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Colton Lawrence scored a game-high 28 points against Berks Catholic to help the Raiders make program history Monday

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LITITZ - Berks Catholic coach Snip Esterly is a man often charged with providing answers. During practice, in timeouts, after games, the questions all go to him.

But not one quarter into Monday's district elimination game against Elco, Esterly half-yelled, half-posed this question to his assistants.

"We can't play zone. What are we going to do?!"

That's the kind of quandary you face while sitting on the opposite bench of a Colton Lawrence outburst. Unwilling to watch his high school career come to an end, Lawrence went off against Esterly's Saints, and 32 minutes later, his season lived on.

Behind Lawrence's 28 points, fifth-seeded Elco survived to see another tip-off with a 63-52 triumph over No. 9 Berks Catholic at Warwick High School in District 3 Class AAA tournament action. The Raiders (21-5) simultaneously clinched a state tournament berth, their first in program history.

Lawrence supplied 18 of those 28 points before halftime, his last pair on an alley-oop that beat the intermission buzzer.

“When we get something out of that, it gets us hyped for the next half," Lawrence said of buzzer-beating jam. "I knew I had an opportunity to get us off to a good start. It was just a mindset thing because it could’ve been our last game.”

Prior to the state tournament, Elco will meet No. 10 Gettysburg, a 42-23 winner over Cocalico, on Thursday to settle fifth place in the district. The loser will take on the champion of District 12 next weekend in a PIAA Class AAA bracket opener, while Thursday's winner awaits District 12's runner-up.

Despite Lawrence's early efforts Monday, the Raiders slogged through an even second quarter with the Saints (16-10) after taking a five-point lead through one. They connected on nine field goals in the first and led for all but 2:43 of the opening half. When faced with possibility of Berks Catholic staying within a one-possession reach at intermission, Lawrence flew into the air and came down with another five-point edge.

Thanks to another buzzer-beater, the Raiders went on to lead by as many as 10 in the third quarter, when Mason Bossert (14 points) connected from downtown as time expired.

The Saints' Isaac Lutz (22 points) provided most of the offensive and defensive resistance, but over a tightly whistled game, there was nothing he or his teammates could do to halt Elco at the foul line. The Raiders, who also got 14 points from Caleb Buchmoyer, drained better than 68 percent of their free throws as a team, keeping their two-possession lead through the final horn.

Monday's win came on the heels of a devastating one-point loss to No. 4 Eastern York, which dropped Elco into the consolation round and denied the team a long sought-after trip to Giant Center. Yet that did not deter the Raiders from piecing together one of their guttiest performances of the year for one reason:

“They’re resilient," Elco coach Brad Conners said. "Sunday’s practice, they were focused and had a good practice. We didn’t win the section title, we didn’t get the league title, but these kids, to me, they have the hearts of champions.”

Elco 63, Berks Catholic 52

Elco (63)

Mason Bossert 3 6-8 14, Caleb Buchmoyer 3 6-8 14, Colton Lawrence 11 5-8 28, Dylan Stoops 1 2-2 4, Ryan Eshleman 0 1-2 1, Nate Beamer 0 2-4 2, Devin Stoops 0 0-0 0. Totals — 18 22-32 63.

Berks Catholic (52)

Isaac Lutz 8 5-6 22, Tyrone Nesby 4 3-4 10, Casey Jack 0 0-0 0, Mark Rivers 0 0-0 0, Luis Garcia 0 0-0 0, Marcus Wilson 2 2-2 6, Bryce Calloway 2 2-5 6, Kebo Mitchell 2 0-0 4. Totals — 18 12-17 52.

Elco_ 21_ 12 _ 12_ 18 — _ 63

Berks Cath._ 16_ 12_ 7_ 17 _ — _ 52

3-point goals — Elco 5 (Bossert 2, Buchmoyer 2, Lawrence). BC 4 (Lutz 3, Nesby).

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