Ephrata looks to make a run at Section Two title

By on December 10, 2014
Ephrata senior Kelly Liebl returns to lead the Lady Mounts.

Ephrata senior Kelly Liebl returns to lead the Lady Mounts.

A year ago, Ephrata overcame the loss of six seniors as some youngsters who were thrown into the fire grew up fast.

The end result was a solid 10-12 overall campaign, which gave us a glimpse to a promising future ahead for Coach Mike Garman’s squad.

That future could be now as the Lady Mounts return three starters and a few key reserves off last year’s squad. If Ephrata can get a couple younger pieces to emerge off the bench, the Lady Mounts could have a serious shot at hanging another Section Two banner.

Senior four-year starter Kelly Liebl leads the cast of returnees. The veteran guard, who averaged 11.4 points per contest a year ago, won Tournament MVP honors this past weekend in guiding the Lady Mounts to the Fleetwood Tournament title.

She is joined in the back-court by last year’s leading scorer Caroline Stauffer, who burst onto the scene and led the squad in scoring (13.2) as a freshman. With one season under her belt, look for Ephrata to boast one of the more dynamic back-court tandems in the L-L League.

Also, junior Kenzie Horst (5.1) returns to handle the post, along with veteran Hannah Raezer, while junior Kay Liebl is back to gives some added punch to that already talented back-court.

With those quality horses in the stable, expect the Lady Mounts to make a serious run to the finish come February.

Ephrata Review Sports Editor Todd Ruth caught up with Coach Mike Garman Tuesday to discuss the season that just got underway.

The following is a transcript of that conversation:

Todd Ruth: Last year your team was very competitive, finishing at 10-12 on the year. I think the biggest thing to come out of that season was the emergence of some young talent. Talk about last year and the fact that some kids really came into their own at the varsity level.

Mike Garman: Last year we went into the season and really the only person we had coming back that had any kind of production at all was Kelly Liebl. We had to replace three senior (starters) from the previous year’s team that won the section championship. It was a daunting task. You start a freshman in Caroline Stauffer, you start a sophomore in Kenzie Horst, and then of course we started Kiersten Ueberroth who was a senior but never really played before…You just don’t know how they are going to mature and how they’ll come together, but certainly Caroline as a freshman had a very good season and was our leading scorer. That’s something you just don’t know as a coach. And Kenzie, as the season wore on, I thought she really started to play better and started scoring a little bit more. All that being said, now you look at this year and you are bringing them back with some experience and a little more confidence. It should make us a better team. And with it being Kelly’s senior year, this is her fourth year on the varsity and she certainly has become a very strong leader for us.

TR: You have three real solid starters in Kelly, Caroline and Kenzie as well as several other who played.

MG: Yeah, Hannah Raezer played last year too. Unfortunately she started off the season doing fine and then she got a concussion. She missed a few weeks and when she came back it took a while to get going. Toward the end of the year she was doing better. She’s been a big plus for us early on. She had eight points in both games at the tournament and that was huge. Certainly looking at the season you try to get a feel for who can do what. And Hannah worked real hard on her shot and you can see the hard work is paying off.

TR: With what you have coming back this year, and you are already off to a 2-0 start, what kind of expectations do you have for this team?

MG: With us, we don’t have a lot of depth. I think winning on Saturday and the way we won with some of these younger players, I think that was very important. It certainly gave them some confidence and it gave them a taste…I mean they got thrown into the fire right away, and I think that can only help. Coming back with Kelly and Caroline, as far as what they gave us last year, you hope to build upon that. You hope Kenzie improves and gets better, so there are a lot of things…You look at point production, we had a lot of kids that scored last year for us so that’s very important. Now, as far as expectations this year, we certainly want to improve upon last year. We definitely want to compete for a section title. I think that’s real important to them. Our section this year is very wide open. There really isn’t, in my opinion, a dominant team. Lebanon certainly will be very good, CV will be good…I mean there are a lot of good teams but there is no one that is dominant. Lebanon lost (Madison) Rakow, who transferred to Cedar Crest, and that definitely hurt them. I think with her they would have to be the favorites because (Brittany) Ulrich is definitely an outstanding player.

Offensively, we bring back points and now from a defensive standpoint all of those girls have a year of experience under their belts and I think that has helped a lot because last year we were spending so much time trying to teach everything. Now we are still teaching but we are also reviewing and it’s just a different environment. I think they are a determined group. They want to do well, and that’s important. And they have good chemistry. They really do. Even the younger kids have blended really well. I’ve been surprised. So what does that all mean? Who knows? I’ve been around a long time. You just have to go one game at a time and go from there and see where it takes you. In December we have some real tough basketball games, starting with Wednesday with Cocalico. That will be a real tough one, and then we go over to Penn Manor, and that’s going to be tough, and then Monday we have Cedar Crest at home, followed by McCaskey…You are talking about four teams in a row that are going to be extremely difficult.

TR: Well, watching basketball all these years, you win with guards and you may have the best tandem in the section if not the league in Kelly and Caroline. Talk about what they bring to the table.

MG: When you look at Kelly and Caroline, and don’t forget Kay Liebl, you’ve got three guards who are all very competitive, very athletic, and quick…not so much with Caroline, but Kay and Kelly are fast. They just bring something that you can’t really coach in speed and quickness. You can coach aggressiveness but sometimes it surfaces and other times it doesn’t, but they are both very aggressive too. And Caroline is getting better defensively. She still has a ways to go but she’s getting better. We are bringing back three girls that all played last year…Kay didn’t start but she played a lot. She and Kelly kind of just feed off of each other. They just create things. And you are right, when you got some guards who can score, people have to play them. I think for us, if our post players can give us some points and help us at the offensive end, which I think they can, then it’s going to help us a lot too.

TR: You have Kenzie and Hannah Raezer on the inside. What do you expect out of them?

MG: Well, they need to defend and rebound and they need to score. We don’t need them to score a lot but they need to contribute some offensively. What’s going to happen is if you have guards who are going to attack the basket, then that creates situations where the posts are going to get the ball. They are going to get a 10-foot shot and that’s a shot they have to make. Kenzie is pretty good with her back to the basket.

TR: I thought Kenzie really brought an aggressive physical presence at times last year. It’s going to eventually click for her and then lookout.

MG: Well, it hasn’t totally clicked yet but Saturday she was playing a 6-1 girl who is a pretty good player. And she was really battling her and the girl was getting frustrated. It was neat to see.

TR: What other girls do you expect to contribute this year?

MG: Well, you got Hannah, Kay, Kenzie, Kelly and Caroline, and then after that, to be honest with you I’m still trying to figure that out myself. We played (sophomore) Kasey Umana Saturday evening and she did a good job. We played (sophomore) Johanna Hoffer and she did a good job. We played (junior) Brittany Ritter, who didn’t play last year, and she hit a three, which was big for us. Those three I think will certainly help us. I think sophomore Sarah Klemka will help us too down the road. She had a concussion so she hasn’t done a whole lot. And Lauren Shuke came in and made a couple big free throws for us against Fleetwood. I think as time goes on we are going to develop these kids. It’s just so hard to say who is going to help you because you don’t really know. They just don’t have much experience, but they definitely showed me something on Saturday.

TR: Looking at your team overall, what do you consider your strengths?

MG: Well I think the guards are definitely our strengths. I think their ability to score…you know we’ve been trying to push the ball up the floor a lot, and I think when we do that we are pretty good. Saturday, we didn’t look to do it as much as we need to. I think we can score some points that way. Certainly developing post players is going to be huge for us. The quicker that they can get better, that is definitely going to help us. I think both Hannah and Kenzie are going to do a good job. I think Hannah Raezer played with tremendous heart in the second half on Saturday. I think our bench is going to be critical for us, and we have to try to stay injury free.

TR: Do you consider your lack of depth you biggest weakness at this stage?

MG: I think it is. Without question it’s the lack of experience on the bench. It’s something that we just have to try and develop. And we’ve been doing it since Day One, trying to get these kids prepared as much as humanly possible. At the same time I was trying to develop the starting five as well. It’s a tough situation, but once again when I saw what happened on Saturday…if you would have told me we would have won against Fleetwood at Fleetwood with the way that we finished that game, I would have said you are crazy. They may have something. Sometimes teams just find a way. It’s hard to explain. We’ll see. It’s a long season. They are a great group of kids. They get along really well, and I expect them to compete in every game this year. I think it’s sort of going to be their M.O.

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