Barons comeback stuns Ephrata

By on December 9, 2015

Press helps erase 23-point deficit, keys win

Manheim Central 6-foot-2 junior forward Roman Wagner (30) denies Ephrata’s Micah Krauter (22) in the Barons’ win on Monday. (Photo by Stan Hall)

Manheim Central 6-foot-2 junior forward Roman Wagner (30) denies Ephrata’s Micah Krauter (22) in the Barons’ win on Monday. (Photo by Stan Hall)

Manheim Central Coach Chris Sherwood couldn’t hide his emotions Monday night following his team’s stunning come-from-behind 41-37 victory over Ephrata.

The flow came not only as a result of his team’s amazing comeback from 23 points down, but out of pride and respect for the job his former assistant Charlie Fisher, now Ephrata’s first-year coach, did in putting a young and inexperienced Mounts’ squad within a whisker of knocking off the visiting Barons in his head coaching debut.

“All I knew was that I was coaching against a really well-coached team,” Sherwood said, choking back tears. “I didn’t see Charlie until we were done shaking hands, but (Ephrata) had his personality. He was awesome tonight. He had a lot to do with our program and we’ve been through a lot together. We were together when DeVaughn (Lee) passed away in 2011, and we’ve been on two great (post-season) runs together.”

Monday night in Ephrata, was another great run for both, although this time they were on opposing sides. The Mounts, playing their first game of the season, could do no wrong in the first half, racing out to a surprising 26-7 half-time lead.

However, behind a stifling 2-2-1 press, the Barons suffocated the Mounts in the backcourt in the second half to come all the way back.

Trailing 30-8 late in the third, the Barons forced 16 Ephrata turnovers off their press the rest of the way, out-scoring the Mounts, 33-7 over the final 10 minutes to somehow steal the win.

“I don’t even know how it happened,” Sherwood said of the comeback. “It was 30-7 with under three minutes to go (in the third quarter)…I never have seen anything like it. We got some turnovers, and then momentum is a crazy thing in this game. And our guys made some plays…that was wild.”

It certainly was bittersweet for Fisher, who saw his young team do so many good things before everything went south down the stretch.

“(The kids did) everything we’ve been preaching…they tasted it,” Fisher said. “We’ve been preaching winning, confidence, and they tasted it. And that’s a positive out of this. But like I’ve said before, we don’t have moral victories, and this feels awful. We couldn’t handle their pressure. You draw it up and you call time-out and go over things and…we just didn’t handle the moment.”

After neither team could get much going offensively for most of the first quarter, Ephrata’s Matt McGillan’s three pointer at the buzzer gave the Mounts a 7-4 lead and the momentum heading to the second.

Following a steal and a lay-up by Manheim’s Tyler Lyons closed the gap to 7-6, Ephrata went on a 19-0 run to end the second quarter as McGillan scored six of his team-high 13 during that stretch while four other Mounts also contributed points.

“We thought we could get them uncomfortable, but they were never uncomfortable,” Sherwood said of his team’s first-half woes. “Listen, when they punched us in the mouth in the first half, we did not respond. We talked about coming out and punching them in the mouth and being the aggressor, and we weren’t. They were the aggressor.”

Ephrata was solid on both ends in the initial half, but particularly the defensive side where the Mounts held the Barons to 2-for-14 shooting from the field while forcing nine turnovers. Central star Taylor Funk, being guarded mostly by Sam Cable and some by McGillan, scored just two points in the initial 16 minutes.

“They only got 14 shots off, and we were rebounding…we were playing good defense,” Fisher said of the first-half performance. “Sam Cable played out of his mind. Sam Cable is a tough, hard-nosed kid that just does everything that doesn’t show up in a boxscore. That kid did awesome.”

Ephrata got baskets from McGillan and Cable (10 points) to open the third quarter, and the Mounts could indeed smell the upset as they held a 21-point edge (30-9) with two minutes to go.

But then things began to unravel.

“The 2-2-1 got us,” Fisher said.

With Ephrata working the ball side to side in the back-court, the Barons had the 6-8 Funk in the middle to trap to which ever side of the floor the Mounts decided to go.

It gave them fits.

Following a lay-up by Jake Novak, which incidentally was the Barons’ first field goal since Lyons’ bucket at the 6:49 mark of the second quarter, Manheim turned Ephrata over five-straight possessions. That fueled a quick 11-0 Baron run to the end of the quarter as Trevor Hosler converted a pair of easy buckets before Funk finally got his offensive game going. His putback with :44 to go made it 30-19, then after another Ephrata miscue, Funk, who led the Barons with 13 points, drilled his only three of the game from the top of the arc to get the deficit under 10 (30-22) heading to the fourth.

“I knew Manheim Central was going to fight back,” Fisher said. “Funk was off and they were missing (in the first half), but I knew it was going to be under 10. When Funk hit that three, it was a flashback. Funk always finds a way to hit that three. He can miss every shot and he finds a way to hit that big three in a moment.”

Sherwood said the goal at half-time was to cut the deficit down to 10 by the end of the third.

“I said to them, ‘if it’s a 10-point lead going into the fourth quarter, you are fine.’ I said, ‘can we make this a 10-point lead going into the fourth quarter?’ I basically told them I didn’t think we can. It’s the first time in 20 years that I basically told my guys I was embarrassed. I don’t remember in 20 years doing this, looking at a team going, I’m embarrassed. But then, wouldn’t you know it was eight. And all of a sudden, they were like, ‘Coach said if it was down to 10…’ You heard guys saying it. We are where we want to be, so guys believed at that point. And momentum again is a crazy thing in this game.”

Ephrata could never get the momentum back.

Roman Wagner (9 points) converted on the Barons’ first trip in the fourth to close the gap to six (20-24). Then after McGillan sank a pair of free throws to momentarily stop the bleeding, Funk nailed a turn-around jumper in the lane to cut it back down to six with still 7:04 to play.

Ephrata’s Zach McGillan (Matt’s freshman brother) made one of two free throws with 4:52 to go to increase the Mounts’ advantage to seven at 33-26. However, Wagner converted twice before Hosler sank a lay-up to make it 33-32 Ephrata with 3:23 to go.

Then, following yet another Ephrata turnover, Lyons’ lay-up with 2:45 left on the clock gave the Barons the lead for good at 34-33.

Later on, Funk’s two free throws with 36 seconds remaining put the Barons up by four before a pair of foul shots by Cable gave Ephrata a chance with nine seconds to play. However, after Funk was fouled, he sealed it by draining both ensuing foul shots.

“We have a pretty young group so they can definitely grow on this,” Sherwood said of the victory. “Tonight they realized they are never out of it.”

Last weekend, the Barons bounced back from a five-point loss to Octorara in the opening-round of the Hamburg Tip-Off Tournament to crush the host Hawks 63-15 in the consolations.

Funk led all scorers with 19 points, and Trevor Hosler and Jay Barreto added 12 and 10 points, respectively, for the Barons, who led 41-10 at the half.

In action against Octorara, Manheim Central outscored the Braves 17-12 in the fourth quarter, but fell a little bit short, dropping a 62-57 loss.

Funk paced the Barons with 19 points and Roman Wagner helped out with 13 points.

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