HERSHEY — For a long while here Wednesday night, Elizabethtown walked the upset tightrope deftly.
Milton Hershey is ranked sixth in the state in Class 5A on solid evidence, though, and the Spartans showed it in the second half of an 81-70 non-league win over the Bears in their spacious gym.
“Tonight made us tougher, and it made us better,’’ said E-town coach Rocky Parise, whose club dropped to 10-5. “I thought we were right there.’’
The Spartans are 9-1, the loss coming to Trinity at the end of a three-games-in-five-nights stretch that followed the school’s three-week holiday break. They are imposingly athletic and feature a front line of strong, bouncy 6-5 seniors who combined for 67 points Wednesday.
Yet the Bears led the entire first half, until a tip-in of a missed free throw just before the buzzer by the best of those bigs, Josh Parra, who scored 28.
Elizabethtown pushed its advantage to eight points less than a minute into the start of the …
“I thought we had their individual players scouted pretty well,’’ Parise said. “We had a specific game plan defensively, and I thought the kids executed it.
“When they weren’t getting out and running, I thought we were in control of it.’’
Things changed, as they often do, when jump shots started falling. Milton Hershey’s Nathaniel Boyd made two 3-pointers as the Spartans put together a 9-0 run early in the second half to lead, 45-36.
The Bears never got back even, but they fought mightily. The fourth quarter began with a spectacular shot-block at the rim, on Parra, by Etown’s Elijah Eberly. The Bears turned that into a fast break and big finish in traffic, plus a foul, by Patrick Gilhool.
That made it 53-51, and it looked like a fight to the buzzer.
But then Parra got a flying follow inside, and Clemente Ojinnaka drilled his only three and second basket of the game, and the lead was seven again.
The Bears got it to five once more, on a Gilhool three with 3:30 left. Parise by this point had his club taking team fouls to get close to the bonus and, “make them win it on the foul line.’’
That was understandable given the way the Spartans shot in the first half, but they made five of their last six at the line.
Gilhool led E-town with 18 points. Eberly, a 6-4 senior averaging a team-high 18, scored 15 in his return from an ankle injury, sustained Friday, that caused tim to miss Saturday’s win over Middletown.
He played Wednesday at about 75 percent, according to Parise.
Parra had 19 of his 28 in the second half. Boyd scored 20 and Avohn Cross 19 for Milton Hershey.