my teammates, so we can try to be competitive against some of these top L-L teams.”
And the Beavers will been challenged with stopping the Raiders Mason Bossert, along with dealing with the size disadvantage facing 6-foot-5 Ryan Eshelman.
“Obviously we have to limit Bossert, but I always tell my kids, ‘He’s going to get his points on 15 or 16 shots, he can’t get them all on eight shots. You just have to make him really work for it.' They’ll be ready to go from playing that tough non-league schedule. Those games were competitive. We just can’t let anyone get easy stuff.”
Tip-off Wednesday is set for 7 p.m. Stay tuned for a full story and video highlights after the final horn.