From underdogs to favorites: Basketball team embraces change in role

ELCO was the favorite to win Section Three in what has been billed as the most competitive section in the Lancaster-Lebanon boys basketball league. Before the season, Manheim Central coach Chris Sherwood called the section “absolutely loaded”. 

Although they may not have been the favorites to start the season, the Pioneers almost certainly are the team to beat now, coming off a narrow victory over Central and a shellacking of ELCO that coach John Achille called a “dominating performance”.

“It was a big week,” Mr. Achille says.

The team is particularly proud of its win against ELCO.

“We beat the supposed best team in the league by 20,” says senior Jake Groff, going on to acknowledge, “Every team is going to try extra hard to beat us now.”
The basketball team has remained focused during its games and practices thus
far this season, which Mr. Achille says is its key to success
Photo by Lauren Mast, Sports Reporter
Thus far, it has been a team effort from the Pioneers’ triumvirate of senior starters -- Matt Achille, who leads the team by averaging just under 15 points per game, Connor Brown, who has emerged as a viable threat on both sides of the ball, and Luke Beers, perhaps the team’s best perimeter shooter aside from his brother -- as well as the dominant junior Ben Sandberg, whose dunks have electrified home crowds and whose scoring ability has carried the team through its first eight games, and sophomore Isaac Beers, whose 14 three-point shots lead the team.

A trio of key swing players off the bench -- seniors Groff, Jordan Boynton, who started at point guard last year but has not (yet) returned to that role after playing football this fall, and Darren Metz, who has miraculously returned from a neck injury in less than three months to hit the hardwood and, more significantly, the glass, where he is a strong rebounder -- have also made strong contributions to the 8-0 Pioneers.

With eight seniors on the roster, the Pioneers have experience few teams can match, which is a big advantage.

They have been leading us with their experience and effort,” Achille says of his seniors.  “Everybody is taking their lead and jumping on board; it is has been fun to watch.

Overall, Achille seems most proud of his team’s composure and aptitude to stay focused on the task at hand. The team has battled back from early-game deficits and shown ability to win close games, even on the road. Achille says the team's goal is to win the section three championship, but for now, is taking it "one game at a time".

Having played seven games in the last 14 days, the team has earned an upcoming rest over Christmas break, but is looking forward to another action-packed stretch after break, when it will play seven games in 12 days.

“The team is excited and focused,” declares Achille. “We are up for the task.  Our players have been very attentive and have been working hard and it is paying off.

--Benjamin Pontz, Editor-In-Chief

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