PHILADELPHIA - There was no turning point. There was no single fatal mistake or misstep. There was no shame in the demise of the Elco boys basketball season Friday.
Only the simple, critical forces of fatigue and odds combining to close the books on a program-changing campaign.
Battling both a physical and metaphoric heat, the Raiders steadily succumbed to two-time reigning state champion Neumann-Goretti, 69-48, in the opening round of the PIAA Class AAA state tournament at sultry Archbishop Ryan.
The Saints (23-4), runners-up in District 12, led by five at halftime and extended their edge to an insurmountable margin through a heavy dose of ball pressure and transition offense. Neumann-Goretti senior guard Zane Martin posted a game-high 23 points, while Mason Bossert paced Elco with a team-best 16.
“I thought we showed we were tired. We turned it over and they did turn up the pressure. And as expected, they can really pressure the ball," Elco coach Brad Conners said of the second half. "I do think we wore out. They wore us out.”
Bossert's deep trey midway through the third quarter carried Elco to a brief six-point deficit, the closest the Raiders (22-6) came for the remainder of regulation. For an ensuing 11-0 Saints run effectively put District 3's fifth-place finisher to bed, as four-star Neumann-Goretti recruits Quade Green (20 points) and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree each secured fast-break baskets.
Rasheed Browne then followed with a corner 3 at 2:28 left in the quarter to all but close the curtains. Elco, which largely held the Saints in check from behind the arc via a mix of 2-3 and 3-2 zones, was soon forced to call a timeout and trailed by 17 heading into the fourth.
Neumann-Goretti finished 3-for-22 from long distance.
“We didn’t shoot great, but we were still able to play with our defense,” Saints coach Carl Arrigale said. “We haven’t had one of these in a while, where we had to grind one out. We'd score 90 points like it was nothing for a good while. And we could give up 70 and still win by 20 ... We really beared down."
The Raiders now bid adieu to their three-member senior class of Colton Lawrence, Caleb Buchmoyer and Dylan Stoops, who captained this momentous season. Friday's tip-off was the first state tournament contest in program history, capping the first Elco campaign to produce at least 22 wins.
“I’m proud of these kids. They battled, they played tough," Conners said. “Our seniors did a great job. Man, I love those three kids. Just great kids, absolute dream kids. I love them to death.”
Lawrence and Buchmoyer, usually found atop the Elco scorebook alongside Bossert, were held to nine points apiece.
After surviving an opening 8-0 Saints run, the Raiders played even basketball through the end of the first quarter. Later, they managed a 13-13 tie and came within a single possession on four different occasions through strong transition defense. Neumann-Goretti closed the first half ahead 30-25.
Neumann-Goretti 69, Elco 48
Dawson Smith 0 0-0 0, Mason Bossert 7 0-0 16, Joe Ginder 0 0-0 0, Caleb Buchmoyer 4 0-0 9, Colton Lawrence 3 2-4 9, Ryan Eshleman 3 0-0 6, Dylan Stoops 1 2-2 4, Nate Beamer 2 0-0 4, Devin Stoops 0 0-0 0, Blake Weary 0 0-0 0, Jeff Lorah 0 0-0 0. Totals — 20 4-6 48.
Vaughn Covington 1 2-3 4, Quade Green 8 2-4 20, Rasheed Browne 4 2-2 11, Zane Martin 9 5-7 23, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree 3 3-4 9, Amir Tyler 0 0-0 0, Dhymir Montague 0 0-0 0, Mike Millsip 0 0-0 0. Totals — 26 14-19 69.
Elco _ 9 _ 16 _ 9 _ 14 _ — _ 48
Neu.-Goretti_ 13 _ 17 _ 21 _ x _ — _ 69
3-point goals — Elco 4 (Bossert, Buchmoyer, Lawrence); N-G 3 (Green 2, Browne).