Barons pull into tie atop Section with Ephrata

By on January 18, 2017
Guarded closely by Ephrata guard/forward Brad DaBella, Manheim Central senior Taylor Funk (left) looks inside for an open teammate. Photo by Steve Heydt

Guarded closely by Ephrata guard/forward Brad DaBella, Manheim Central senior Taylor Funk (left) looks inside for an open teammate. Photo by Steve Heydt

MC boys also top Solanco, 58-45

Manheim Central’s Kody Kegarise could barely hear his teammates from just two feet away.

“I was screaming, ‘What (defense) are we in?,’” the Barons’ senior guard said.

The fact he had to strain to hear was a tribute to the frenzy of a packed gym after MC 6-foot-9 center Taylor Funk, a St. Joseph’s University recruit, came up with a steal and then slammed home a dunk with just 40 seconds left in a first-place clash with Ephrata last Friday in Manheim.

It turned a three-point Baron lead into a five-point advantage, 36-31, and made the Mountaineers’ task a lot more difficult.

“We were just hoping to make a play,” Ephrata boss Charlie Fisher remarked, “and Taylor made a heck of a play. I mean, I haven’t heard a gym that loud, my goodness.”

Manheim Central coach Chris Sherwood added, “Two possessions in this game is (big). That’s what is so good about these (Ephrata) guys is that they make a two-possession game really hard to come back from.”

The Mounts, as it turned out, would not.

Although Mounts’ sophomore Zack McGillan hit a trey from the right corner with 15.3 ticks remaining to give his team hope, host Manheim Central held on for a 38-34 Section Two victory in a playoff-type din. Funk led all scorers with 17 points.

While dealing Ephrata its first Section loss of the season in what Sherwood described as a low-scoring “death struggle,” the Barons pulled into a first-place tie. The two teams remained knotted in first after Tuesday’s action, in which Manheim Central (7-1 L-L, 11-1 overall) knocked off Solanco 58-45 behind Funk’s 28 points and Connor Hostetter’s 16 points, while Ephrata (7-1 L-L, 12-3 overall) toppled Elizabethtown, 63-49.

The Barons and Mounts are one game ahead of Lampeter-Strasburg (5-3 L-L), who defeated Donegal 68-51 on Tuesday night.

A sidebar to last Friday’s MC vs. Ephrata game was that Fisher, a former assistant and close friend of Sherwood, was making a Homecoming back to the gym where he spent so many nights on the Manheim Central bench.

“It was great to be back,” Fisher said. “The atmosphere was everything I had expected and was an awesome experience for my guys. I was hoping for a different outcome, but it was a game I won’t forget.”

For Sherwood and the Barons, who had suffered their first loss of the season in a 44-42 setback to Garden Spot just three nights earlier, they worked hard not to get caught up in that angle of the game.

“I kinda had to point-blank get everything out of the way on Wednesday with my guys,” Sherwood said, “and I told them, ‘This is not about Fisher. I don’t care who is sitting over there. We need a win, we need to play hard, to execute’ … We needed to have that good feel again. That’s what we needed. And that’s what I feel like happened tonight.”

Early on, it was Ephrata who was feeling good, thanks to shooting 5-of-10 from the floor en route to a 12-9 first-quarter lead and a 19-10 edge after junior 6-foot-4 guard/forward Brad DaBella scored on the post with 5:10 to go in the half.

“In the beginning of the game, we knocked down some shots,” Fisher said. “I thought the guys played hard, I thought they were prepared. We executed. We knew going in that Manheim had scouted us and we knew that our sets might have been a little different, so we adapted and the guys read their defenders. We had that energy on offense and carried it on defense.”

Dilyn Becker scored five of his team-high 12 points in the opening 11 minutes, including one of Ephrata’s six treys, to lead the Mounts.

“We told our guys, ‘Relax. You’re not playing that type of team. They’re going to miss shots,’” Sherwood said of Ephrata’s hot start. “It’s a streaky thing. If they’re going to knock down shots and play death struggle, geez, then they’re the greatest team in the state.”

DaBella, in addition to finishing with eight points, also drew the formidable task of guarding Funk, holding him to just four points in Ephrata’s early run.

“I thought (Brad) did a great job,” Fisher said. “He’s done everything that we’ve asked him to do. Defensively, we’ve put him on pretty much every team’s number one scorer, at least number one threat, that matches his size as far as physicality.”

Funk, though, began to assert himself with back-to-back inside buckets, leading MC on a quarter-ending 7-0 run, capped by point guard Jake Novak’s buzzer-beater to cut the Mounts’ lead to 19-17 at the half. Ephrata had six of its 11 turnovers in the second quarter against MC’s trap zone D, while the Barons went into the break with just four.

“I didn’t expect it be this low-scoring, but I did expect it to be low-scoring, yes,” Sherwood said. “.. I thought we played well in the first half. The shots didn’t fall for us and they knocked down shots.”

Becker answered a Funk layup with one of his own with 1:19 elapsed in the third, putting the Mounts in front 21-19. But that would be their final lead of the night. MC scored the next seven points, shooting 3-of-7 at the foul line, and Novak’s layup with 1:45 left in the period capped a 16-2 Baron run and gave them a 26-21 lead. For the game, Manheim Central was 8-of-16 at the stripe, while Ephrata didn’t attempt any foul shots.

“(Ephrata) had 19 points with 5:10 left in the second quarter,” Sherwood remarked. “They had two points (over an 11-minute stretch) and had a chance to win the game. That’s a heck of a team. That’s a heck of a team.”

DaBella buried a trey to cut Ephrata’s deficit to 26-24 going to the fourth quarter, and then after Funk’s drive made it 31-24 with 6:31 left, Becker hit from downtown to make it a five-point game.

But the Barons held a 6-0 advantage in bench scoring — five of those points from Trevor Hosler — and the senior’s baseline drive gave Central a 34-27 advantage with 5:28 remaining.

“Hosler played out of his mind,” Fisher said. “Coach Sherwood has always said this, seniors make plays. They were some seniors that have been around for awhile and they made some plays.”

So did Micah Krauter (6 points), who dropped in a layup, and Becker, who buried a J with 2:34 left. Just like that, the Barons’ lead was down to 34-31.

It remained that way when, following an Ephrata timeout with 1:04 left, Krauter found himself trapped just over half-court by Kegarise and a teammate. Krauter looked to pass the ball to Becker, but Funk swooped in and then finished with authority at the other end.

“I looked back and just saw Funk stealing the ball and I was like, ‘Oh man, this is going to get thrown down,’” Kegarise smiled. “That was awesome. That really pumped us up.”

McGillan answered with a ‘three’ in the corner. Then Novak missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Ephrata, though, couldn’t get the rebound, largely because of a play that Novak made.

“It’s a loose ball,” Sherwood recalled. “Novak realizes he can’t get the loose ball. He punches his arm through, which then allows Hosler to grab it and kick it back out to (Connor) Hostetter. It was an unbelievable heads-up play by Novak.”

And when Hostetter converted both ends of a 1-and-1 with 9.8 seconds left, extending the Barons’ lead to four points, 38-34, that was the game.

“It came down to we didn’t make enough plays,” Fisher said, “and at the end of the day, we were down two, we couldn’t get the defensive rebound. You’ve got 10 seconds left, anything can happen at that point. But overall, we struggled to put the ball in the basket at the right times in the second half … But we stuck to the game plan and the guys played incredibly hard.”

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