Knights surge past Ephrata with late rally
For the first 36 minutes, Ephrata and Hempfield slugged it out Tuesday night at Penn Manor in the L-L League boys lacrosse semifinals.
However, by the time the fourth quarter came around, the Mounts’ tank was running on empty.
Depth, or lack there of, had been a major concern for Ephrata and its coaching staff. And it finally caught up with the Mounts in the fourth.
With the score tied at 7-7 early in the final period, Hempfield went on a quick 3-0 spurt to open up its biggest lead of the night at 10-7. Ephrata did eventually cut the deficit to two with 3:50 to go but the Mounts had little left before Tyler Kline delivered the dagger with three minutes to play as the Black Knights held on and advanced with a hard-fought 11-8 victory.
Hempfield will now move on to the finals where it will face Manheim Township, which got past Warwick 11-5 in the nightcap at Penn Manor Tuesday. The finals are set for Thursday back at Penn Manor, beginning at 7 p.m.
“Depth has always been an issue for us and it started to show,” Ephrata Coach Kevin Pletz, who normally plays about 14 players per game, said. “The guys were tired. You wanted to yell at them but you could just see it. They are giving it all they can but it’s just the nature of the beast that we deal with.”
“It was just a situation where we were tired,” Pletz said of the fourth quarter. “We were making mistakes that we normally don’t make. We had trouble clearing the ball. We were forcing the clears, and when you can’t clear it it usually isn’t going to end up in your favor.”
It did not for the Mounts, although goalie Justin Mease (13 saves) made several big saves during the first three quarters to keep the team in the game. However, in the fourth, after Justin Hoover tied the game early with a goal, the Black Knights took control.
Cullen Dissinger gave Hempfield the lead for good when he fired a shot down the slot that beat Mease to the low corner of the net with 8:54 to go. Then, after the Black Knights won the ensuing faceoff, Zach Ward made it 9-7 with a score. Hempfield added it’s third goal in succession just 22 seconds later on Sean Valentino’s tally and suddenly the Black Knights had a big 10-7 lead with 7:48 to play.
Ephrata had several possessions following the Hempfield spurt, but came up empty- twice with man advantage situations- as the clock wound down. Finally, Colin Cammauf did get Ephrata to within two on a nice feed from Austin Sensenig, but Kline gave Hempfield it’s three-goal lead right back 17 seconds later with his goal to put the finishing touches on this one.
“We had the looks but we just didn’t take care of the ball and put it where it needed to be,” Pletz said of the fourth quarter. “Usually man up we do pretty well but they came out and played us hard in that situation.”
In addition to their fourth-quarter surge, the Hempfield defense put a lock down on Ephrata attacker Koty Keefer, the leading scorer int he league. Keefer fought for space all night long and registered just a single assist on the night.
“They played Koty great,” Pletz said. “That was probably one of the toughest defensive holds against Koty that I’ve seen all year. He was having trouble getting through them. They were just sliding to him so hard, sliding to where he was going…they did a fantastic job.”
Justin Hoover led the Mounts with four goals while Sensenig and Cammauf added two scores apiece for Ephrata. Hempfield was led by Ward’s three goals while Dissinger, Christian Durkota and Kline each scored a pair of goals.
Ephrata led 3-2 after one quarter of play and it was tied 5-5 at the half. Hempfield (17-2) then grabbed a 7-6 lead after three quarters, setting the stage for the pivotal fourth.
Ephrata (13-7) will now await the District Three playoffs, which begin Tuesday, May 13.
“Overall I’m proud of the guys the way they played tonight,” Pletz said. “Sometimes it’s your day and sometimes it’s not. That’s just the way it is. Now we’ll give them some rest. They fought hard today so I want to give them a lot of rest and come back hard for Districts. We are just going to regroup, get back on our gameplan, and get ready to go.”
This past Saturday, Ephrata closed out its regular season with a 19-11 victory over cross-town rival Cocalico in a game played in Eagle Stadium.
The Eagles hung tough in the first half and trailed just 8-6 at the break before the Mounts came through with a big second half. Ephrata outscored Cocalico 11-5 over the final two quarters to key the win.
Keefer (6 G, 4 A) and Hoover (4 G, 4A) combined for 10 goals and eight assists on the night to lead the Mounts’ attack. Keefer, incidentally, became the Mounts’ all-time leading scorer for a single season, netting 69 goals and 63 assists for 132 points. He led the L-L League in scoring by more than 50 points.
Sensenig, Ryan Holochuck and Dustin Fisher added two goals each while Chris Husson, Cammauf and Blake Weaver also found the net for Ephrata.
Cocalico, which closed out its season at 5-7 in league play (8-10 overall), was led by Brett Kupp’s five-goal night. Aaron Longstaff added two goals and three assists while Devon Delpiano also notched a pair of scores for the Eagles.
Ephrata held a 27-17 shot advantage as Justin Mease turned away six shots to earn the victory in goal. Cocalico goalie Ben Puodziunas registered six saves in the loss.
Last Thursday evening, Ephrata suffered just its second league loss of the season as visiting Penn Manor captured a 7-6 victory over the Mounts. Keefer and Hoover each scored three goals to account for the Mounts’ offense. Mease saved three as the Mounts were outshot 30-26.
Cocalico also was in action Thursday as visiting Hempfield scored a 19-6 victory in Denver. Mike Reitenbach had two goals and two assists to pace the Eagles. Kupp added two scores while Delpiano and Doug Quinn also tallied for Cocalico.
Puodziunas saved five shots in the net.