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Highlights from Elco boys basketball's first win of the year, an 87-40 win Wednesday at Lebanon Catholic. Matt Catrillo/GameTimePA.com

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Earning that first win of the season is always the top item to check off for a team’s list of goals to start the season. Obviously, it can’t earn any other goals until that first feat is accomplished.

But the more the “L” column builds with a big goose egg next to it, the more it becomes a strain on a team, staring at that record as nothing but an early setback.

And this type of situation comes as very unfamiliar territory for the Elco Raiders.

The next opportunity for a “W” came against a short-handed Lebanon Catholic team, and Elco took full advantage, rolling to an 87-40 win Wednesday at Lebanon Catholic High School.

And when the going gets tough, you usually turn to your best player to get going.

Mason Bossert definitely did that for Elco, leading the way with a game-high 32 points.

“I just let the game come to me,” Bossert said. “I let the ball move to me and when it came, I attacked. That’s what coach stresses a lot.”

The Raiders also got after it defensively, forcing a whopping 30 Beavers turnovers, leading to 39 points off turnovers.

Beavers coach Scott Clentimack said, “It was us and what Elco was doing defensively that gave us problems. We struggle handling the ball, coming from our inexperience. Then when Elco started running and double teaming and rotating, it’s not something we see in practice. We didn’t know how to handle everything and our guys panicked a little bit.”

But no matter how the win was earned, Elco is just happy to finally get that big monkey off its back.

“The kids needed it. It’s good for them,” Raiders coach Brad Conners said. “I knew it was coming, but it’s good for them to finally feel better about things. We’re going to be okay and we’re going to win a lot of games. I know it. It’s just getting through the tough times.”

Although this wasn’t the ideal path to begin the season, Conners still sees a light at the end of the tunnel for his team.

“The last three games we really showed a lot of improvement," he said. "We were really hoping we could at least take two of the first five games, but the kids haven’t shown any quit. We’ve got to be one of the best 0-5 teams Elco’s ever had. We have a really good team. We just ran into some really good competition, and I know we’re going to be better for it down the stretch.”

Being the winless start isn’t something the Raiders are exactly used to, Conners is proud of his team for the way they handled it.

“We haven’t started 0-5 since I’ve been here,” he said. “They’re tough minded and resilient. You saw it at Lancaster Mennonite down 15 and come all the way back to have a shot to win at the end, then down at Lancaster Catholic where we’ve been notoriously struggled, that was there for us in the fourth. It was just a matter of time before they got it going.”

Perhaps a reason why Elco hasn’t had its share of negatively lopsided starts has been the way the schedule was always laid out – something the Raiders changed for this season.

Conners said, “In the tip-off tournament, Cedar Crest was added and that made it a little more difficult, so we’re playing with all big schools there. Then we were looking to beef up our non-league schedule up a little bit as a Class 4A school, so we brought in Manheim Central. Then we started our section off with Mennonite and Lancaster Catholic, who are two powers and have tradition, so we knew it was going to be tough. We were anxious to see what we had, get it started, and we’re right there. I think it’s going to help us late January.”

And staying the course is exactly what the Raiders need to do to keep the win column trending upward.

Bossert said, “We just have to stay aggressive. One win’s not enough obviously. We just have to keep grinding it out and go into the Ephrata tournament with our heads up.”

Kyle Kauffman led the Beavers with 21 points.

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