With the calendar officially turning to 2017, the stakes begin to heat up on the high school hardwood, including intra-county and division rivalries – two with first place on the line.
Here’s a look at three key games coming up this week in Lebanon County boys basketball.
Palmyra at Mechanicsburg, Friday, Jan. 13, 7:30 p.m.
If there’s a game in this second half of the season the Cougars would have circled, it’s this one.
Mechanicsburg accounted for Palmyra’s only loss Dec. 13 in the third game of the season.
Since then, the Cougars have been rolling with their ten-game win streak, seven of those by 15 points or more, and now have first place on their minds.
This game is also key for seeding in the district playoffs, as both teams find themselves in the top five in Class 5A.
A balanced offensive attack has certainly been key for the Cougars, with Palmyra’s newest 1,000-point member Isaac Blatt continuing to lead the way, along with Bryant Willis, who scored a career high 29-points Friday against Hershey, and Braden Vernet, who had the go-ahead three-point play in Saturday's overtime win against Lebanon.
Willis and Vernet led Palmyra in scoring in its last meeting with Mechanicsburg, finishing with 16 and 14 points, respectively.
Blatt, however, had just seven points that evening, and will look for a much better performance in the second go-round with the Wildcats.
Defensively, the key for the Cougars is finding a way to slow down Mechanicsburg’s Cade Alioth, who led all scorers with 26 points in the first meeting. Alioth also did a nice job forcing his way to the free throw line, finishing 8-of-11.
Should provide an electric, but intense, atmosphere, especially after that feeling was created during the first meeting.
Only now, there’s a lot more on the line.
Lebanon at Cedar Crest, Friday, Jan. 13, 7:30 p.m.
The matchup speaks for itself.
In what will already be the second meeting of the season, first place in Section One is on the line.
Should set the stage for another great showdown. Stay tuned for a full preview later this week.
Northern Lebanon at Elco – Thursday, Jan. 12, 7:30 p.m.
With Lancaster Catholic and Lancaster Mennonite virtually slugging it out for the Section Three title, the stakes are even higher for both teams if they want to stay in the district playoff conversation.
Being towards the bottom of the ten qualifying teams in 4A, the game is critical for the Vikings to keep pace.
It is still possible for Elco to make it, but it needs to start getting on a run and get some help, so beating a section rival is a good place to start.
This game will simply come down to whose defense will slow down the opponent's go-to guys.
The Vikings look to slow down the Raiders newest member of the 1,000-point club in Mason Bossert, while the Raiders will have to slow down the trio of Alex Yeager, Caleb Light, and Michigan Daub, all averaging double figures per game. Yeager recently put up 32 in a win over Pequea Valley last week.
Elco will also look to take advantage of its size in trying to win the rebounding battle.