Ephrata’s rally falls short in loss to MC
By: BRUCE MORGAN Ephrata Review Staff, Staff Writer
The Ephrata boys needed to find a way to just calm themselves down playing in their first game of the season on Monday night.
Manheim Central, taking the court for the third time in four days, was trying to hang on for dear life after grabbing a big first-half lead.
In the end, the Mountaineers did relax a bit and put together an inspired rally to turn a 23-point first-half deficit into a nine-point game in the fourth quarter. But Central, paced by Evan Stauffer’s team-high 16 points, managed to escape with a 54-43 non-league victory in Manheim.
Although the Barons improved to 3-0 on the young season, including a championship in last weekend’s Hamburg Tip-Off Tournament, coach Chris Sherwood acknowledged that they were fortunate to survive the Mounts. Seniors Jacoby Brumbach and Colby Gatchell also scored in double figures with 13 and 11 points, respectively, but Central’s head coach said that as a team, they need to do a better job of concentrating for a full 32 minutes.
"We’re 3-0, but I’m not happy," Sherwood remarked. "We need to get better. We write down goals, we talk as a team and Section Three is loaded and we all know it and we need to get better if we’re going to compete in Section Three."
For Ephrata, Monday’s contest was the start of a tough five-day stretch to open the season, playing three game in five days — all on the road — with Exeter and McCaskey waiting on Wednesday and Friday. But coach Jason Coletti was hopeful that they got some jitters out of the way against the Barons.
"It was a bad first half and it was ugly and I knew we were better than that," he said. "It was just a matter of calming down. We’ve looked really good in practice, even in scrimmages, but it’s not for real then. So hopefully come Wednesday night against Exeter, we’re much calmer."
Ephrata’s nerves were one thing. That, coupled with a first half which saw Manheim Central’s defense force 12 of Ephrata’s 19 turnovers while limiting the Mounts to just 3-for-21 shooting from the field, added up to a deep hole for the visitors.
"They confused us a little bit," Coletti said. "I told them they camouflage their defenses really well. They’ll be in zone and it looks like man. They’re in man and it looks like zone. So it was more of recognizing defenses that were confusing us and then once they took their time and settled down, they were OK."
The Barons didn’t shoot particularly well in the opening minutes either, as Stauffer’s triple accounted for their only points through the game’s first four-plus minutes. But the senior guard scored on a couple of fastbreak layups to push MC’s lead to 10-2 after one, and then early in the second, Gatchell knocked down back-to-back treys and Daniel Wiederrecht’s steal and layup capped a 15-0 Barons’ run that pushed their lead to 18-2 with 6:49 remaining in the half.
"There were lids on both baskets for the first few minutes and that may have said, ‘OK, we’re OK,’" Sherwood said of Gatchell’s ‘threes.’ "We’re going to have to do that. Every one of our five guys that we put on the floor can hit an open ‘three.’ We’re going to force teams to defend us on the perimeter, all five guys and yes, that’s going to be key for us."
Ephrata sophomore Nathan Zimmerman, who led all scorers with 19 points, sank the first of his three treys to make it 23-9 with 2:54 to go in the half, but then Central ended the period on a 9-0 spurt en route to taking a 32-9 advantage to the locker room.
The break did nothing to cool Zimmerman’s hot hand, as he came out in the third and scored eight points, including a 3-pointer that led the Mounts on a 10-0 run to close Central’s cushion to 38-24 with 3:27 left in the third. Junior Aaron Hubbard, who added 10 points for Ephrata, finished the spurt with a layup.
"I’ve seen Zimmerman playing for the last few years and he’s a nice big player who can shoot the ball a little bit," Sherwood said. "And we talked about how we have to rotate out on him. That goes back to concentrating for 32 minutes when we didn’t and Zimmerman is good enough — not just good enough, he’s good — that if you’re going to give him an open three, he’s going to knock it down."
Then when senior Evan Radcliffe scored on the post in the final minute of the third, the Mounts were still within 16 points, 45-29, going to the final stanza.
Following a putback by Zimmerman and a transition layup from Radcliffe early in the fourth, the latter of which came with Central’s 6-foot-5 Matt Walsh on the bench with his fourth foul, the Mountaineers had some momentum while making the score 45-33 with 5:19 to go.
Walsh later fouled out during a mini 5-0 run by the Mounts, and Hubbard’s free throw with 1:34 left cut the Barons’ lead to 48-39. In the second half overall, Ephrata outscored Manheim Central by a 34-22 margin.
"They’re just a different team without (Walsh) there," Coletti said. "He’s 6-foot-5 and a good player and then when he’s not there, they’re much smaller. We wanted to get it inside, but our guards have got to calm down to be able to make the pass inside."
Down the stretch, however, Ephrata would get no closer than five points. Stauffer and Gatchell went a perfect 4-for-4 from the foul line in 1-and-1 opportunities in the final :59.1 to help seal it for the Barons.
"I was just happy we were able to come out and play well in the first half," Sherwood said. "We thought this was going to happen. We thought that we would be flat tonight. We had a draining, emotional win against Octorara (Saturday in the Hamburg Tip-Off championship game). We didn’t come out real sharp, but there was enough energy that we fed on that energy in the first half. And then the bottom line is, we were terribly slow defensively. Every rotation that we did perfect in the first half, we were terrible in the second."
Although Ephrata found their game in the second half, it was a little bit too late to overcome its 23-point first-half deficit.
"After they hit their first couple of shots, it got rid of that anxiety and nervousness," Coletti said. "It’s probably magnified tonight because of the first game, but it could be the 15th game of the season and it could be the same way. They just have to be ready to play and calm down. They have to have something good happen to them before they calm down."
Last Saturday, the Central boys rallied from an 14-point deficit at halftime, 35-21, and defeated Octorara 50-49 to capture the Hamburg Tip-Off crown.
Stauffer, who took home Tournament MVP honors, dropped in 10 of game-high 20 points in the third quarter, leading the Barons on an 18-8 run which cut the Braves’ lead to 43-39 going to the fourth.
It remained a tight ball game through the final stanza, and then Brumbach’s putback with just five seconds left proved to be the game-winning bucket in the Barons’ one-point victory. Gatchell also finished in double figures for the Barons with 11 points.
Last Friday night, Walsh’s 17 points paced the Barons in a 44-35 season-opening win over Bloomsburg. Behind a 15-5 second-quarter run, Central took a 23-14 advantage into the half and then held on. Stauffer chipped in with 15 points for the winners. More BARONS, page B-4