Cocalico holds on vs. E-town, maintains Section Two lead
By: TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor email@example.com, Staff Writer
Throughout the season, there will be nights when you have to work a little harder than others.
Tuesday was one of those nights for Cocalico.
No matter how hard the Lady Eagles tried to break away from pesky E-town, the Lady Bears found a way to draw close once again. And it was no surprise, given what transpired through the first 31 minutes, that E-town had the ball in the waning seconds with a chance to tie.
Trailing 33-30, the Lady Bears worked the ball around and got a look at a three-pointer. However, Rachel Sweger’s potential game tying shot hit iron, and Cocalico’s Kristen Boyer gobbled up the rebound.
Boyer was fouled with eight seconds left and went to the line where she hit two free throws to finally seal a hard-fought 35-30 Cocalico victory.
"It was a typical Section Two game," Cocalico Coach Tony DiMatteo said. "Any team can win on any given night and we know that. We knew that they were going to be aggressive, and they were in it till the end.
"In the first half we got up on them like six to eight points and they came right back and made it a two-point game at half-time. We got up in the third quarter, they came back. In the fourth quarter, we got up and the next thing you know it’s 32-30. But we found a way to win and that’s the bottom line."
The victory, which was the Lady Eagles’ fourth-straight and 11th in the last 12 games, was significant in that they maintained their one-game Section Two lead over Ephrata, which handled Solanco 42-25 Tuesday.
Cocalico (10-2 section, 13-3 overall) will travel to CV Thursday, but, with just four games remaining, everything seems to be pointing to its Feb. 1 rematch at home with Ephrata (9-3, 13-5), which could help decide the section title.
DiMatteo said first things first.
"I’m looking at Thursday," DiMatteo said. "In Section Two you can’t look ahead. You just can’t. If you do, you are going to get beat. I’m looking at Conestoga Valley, whose got a real young team and a great coach in Amy (McDonald). We just have to take care of our own business. Honestly, I don’t care what anybody else does. I only care about what Cocalico does. We come out Thursday, we play Thursday and we win Thursday, then we’ll take it to Saturday at Muhlenberg. We just do one day at a time. If it gets there, it gets there. We have our goal. But right now we are going to focus on CV and that’s it."
Taylor Esterly’s eight-point first quarter helped Cocalico out to a comfortable 9-4 lead after eight minutes of play. Marissa Gingrich, who led Cocalico with 10 points, then sandwiched a pair of buckets around an E-town field goal to open up a 13-6 lead, but the Lady Eagles just couldn’t shake E-town.
A three-point play by E-town’s Jenny Fairbanks (9 points) made it a four-point ballgame with 4:09 to go in the half. And after Cocalico’s Natalie Sukanick drained a jumper, the Lady Bears scored four points in the final 13 seconds, which included a buzzer beater by Erin Sollenberger that cut the Cocalico lead to 15-13 at the half.
The second half was more of the same, with E-town briefly taking a 21-19 lead after a pair of free throws by Sollenberger. But Cocalico finished the period on a 6-0 run, thanks to freshman Megan Gingrich and Becky White, who combined for all six points during that run.
Leading 25-21 after three, Cocalico eventually built a seven-point lead (30-23) midway through the period, and still held that margin (32-25) after Marissa Gingrich nailed a pair of free throws with 1:18 to play.
But again, the Lady Bears had one more run in them. Rachel Sweger scored to cut it to 32-27 with 1:03 to go, and then after Gingrich missed a front end of a one-and-one, E-town guard Taylor Reinhold came down and drilled a three with 50 seconds to go to suddenly cut it back down to to at 32-30.
White then hit one of two free throws to up the lead to 33-30, and that set the stage for E-town’s final shot and Boyer’s free throws which finally put this one on ice.
Good teams find a way to hang on and win those games. DiMatteo chalked it up to composure by his troops.
"We got to realize when we are in the lead, play with the lead and be aggressive with the basketball but we want a lay-up," he said. "Offensively, we want to work the clock, and we did that thankfully because they scored points in bunches. But we just figured let’s get to the foul line and make our foul shots, and we made enough of them in the end to win it."
In addition to Tuesday, the Lady Eagles also were in action Friday night at Penn Manor where they coasted to a 44-30 victory over the Comets.
Leading by two at the half (19-17), Cocalico out-scored PM, 25-13 over the final 16 minutes to claim the victory.
Marissa Gingrich led all scorers on this night, pumping in a game-high 17 points in the win. White chipped in with 12 for the winners. More COCALICO GIRLS, page B-2