MYERSTOWN - After a back-and-forth initial five minutes that saw five lead changes, Lancaster Catholic took the lead and never relinquished it in an eventual 69-55 Lancaster-Lebanon League Section Four boys basketball road win at Elco on Friday night.
Though, the game felt much closer than the final score suggests in a battle between two of the hottest teams in the league. The host Raiders closed the second quarter on a 5-0 spurt to cut the deficit to 27-24 at halftime.
But the visiting Crusaders opened the second half on an 8-1 run and outscored Elco 20-9 in the frame to lead 47-33 going into the fourth quarter.
With the win, defending Section Four champion Lancaster Catholic (8-0 league, 14-1 overall) remained atop the section standings, moving two games up on second-place Elco (6-2, 13-3). The Crusaders also extended their win streak to 14-straight games, while snapping the Raiders’ 8-game win streak.
Lancaster Catholic’s only loss was a 61-48 defeat in the season opener against Wilson, one of the best Class 6A teams in the state. And the Crusaders and Raiders had entered Friday at Nos. 1 and 3 in the District 3-4A power ratings.
“Everyone in the L-L didn’t believe in us, saying, ‘Who have you beaten?’” Lancaster Catholic junior guard/forward Devin Atkinson said. “And everyone thinks we got blown out by Wilson. We were down like four points until the final minute and they ended up winning by 13. I think this puts it on our resume that we can compete with anyone.”
While Atkinson had made big buckets in last year’s run to the District 3-4A title game, he admitted Friday night was his best overall scoring performance with a game-high 20 points to go along with four rebounds and three steals.
Lancaster Catholic 6-6 senior forward David Kamwanga (19 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks) and 6-1 junior guard Ross Conway (10 points) also finished in double-figures scoring.
Elco was paced by Bryce Coletti (16 points), Braden Bohannon (12 points) and Asher Kemble (10 points).
“Everyone can shoot,” Atkinson said of Elco when asked about defending the Raiders. “We weren’t going to play much help defense. We were going to let them beat us inside. They’ve made 116 three-pointers, so we wanted to defend the perimeter.”
Elco cut the deficit to 57-46 with 2:00 remaining, but Lancaster Catholic went 10-for-10 at the free-throw line from there. Lancaster Catholic became just the third team this season to score 60 or more points on Elco.
Asked if Friday’s win felt like a measuring stick for his bunch, longtime Lancaster Catholic coach Joe Klazas remained diplomatic in his response: “We didn’t even talk about that in the locker room. ...We’re going to enjoy it today and we’ll get back to work tomorrow. I just look at every game we play being the most important.”
By the way, Klazas is now at 297 career victories.
Up next: On Tuesday, the Crusaders travel to Northern Lebanon, while Elco travels to Octorara.