Ephrata girls hope to exceed expectations

By on December 21, 2011

By: TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor truth.eph@lnpnews.com, Staff Writer

It was a tough off-season for Coach Mike Garman and the Ephrata girls basketball program.

Garman was suppose to have four key members back from a team that went 9-13 a season ago, including a potential 1,000-point scorer in junior Sarah Shearer. Had that group all returned, the Lady Mounts would have been considered at the very least a darkhorse in Section Two.

However, that is not the case anymore. Shearer transferred to West York while senior returning guards Rachel Stauffer and Abby Binkley elected not to come out.

Suddenly, junior forward Sarah Haddon, who averaged three points a game, is the lone returnee with substantial varsity experience on the roster.

But despite losing the type of talent he did, Garman is excited about the team he does have and the season ahead. Reached last week, the 11-year head coach talked about the progress his squad has been making.

"I don’t think there is anyone who expects these kids to do much of anything," Garman said recently. "Everybody has pretty much written us off because of losing Sarah, and rightly so. Sarah Shearer, from a coaching standpoint, is one of those players in your coaching career you just don’t get very often.

"But I must say the girls are doing a great job. They are working hard and I’ll tell you I love their attitudes. This is a group of kids that truly is team-oriented. It’s really a joy and a pleasure to walk in the gym every day to be able to spend time with them. They want to do well. We are young and very inexperienced. We had some blows. Losing Sarah Shearer was significant, and of course losing Rachel and Abby also…But you know what, with all that being said, I’m very happy with what these kids are doing. And it may be a Godsend. God sometimes works in funny ways, and as much as it has hurt not having those other girls, in the -long run it may make us better."

While Haddon, a 5-10 junior, is the lone starter returning, fellow juniors Joelisa Harvest and Hannah Reimel both saw limited varsity action a year ago which should help.

"I’ve got a lot of young kids," Garman said. "I’ll tell you what, I really like what I see. I really do, and their attitude is tremendous. They are just working real hard.

"We haven’t really talked about who isn’t here," he continued. "No one has mentioned that once since Day One because we all realize that you go with what you have and you move on. I just know within the community that there are low expectations with this girls basketball team. But I really believe this team, eventhough the circumstances are what they are, I think they are going to do well. I really do. When I say do well does that mean they are going to win 15 games? No. They may only win five games this year. They may win six, they may win seven, but I know they are going to work hard and they are going to be very competitive.

"They want to do well. The thing we’ve been working on real hard is our defense and we’ve been trying to emphasize that’s where everything starts. Our defense is key for us and if we can learn to play it well consistently, I think we can be very competitive. We’ve been working real hard and it will come. It’s going to only get better."

Garman said it would be big to get a couple wins under their belts early to justify the hard work they’ve been putting in.

"You just don’t go into a varsity basketball season and set the world on fire, but we are going to have some games early on that will be winnable for us. It’s just a matter of can we find a way to win those games? I think getting a couple of those wins early would be really important to them in terms of being able to build upon that."

Haddon will anchor the starting unit in the middle. The 5-10 center is one of the few "bigs" they have so she’ll need to do a little bit of everything in the paint.

"Sarah is going to be a very important player for us," Garman said. "She is going to have to be able to do all the things we are going to need. We’ll need her to look to score, defend and rebound."

Haddon is one of three captains on the team, joining the lone seniors, Sue Hartlove and Ashley Mayer. Both Hartlove (5-8) and Mayer (5-6) made significant strides in the off season and have played themselves into the mix.

"Those two have done a great job," Garman said. "Those two have really stepped up their games. They both are working really hard and both have improved a lot since last year."

Harvest and Reimel will give Ephrata some depth at the guard and forward positions. Harvest, a 5-8 slasher, is capable of providing some much-needed scoring. Reimel, who is coming off a broken thumb suffered during the field hockey season, can do a lot of things well on the court.

"(Harvest) is certainly going to have to score, play defense and rebound," Garman said. "I really feel she could have a real good season. I really expect her to. And Hannah is working hard and is a very good defensive player. It’s going to take a little time to get into the swing of things because of her injury but once she does she is going to really help us a lot."

Junior Sarah Hoffer (5-9) will provide some rebounding help while sophomore Kirsten Ueberroth (5-6) is working into the mix as well. And the final piece to the varsity puzzle, at least in the beginning, will be talented freshman point guard Kelly Liebl (5-2).

"Kelly is going to play," Garman said. "The kid has a lot of talent but she has to learn how to play. You got to realize last year as an eighth grader she was playing ninth grade basketball. And most of the ninth grade programs we play have a bunch of eighth graders, so all of a sudden the game has changed for her. It’s just so much quicker and faster. She’s learning but I’ll tell you what, she is going to be very good. She has a great feel for the game and does some things you really can’t coach. Once she learns to do some things that will only help her and help our team."

With so many new faces, it could be tough for this team to make a run and challenge prohibitive favorite Solanco in the section race. However, Garman said he believes it will win its share of games.

"I would love for this team to be .500," he said. "If we could get to .500, it would be a great year for us. I’m not sure that the girls would be happy with that. I think that they would go beyond but I do know they want to make the playoffs which means we’d have to finish in second place or higher which might be shooting for the stars a bit. But they don’t want to think small. They want to think big. Now, they are going to have to be able to do it on the court. They are going to have to come out and be responsible and be able to make good decisions, play good defense and rebound. And I’m going to have to have someone step up and score. I do think it’s going to take a little time. But if we get a couple wins under our belt, who knows?"

Ephrata opened the season Tuesday night at Garden spot. More EPHRATA GIRLS, page B-7

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