NEFFSVILLE - Laced up in one of their final high school games, Elco senior captains Colton Lawerence and Caleb Buchmoyer shared a rare moment on the bench Thursday with plenty of regulation clock yet to run.
That moment then stretched into a few possessions and next six whole minutes. For such is the penance for foul trouble, even as a hard-charging opponent lays into your substitutes.
But instead of bouncing a nervous knee or clenching anxious hands, the duo was driven to cheer and even stand. Another Raiders rarity was developing before their very eyes, helping carry them to a win.
Lifted by a big-time second-half effort from its bench, the fifth-seeded Elco boys basketball team dispatched No. 10 Gettysburg 74-66 in the District 3 Class AAA tournament fifth-place game at Manheim Twp. The Raiders' victory clinched the first 22-win campaign in program history, having already earned their first-ever state tournament berth earlier in the week. Elco (22-5) now awaits a first-round PIAA showdown on March 4th against District 12's runner-up, which will be determined Friday night in a clash between Neumann Goretti and Del-Val.
Raiders coach Brad Conners and staff will be making the trip down to Philadelphia for the District 12 title game, but first they had praise to dole out Thursday.
"The star of the game was the bench," Elco coach Brad Conners said. "Early on it was Colton, but the bench was doing things we haven't seen all year. Not that they can't, they just didn't have an opportunity. And tonight was their opportunity and they stepped up."
Lawrence finished with a team-best 25 points, including 15 dropped before intermission. Saddled with two quick fouls at the start of each half, he hit the bench alongside Buchmoyer, where they both watched junior Mason Bossert go to work with most of the offensive load on his shoulders in the third quarter. But instead of firing away from his beloved 3-point range, Bossert aptly balanced his own scoring chances with those of his teammates.
"In the second half, I thought I needed to get my teammates involved and be a leader," Bossert said. "And I thought the best way to do that was just to handle the ball for my team and not turn it over."
Reserve guard Nate Beamer led all back-ups with nine points and a couple key assists to center Ryan Eshleman (eight points), who finished an and-1 play to both close the third and later open the fourth. Now ahead 54-41 with less than a quarter to go, the Raiders survived an ensuing, furious Warriors press, which cut their deficit down to four.
Returned from the sidelines, Lawrence then teamed with Bossert to knock down a combined seven fourth-quarter foul shots and preserve the win. Elco canned 18 of 25 free throws as a team, while Gettysburg (14-10) went 7-of-18.
"We didn't hit foul shots, we didn't get a loose rebound, we didn't dive for a loose ball and they won the game," Gettysburg coach Jeff Bair said. "That's part of playoff basketball. You have to play every possession."
Showcasing every bit of the deep shooting and high-flying theatrics that carried them to their historic program marks, the Raiders raced out and closed the first quarter on a 17-3 run. The only hiccup came with the sound of a whistle, when Lawrence's second foul arrived not four minutes after the opening tip. Though the Raiders stayed unperturbed, as the senior remained on the floor and canned a corner 3 just a dozen seconds later.
Buchmoyer then finished the period with a pull-up jumper for a 23-10 lead.
Gettysburg cut its deficit to six early in the second quarter, only to watch Elco connect on consecutive treys immediately thereafter and carry a 12-point edge into halftime.
"I told the kids before the game that I had a feeling we were going to come out like that," Conners said.
But the prelude to the finish? No one saw that.
Not even coach.
Elco 74, Gettysburg 66
Cade Eckhart 0 0-0 0, Marquise Camel 5 0-2 10, Max Lampe 6 2-3 18, Devin Ringler 3 1-3 7, David Buxton 1 0-0 3, Connor Weikert 0 0-0 0, Tyson Sherman 1 0-0 3, Rayvaughn Dillard 10 5-9 25. Totals — 26 8-17 66
Mason Bossert 6 4-5 19, Caleb Buchmoyer 3 2-4 8, Nate Beamer 3 1-2 9, Devin Stoops 0 0-0 0, Colton Lawrence 8 8-10 25, Ryan Eshleman 3 2-2 8, Dylan Stoops 2 1-2 5. Totals — 25 18-25 74
Gettysburg_ 10_ 16_ 13_ 27 _ — _ 66
Elco_ 23_ 15 _ 13_ 23 — _ 74
3-point goals — Gett 6 (Lampe 4, Buxton, Sherman), Elco 6 (Bossert 3, Beamer 2, Lawrence)