MOUNT JOY - For a long-awaited rematch, there was little extraordinary about Tuesday's showdown pitting the Elco boys basketball team against upset-minded Donegal.
Nothing extraordinary, except for the game's place in Elco history. For by claiming victory after four quarters, the Raiders earned themselves a Lancaster-Lebanon League playoff berth. And for a program that has not appeared in the bracket since 2003, that in and of itself was, of course, plenty remarkable.
Mason Bossert canned five of Elco's 10 treys and senior Colton Lawrence dropped a game-high 22 points during a 68-60 win that answered an earlier Indians upset this season. The Raiders (19-3, 13-3 Lancaster-Lebanon) solidified their second-place position in Section Three, thus setting up a Saturday clash at Section One champion McCaskey. Elco led for the final 30-plus minutes Tuesday, an edge sustained on tough defense in the middle quarters and strong 3-point shooting throughout.
“We knew this was like a playoff game and we put that in our mindset," Bossert said. "Donegal’s a tough team, but our mindset was just to get the W and get the second league spot."
While they managed to keep pace over a rigorous 19-17 opening period, the Indians (7-15, 5-11) never cut their deficit to less than four after halftime. Ryan Mitchell topped all Donegal scorers with 15 points, while Chris Beaudoin, Derek Mohr and Ethan Hess also finished in double figures. None, however, deposited a bucket over the final 3:30 of the opening half, while Bossert recorded the stretch's only points via a pair of technical free throws that cemented a seven-point lead at the break.
Elco then sped quickly to a 36-26 advantage early in the third, only to endure an ensuing 6-0 Donegal run. Aware of the turning tide, the veteran Lawrence answered with scores on consecutive possessions, while Raider guards Bossert and Caleb Buchmoyer (nine points) collected their own baskets to close the quarter at 49-36. And their defense held strong, too.
“When we all get some shots to go and finally get open 3s, that's the key point in the game; when everyone’s hitting," Lawrence said. "And that’s always fun.”
A later Bossert long ball eventually pushed the Elco lead to as high as 16, before it wrestled with the Indians over a back-and-forth finale that delivered the reward the visitors had come for: an L-L postseason berth.
The significance of that reward was not lost on any Raider, player or coach, post-game.
“This was great. This was what we wanted," Elco coach Brad Conners said. "McCaskey at their place on a Saturday night. Perfect."
“We’ve gone to league playoff after the season before in street clothes in the bleachers and just the atmosphere is something we always envied," Lawrence said. "So just the opportunity to play in one now, we’re really looking forward to it.”
Elco 68, Donegal 60
Mason Bossert 6 4-4 21, Caleb Buchmoyer 3 1-2 9, Nate Beamer 4 1-1 9, Colton Lawrence 7 5-7 22, Ryan Eshleman 3 1-2 7. Totals — 23 12-16 68.
Ethan Hess 4 3-5 12, Micah Reber 2 0-0 4, Matt Bradfield 1 0-0 2, Derek Mohr 5 0-0 10, Elijah Swaniga 1 0-0 3, Chris Beaudoin 5 1-1 11, Evan Burnette 0 2-2 2, Ryan Mitchell 6 2-4 15. Totals — 24 8-12 60.
E_ 19_ 10_ 20_ 19 _ — _ 68
D_ 17_ 5 _ 14_ 24 — _ 60
3-point goals — E 10 (Bossert 5, Lawrence 3, Buchmoyer 2), D 4 (Hess 2, Swaniga, Mitchell)