Ephrata edges out Warwick for L-L League playoff berth

By on January 30, 2019
Warwick guard Lauren Pyle (2), who scored a career-high 20 points last Friday, drives inside against Ephrata’s Gabi Gerola-Hill. Photo by Kirk Neidermyer

Warwick guard Lauren Pyle (2), who scored a career-high 20 points last Friday, drives inside against Ephrata’s Gabi Gerola-Hill. Photo by Kirk Neidermyer

The mood was somber as Warwick girls basketball coach Danny Cieniewicz huddled with his assistants post-game last Friday night.

Dejection was written on the faces of the Lady Warriors’ players as they emerged from the locker room.

Although the Warwick girls have taken steps in the right direction this winter, they saw their Lancaster-Lebanon League playoff hopes vanish at Ephrata.

Up for grabs was Section Two’s second and final L-L berth, and the Lady Mounts locked it up with a 48-43 victory, overcoming a 43-36 deficit in the final 6:32 of the fourth quarter.

The win improved Ephrata to 6-4 L-L (7-12 overall), while Warwick fell to 4-7, 6-11. But even if the two teams finished the regular season tied, the tiebreaker would go to the Lady Mounts, who also beat Warwick 38-37 on Jan. 8.

“We battled and I think that we understood what was at stake,” Cieniewicz said. “Again, it wasn’t for a lack of effort. All year, it hasn’t been for a lack of effort where I think we’re coming up just short. It’s a matter of really just executing down the stretch.”

The Lady Warriors were executing nicely during an 8-0 stretch to start the final stanza, turning a 36-35 deficit into a 43-36 advantage with 6:32 left. Reagan Longridge opened the run with a ‘three,’ then Emily Williamson buried two foul shots, and Lauren Pyle, who finished with a game-high 20 points, knocked the last of her four treys.

But Ephrata turned up the heat with its pressure defense, forcing seven fourth-quarter turnovers by the Lady Warriors, who ended the game shooting 0-for-8 from the field.

“I think we stopped looking to attack a little bit and then let their pressure get the best of us, and that’s on me,” Cieniewicz said. “I think we were in a good offensive rhythm and (Ephrata) kinda changed up how they were doing it a little bit. But we should have stayed aggressive with it and at least gone down attacking.”

Kandice Liebl’s two free throws brought Ephrata within 43-41, and a steal by Jocelyn Umana leading to a fastbreak layup tied it 43-all with 2:27 left. Gabi Gerola-Hill paced the Lady Mounts with 14 points and Umana chipped in with 11.

“Turning the ball over leading to offense for them is what ultimately got them back into the game,” Cieniewicz said. “That’s where it really got away.”

A floater by Carly Holochuck gave Ephrata the lead for good, 45-43, with 2:12 to go. Later, Holochuck converted the front end of a 1-and-1, then the Lady Mounts got a jump ball, and Umana’s bucket with :04 left completed the scoring.

Gerola-Hill scored seven of her 14 points in the opening frame, including a ‘three,’ as the Ephrata girls took an early 18-10 lead.

Pyle, though, scored eight points in the second, including a 3-pointer with :37 left in the half to cut the Lady Warriors’ deficit to 28-25 at the break.

Gerola-Hill and Pyle traded ‘threes’ in the opening 1:21 of the third, and then a putback by Longridge got Warwick within one, 31-30. Umana answered with a layup, but a three-point play by Longridge tied it 33-all with 2:57 left in the quarter.

Longridge finished with eight points in the game.

“(Reagan)’s been stepping up and getting more of a role of a scorer,” Cieniewicz said, “and she’s being more aggressive, which is great because we need that. I think each and every game, she’s getting a little bit more confident.”

Umana’s ‘three’ put Ephrata back up 36-33, and then Pyle sank two free throws, which cut Warwick’s deficit to 36-35 going to the fourth.

Down the stretch, however, it wasn’t meant to be for the Lady Warriors.

“After games like this, there’s not really a whole lot you can say that’s going to sink in. Really what we want to continue to preach to just finish it right,” Cieniewicz said. “Whatever the results end up being, the results end up being. The score is going to take care of itself moving forward, but it’s a matter of finishing the season, whenever that ends, the right way.”

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