The Pioneers essentially locked up the Section Three title with a win over the second-place Raiders on Friday
LANCASTER - On the biggest of stages, margins for error shrink to their very smallest. And there was no bigger stage in Section Three boys basketball this season than Friday afternoon at Lampeter-Strasburg.
Despite cutting a 13-point deficit to three, the Elco boys basketball team fell, 70-60, in the Pioneers' home gym, all but ceding its shot at a section title.
Junior point guard Mason Bossert compiled a team-best 20 points, highlighted by his buzzer-beating trey that closed the third quarter. The bucket brought the Raiders (14-3, 10-3 Lancaster-Lebanon) within a single possession, though senior-laden Lampeter-Strasburg (17-1, 11-1) pulled away with a 24-point fourth to finish the day.
"I'm just so proud of the kids. They've been on a mission all year," Pioneers coach John Achille said. "We never lost our cool. We kept our composure and having a lot of seniors and experience helped. They're just very composed."
Lampeter-Strasburg now holds a two-game lead in the section with four league tip-offs to go, while Elco must regroup in time for a key showdown Monday against Manheim Central. Should the Raiders win out, they would claim second place in the section and consequently a spot in the L-L playoffs, given their current tiebreaker edge over Cocalico, which also holds three league defeats.
Following Bossert's timely long ball, Colton Lawrence (18 points) kept Elco within striking distance early in the fourth quarter through hard-earned trips to the foul line. However, a streak of six consecutive scoring possessions was eventually snapped by the Raiders, who thus allowed their hosts to notch back-to-back scores and soon a nine-point edge that never dipped below nine again.
Pioneers forward Ben Sandberg tallied a game-high 25 points, edging senior teammate Matt Achille by one.
"The glaring thing to me was the physicality on their end compared to our end. Tonight they were stronger than us," Elco coach Brad Conners said. "We got close and it felt like they just started flexing again."
The Raiders' greatest flex lasted over the final 3:26 over the third quarter, when they ripped off a 13-3 run, capped by Bossert's buzzer-beater. Earlier, Lampeter-Strasburg held an eight-point lead at halftime, an edge propped up by the team's outburst that opened the game.
Akin to their first meeting, a 62-42 Pioneers victory, Lampeter-Strasburg sped to a three-possession lead in nearly just as many blinks. Late baskets inside from Caleb Buchmoyer (10 points) and Ryan Eshleman eventually brought about a respectable 17-11 margin at the first-quarter break, but tough individual performances kept Elco largely at bay.
"They disrupted us, kept us from what we wanted to do on the offensive end, and on the defensive end bullied their way down the middle," Conners said. "That's a good team. Give that team a lot of credit."
Lampeter-Strasburg 70, Elco 60
Mason Bossert 6 4-4 20, Caleb Buchmoyer 4 2-2 10, Nate Beamer 2 2-2 8, Colton Lawrence 4 9-10 18, Ryan Eshleman 2 0-0 4 . Totals — 18 17-18 60.
Isaac Beers 3 1-2 10 Jordan Boynton 1 2-2 4, Connor Brown 3 1-1 7, Luke Beers 0 0-0 0, Jarred Houck 0 0-0 0, Matt Achille 7 10-10 24, Ben Sandberg 8 6-6 25. Totals — 22 20-21 70.
Elco _ 11 _ 12 _ 20 _ 17 _ — _ 60
Lamp-Stras _ 17 _ 14 _ 15 _ 24 _ — _ 70
3-point goals — Elco 7 (Bosser 4, Beamer 2, Lawrence), L-S 6 (Sandberg 3, I. Beers 3).