Late surge lifts Ephrata past Barons

By on February 7, 2018
Manheim Central’s Cameron Sell (far right) and Chase Marquette (left) defend against Ephrata’s Brad DaBella. Photo by Preston Whitcraft

Manheim Central’s Cameron Sell (far right) and Chase Marquette (left) defend against Ephrata’s Brad DaBella. Photo by Preston Whitcraft

For the first 28 minutes Tuesday, upstart Manheim Central gave Ephrata all it could handle.

Defensively, the Barons, who have just two seniors on their roster, made things difficult while at the other end, they were converting.

Ephrata was certainly in a ballgame.

But, with the game hanging in the balance midway through the fourth quarter, Ephrata leaned on what Manheim Central didn’t have — leadership/experience — and it helped propel the Mounts to an eventual 49-42 victory.

Junior Xavian Rodriguez, a two-year starter who scored a game-high 22 points, had 14 of those in the second half. He converted a steal into a breakaway lay-up to give the Mounts the lead for good early in the fourth. Then his steal and ensuing two-handed jam with 30 seconds to go clinched it for Ephrata.

“Seniors,” former Ephrata and now Manheim Central Coach Charlie Fisher said when asked what ultimately was the difference. “They have experienced guys. A couple shots I thought we had didn’t go in, a couple turnovers…and in a 40-point game every possession counts. A couple plays here and there and then they are up eight before you know it.”

It certainly wasn’t easy for Ephrata and first-year Coach Jon Treese. But the Mounts, who have tons of game experience with six seniors of the eight in the rotation, found a way to win their sixth-straight game and close out the regular season with an outstanding 17-5 mark.

“We struggled to settle ourselves tonight but I would definitely say the senior leadership and the experience certainly helped a lot,” Treese said. “It was just tough on us all the way around. I don’t know why the last four minutes we seemed to have the ability to do those things that we couldn’t do the rest of the game, but a lot of the credit has to go to Manheim Central. They took us out of our offenses. They came downhill very aggressive and played really well on offense. They hit a few shots early which gave them a lot of confidence. They had us on our heels the whole night.”

Ephrata, which clinched second place in Section Two with its biggest win of the season Friday in a 47-46 victory over Section champion Lampeter-Strasburg, will now turn its attention to the upcoming Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs, which begin Monday night.

The Mounts, as the Section Two runner-up, will face Cedar Crest, the Section One second-place team, at a yet to be determined neutral site, beginning at 7 p.m. Monday.

The semifinals will be Wednesday at a site to be determined with the finals slated for Friday at Manheim Township, beginning at 7 p.m.

“I felt until tonight we were doing an excellent job of playing assignment basketball,” Treese said when asked about his team’s strong finish to the regular season. “It seemed like tonight we got away from that a little bit but that might have been they were a little amped up for this Manheim Central game. And they took us out of our comfort zone early, which sometimes makes you do uncharacteristic things. But all in all, I feel we’ve taken big steps forward and are in really good position to be playing our best basketball when the tournament starts.”

And how does he think his squad matches up with Cedar Crest, which finished 18-4 overall and was 11-3 in Section One play?

“We definitely have some things we have to deal with but these guys respond very well when it comes to following a gameplan,” he said. “The more specific you can make a gameplan the better. I think we’ll be able to come out and execute and it will be a fun game on Monday.”

The Barons, who had a shot at the league playoffs coming into the night after an 8-7 start to the season, closed the year dropping their last seven games to finish 6-8 in the section and 8-14 overall. Still, Fisher said their were a lot of positives to take away from the year.

“I’m very happy with the progress that we made,” he said. “Us jumping out to an 8-7 record was awesome. If somebody would have said before the season that we’d end up with eight wins, I think it would have been considered a success. But we jumped out, and then we had the rough ending. We had Northern Lebanon at Northern Lebanon, missed a foul shot and lost it in overtime. Then we had an eight-point lead against Cocalico…we had Solanco…there are so many ifs, and so many could haves, when all those ifs and could haves go the other way you lose seven in a row to end your year.”

“We had two guys with varsity experience,” he continued. “This program lost its best player of all-time (Taylor Funk), along with seven other seniors. They lost their greatest coach of all time (Chris Sherwood). We brought up seven freshmen to the high school level, so there were a lot of things that were pointing towards a rebuilding year. The fact that we won eight games and of our 14 losses I think seven of them went down to the last two possessions, I’m pretty pleased with the season overall.”

One of those two seniors, Connor Hostetter, got MC off to a great start Tuesday. Hostetter scored 11 of his team’s first 13 points as the Barons jumped out to a quick 13-5 advantage midway through the first.

But Ephrata got back to back threes from Brad DaBella and Holden Haws before Rodriguez came up with a steal and lay-up to draw the Mounts even in the final minute of the quarter. The Barons did regain the advantage though, thanks to a putback at the buzzer by their other senior Jake Novak.

Leading 15-13 heading to the second, the Barons eventually stretched the advantage to 23-17 with 1:28 to go on a lay-up by Novak. However, Ephrata was able to answer again and cut it to one (23-22) as Corbin Weaver banked in a three before Rodriguez finished an alley-oop pass out of a time-out from Zach McGillan with seconds remaining.

Rodriguez scored the final six points for the Mounts in a tightly-played third quarter, as his lay-up with 10 seconds to go knotted it up at 33-33 heading to the fourth.

In the final quarter, Ephrata built a six-point lead early before the Barons eventually got to within two points (42-40) as Cameron Sell sank one of two free throws with 3:13 to go.

But the Mounts owned the final three minutes, forcing three critical turnovers while holding the Barons to just one bucket the rest of the way.

At the other end, Ephrata made five of seven free throws down the stretch, sprinkled in with Rodriguez’s dunk which put the finishing touches on this one.

“I thought we battled,” Fisher said. “Again, just a couple plays at the end were the difference. That was the difference between a one-possession game at the end and an eight or nine-point game at the end. But we played well.”

Hostetter led the way for the Barons, scoring 18 points on the night. Junior Chase Marquette added 13 points in the loss.

Rodriguez was the lone Mount in double figures although DaBella did finish with eight and point guard Dilyn Becker added seven as Ephrata won 17 games in the regular season for the first time since the early 90s.

Treese is hoping to add several more before the season is complete.

“I think early on in the season obviously there was a feeling out process with them getting use to me and me kind of getting the right voice for them,” he said. “We put some talented guys and some good leaders in a position to be successful. They seized an opportunity. They kept getting better and I think that’s why we were able to not just get the wins but I really feel like we’ve been improving week to week. The wins and losses at the end of the year are the wins and losses, but truthfully if you know you are going to have a post-season run in your future you just want to see them keep getting better week to week. Hopefully our best basketball is still ahead of us.”

Last Friday night, the Manheim Central boys fell to Garden Spot 63-24 in a Section Two game in New Holland.

The first half was the turning point, as Spot held the Barons scoreless in the first quarter while taking a 16-0 lead. The Central boys were still behind 29-2 at the break and then fought an uphill battle the rest of the way.

Connor Hostetter led MC with 11 points.

Garden Spot’s Jordan Shewbridge scored a game-high 17 points to lead three Spartan players in double figures. Jacob Arndt added 14 and Keontae Nunn chipped in with 12.

On Monday night, Hostetter scored 15 points to lead three Manheim Central players in double figures, but it wasn’t quite enough, as the Barons suffered a 66-56 non-league loss to Kennard-Dale. Drew Mummau and Chase Marquette added 14 and 12 points, respectively.

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