MOUNT JOY — Even in a season opener, two teams banking on experience and playing in a backyard rivalry should have little trouble coming out and performing at a high level.
Such was the case Friday night in the second game of the Donegal tournament, in which the Elizabethtown Bears came from behind to upend the host Indians, 64-63, behind a combined 29 second-half points from seniors Joey Lonardi and Jacob Hood.
“Our kids came back from adversity,” said Elizabethtown head coach Kevin Dolan. “I don’t think we played a really great game tonight but our kids battled the whole time, and I’m really proud how they came back from that kind of deficit.”
After the Indians took a 37-28 lead into intermission, Etown went to a press defense in the third quarter and Hood sank 10 of his team-high 21 points including a pair of 3's.
“(Hood) knocked down a bunch of jumpers, just kind of kept them in the game in the third quarter and carried them there,” said Donegal coach Matt Zoeller, bemoaning his team’s tendency to foul in the second half with the Bears draining 8-of-11 free throws.
“I’m just really disappointed because my guys played so hard and they did so many things well and to come up short hurts,” Zoeller added.
Etown took its first lead in over 20 minutes on Marcus Shutt’s 3-pointer with 6:51 left to play. From there the Bears and Indians went back-and-forth in much the same way the rival student sections bantered back-and-forth throughout.
But Lonardi drained a 3-pointer of his own to even the score at 60-all, Etown taking two-point leads on Hood’s rolling layup and later Lonardi’s bucket off an inside pass from freshman forward Larry Locker for a 64-62 advantage.
Derek Mohr hit one of two free throws to close to within a point, Lonardi missing a pair on the other end. But the Indians were called for traveling before they could get off a final shot.
“(Lonardi) went to the basket well, he shot well from the free-throw line,” Dolan said of his three-year starting forward. “He wishes he could have those last two but he did a great job tonight, he really finished strong for us.”
In all, Elizabethtown finished 12-for-17 from the free-throw line, while the Indians were just 3-for-7.
The Indians senior-laden roster did build an impressive first-half lead, countering the Bears in transition. Mohr had 11 rebounds and Ethan Hess put in a game-high 22 points including four 3-pointers.
“I anticipate us playing in a number of close games during the year,” said Zoeller. “It’s good experience for us and hopefully we can learn from some of the things we didn’t do so well and improve in the future.
“I have an experienced group, they’ve been through this before so hopefully we can bounce back tomorrow and get a win.”
Donegal will host Marple-Newtown in Saturday's consolation, while Elizabethtown will face Palmyra in Saturday's final at 7:30. Palmyra defeated Newtown 64-56 in Friday’s opener.
“One of the things we had trouble with when we were a younger team was when we hit some adversity we just collapsed some of those times but tonight obviously we did not,” Dolan said. “We went the other way. We had the adversity and then we just got stronger and got better, bonded together as a team and I think that’s a really good sign for this team going forward.”
Elizabethtown 64, Donegal 63
M. Shutt 4 0-0 10, J. Hood 9 1-2 21, J. Lonardi 6 7-9 20, L. Locker 2 3-4 7, M. Garber 1 0-0 3, T. Anderton 1 1-2 3, C. Robinson 0 0-0 0, A. Peifer 0 0-0 0, Z. Spiegelmeyer 0 0-0 0. Totals – 23 12-17 64.
E. Hess 9 0-0 22, D. Mohr 8 1-2 17, C. Beaudoin 5 2-2 12, M. Reber 2 0-0 5, R. Mitchell 2 0-2 4, E. Swanigan 1 0-1 3, W. Schlaybach 0 0-0 0, M. Bradfield 0 0-0 0, E. Burnette 0 0-0 0. Totals – 27 3-7 63.
Etown _ 13 _ 15 _ 17 _ 19 _ — _ 64
Donegal _ 18 _ 19 _ 12 _ 14 _ — _ 63
3-point goals — ET 6 (Hood 2, Shutt 2, Lonardi 1, Garber 1); DON 6 (Hess 4, Reber 1, Swanigan 1)
Other score — Palmyra 64, Marple-Newtown 56.