Down 10 early in both halves, Elco still gutted out a 45-42 overtime victory on Friday night.
As is so often the case after emotional wins, the repeated, jubilant shouts of 'I believe that we just won' could be heard loud and clear by anyone in the vicinity of the victorious locker room.
The Elco girls' basketball team repeated the words so often it seemed as if the Raiders were trying to convince themselves that it was true.
And maybe they were. After all, they didn't do anything particularly well on Friday night and still managed to emerge with a 45-42 overtime victory over county rival Lebanon Catholic in a Section Three-Four crossover on Assumption Hill.
Actually, Elco did one thing incredibly well: Fight. And in the end, that's really all that mattered.
Down 12-2 six minutes in and 28-18 early in the third quarter, the Raiders kept their fists balled throughout, forcing OT behind feisty play from sophomore point guard Taylor Bossert, then pulling ahead to stay on Chandelle Keller's putback early in the four-minute extra session.
The win on the opening night of Lancaster-Lebanon League play gave Elco, which opened with a tidier 50-34 win at Conestoga Valley on Wednesday night, a 2-0 start and more importantly the confidence to know that less than their best can still be enough if the required competitive fire is present.
And on this night, it most definitely was.
"We certainly made it tough on ourselves at times," Elco coach Ashli Shay said. "But I just told them, 'Good teams find a way to win when they're playing poorly.' And I'm gonna attribute that to what just happened here tonight. We found a way to win, and that's a really good basketball team over there, Lebanon Catholic.
"It was just guts, heart and determination. They just refused to give up."
And Elco had every reason to drop its head after the Beavers (1-1) jumped to the aforementioned 12-2 lead behind eight of Allie Warren's game-high 21 points, including two of her five 3-pointers.
But the Beavers, plagued by their own shaky execution and the loss of point guard Mariah Sholly to fouling out, never threw a knockout punch, allowing the feisty Raiders to stay within 24-18 at the half.
"It was one we let slip away," Catholic coach Patti Hower said with a grimace. "I don't want to take anything away from Elco, they really battled back and made the baskets when they needed them. But we kinda beat ourselves a little bit. I was disappointed that we didn't execute. We just don't understand time and score sometimes."
Still, it looked like the Beavers would have enough to survive after they went back up 28-18 early in the third, and enjoyed a 32-26 lead after three quarters,
But from there, Bossert lit a match and threw it on Elco's competitive fire, dropping in seven of her 12 points in the first 2:05 of the fourth quarter, including two free throws with 5:55 left in regulation that gave the Raiders their first lead of the night.
"She came down and knocked down a 3-pointer at one point, and she knocked in some foul shots that were crucial," Shay said of Bossert. "She did a great job of taking care of the ball most of the time, and that's what we ask of her."
A Ryelle Shuey lay-up with 2:04 left knotted the score at 38, and eventually forced OT after Keller missed a potential game-winning put-back in the closing seconds of regulation.
But Keller, who tallied a team-high 14 points was on target with her next put-back try in the early stages of OT that put Elco ahead to stay.
Catholic would not score in the extra session until Celine Mars dropped in a layup with 33 ticks remaining. By then, Elco had grabbed victory by the throat and strangled it.
"They clawed and clawed and clawed," Shay said. "I know these kids, they're great kids. They're determined, they're fierce, they're competitors. At the end of the game they pounded it out. They just showed guts."
Elco 45, Lebanon Catholic 42 (OT)
Bossert 4 2-4 12, Keller 6 2-4 14, Bidelspach 0 0-2 0, Thomas 1 0-1 2, Nelson 3 0-0 6, Shuey 3 5-9 11 Totals — 17 9-20 45.
Lebanon Catholic (42)
Sholly 2 0-0 4, Callihan 1 0-0 2, Pierre 2 3-6 7, Warren 8 0-2 21, Shellehamer 2 0-0 4, Mars 2 0-0 4, Pastal 0 0-0 0. Totals — .17 3-8 42
Elco _ 8 _ 10 _ 8 _ 12_ 7 — _ 45
Lebanon Catholic _ 15 _ 9 _ 8 _ 6 _ 4 — _ 42
3-point goals — E: Bossert 2, LC: Warren 5
Fouled out — Sholly
JV score — Elco 38, Lebanon Catholic 33 (OT)