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Donegal survives Mounts to claim Ephrata title
By: TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor email@example.com, Staff Writer
Ephrata couldn’t have asked to be in a better position in the waning moments of the Ephrata Holiday Tournament championship game.
Facing unbeaten Donegal, the Mounts played the Indians tooth-and-nail for 31-plus minutes, and found themselves with possession and a chance to force overtime in the final seconds. Unfortunately, Brady Sipe’s three-point attempt fell short, and the Indians survived their biggest scare of the season, holding on for a 46-43 victory and their second-straight tourney championship.
"Give Ephrata a ton of credit," Donegal Coach Ryan Butt said following his team’s narrow victory. "This was our first really tough test in a game that went right down to the wire. Our guys made enough plays and hung in there, and we made just enough good defensive plays in the second half to pull it out. Ephrata played its heart out."
After a so-so performance in a 10-point win over winless Spring Grove in the opening round of the tournament Thursday, Ephrata (2-7) stepped it up in a big way against the Indians (9-0).
"The kids played their hearts out," Ephrata Coach Jason Coletti said. " I told them you got to bottle that energy and effort. That’s the passion we are looking for when they are playing. If they can do that, they are going to win a lot of games. I was proud of them tonight. They played with one of the best teams in the league, and we had a shot to take it into overtime. Nobody gave us a chance in the game, much less for the game to come down to the last shot. I was proud of them for that."
After Michael Banwell hit one of two free throws with 3:02 to go to give his team a 44-40 advantage, the Mounts cut the Donegal lead to just one when Evan Radcliffe, who led Ephrata with 18 points, converted a three-point play with a nice post move with 1:36 to go.
Banwell then made two more fouls shots to make it a three-point game, and Ephrata failed to convert at the other end, forcing the Mounts to foul with 25 seconds to play. However, the Indians’ Martin Dietrich missed both ensuing free throws, and the Mounts had one final opportunity to tie.
But after working the ball around the perimeter, time was running out when Sipe was forced to launch his desperation three, which was well off the mark, and the Indians survived.
Perhaps Ephrata should have gone a quick two and fouled, instead of forcing the three in the end?
"With 25 seconds to go, (Donegal is) taught not to foul, so if you get a quick two, then you are only down one and you have the opportunity to get a steal and foul and then force them to go make fouls shots," Coletti said. "But we haven’t been in those situations enough to learn from so the more we are in them hopefully they’ll learn from them. We’ll get things corrected with that. That comes with being in those types of experiences."
Ephrata led 27-25 at the half, thanks in part to a 6-for-9 shooting performance from behind the arc in the first half. To it’s credit, Donegal took the three-ball away from the Mounts in the second half. However, Ephrata adjusted and began to feed Radcliffe on the post, with much success. He scored six of his team’s eight points in the third and really kept them in the ballgame as Donegal held just a 36-35 lead heading to the fourth.
"Evan had a monster game and a very good tournament," Coletti said. "He goes strong to the basket and is tough to defend. We looked for him tonight and he kept us in the game."
Donegal looked like it would finally break away after a mini 7-0 run upped its lead to 43-37 midway through the period. But Sipe (10 points) delivered a clutch three at the other end to get the Mounts within striking distance and set up the exciting finish.
"The kids played great," Coletti said. "You win those games sometimes and you lose those games. They are a senior-oriented, good team… We tried."
Coletti was asked if his team’s performance will make it a better squad moving forward.
"You would think this would help us," he said. "I thought the Penn Manor (win) would spark us and we kind of fell off the cliff the last three games. We needed this game going into E-town on Wednesday, because that’s another very good basketball team. It doesn’t get any easier but I know these guys are capable of doing that, so it’s expected now.
Jason Dietrich led the Indians with 15 points on the night. Dylan Houseal added 13 points and Martin Dietrich had 11 points.
Jason Dietrich was named the Tournament MVP, and was a member of the All-Tournament Team which also included teammate Martin Dietrich, Ephrata’s Radcliffe and Aaron Hubbard, Spring Grove’s Nick Spangler and Dallastown’s Mike Gibbs.
Earlier Friday, Dallastown upended Spring Grove for third place.
Donegal and Ephrata advanced to Friday’s championship by virtue of a pair of victories Thursday night in the first round.
The Indians sprinted to a 41-20 lead at the half against Dallastown and cruised the rest of the way to earn a rather easy 68-52 win over the previously once-beaten Wildcats.
Jason Dietrich led a trio of Indians who hit for double figures, finishing with a game-high 20 points. Martin Dietrich chipped in with 16 while Banwell added 12 for the winners.
Gibbs and Ben Doorn each led Dallastown with 13 points apiece. Ethan Sutton added 10 points in the losing effort.
Ephrata earned its second win of the season in the nightcap Thursday as Radcliffe’s 23 point effort helped the Mounts to a 68-58 victory over Spring Grove.
In addition to Radcliffe, Hubbard added 14 while Brady Sipe contributed 10 points for the winners.
The winless Rockets also had three players in double figures as Logan Hagerman and Spangler each scored 14 while Darin Gordin added 11. More EPHRATA BOYS, page B-3