Late rally lifts Ephrata girls

By on December 30, 2014
 Ephrata’s Caroline Stauffer (right) and Tori Schultz of Lampeter-Strasburg battle for the loose ball during Monday’s first-round game of the Ephrata Tournament. (Photo by Stan Hall)

Ephrata’s Caroline Stauffer (right) and Tori Schultz of Lampeter-Strasburg battle for the loose ball during Monday’s first-round game of the Ephrata Tournament. (Photo by Stan Hall)

After playing a near-perfect first quarter Monday, Ephrata pulled a 180 in a dreadful second stanza in which the Lady Mounts saw what was an 11-point lead on Lampeter-Strasburg turn into a 30-22 half-time deficit.
But just when it looked like the Pioneers were set to cruise to victory and clinch a spot in Tuesday’s Ephrata Tournament finals, the Lady Mounts somehow righted the ship in the second half. And sparked by a resilient effort at the defensive end, Ephrata out-scored L-S 28-15 over the final 16 minutes.
Caroline Stauffer’s jumper with 1:44 to play gave Ephrata the lead for good before Kenzie Horst and Kelly Liebl put it away with some clutch foul shooting to secure the hard-fought 50-45 victory.
Kelly Liebl finished with a game-high 20 points while Stauffer dropped in 17.
With the win, Ephrata did indeed punch its ticket into Tuesday’s final at 6 p.m. where the Lady Mounts will face unbeaten Palmyra, which put away McCaskey, 53-38 earlier Monday.
“I screamed a lot at half-time,” Ephrata Coach Mike Garman joked when asked if he did anything at the break to turn things around Monday.
While that may have been the case, the turn-around came at the defensive end where the Lady Mounts found a way to put the clamps on L-S center Tori Schultz, who keyed the Pioneer surge in the second quarter. Schultz led the 21-4 L-S run, scoring 10 of her 13 points in that frame. However, she was limited to just two points the entire second half despite Ephrata playing with serious foul trouble.
The Lady Mounts already were missing center Hannah Raezer due to injury, and Stauffer Kenzie Horst and Kay Liebl all were in danger of fouling out the entire second half. Still, they were able to shutdown the talented inside presence.
“The second quarter we weren’t getting back defensively and Schultz was just having a field day. She was beating us down the floor. I just told the girls, ‘this is basic basketball. Defensively, you just have to get back. If you don’t get back you are going to get beat down the court.’ In the second half, we got back and took that away, and I think that was the difference.”
Kelly Liebl credited Horst’s ability to play effectively with fouls.
“We were getting in foul trouble, and Kenzie is a big presence for us, especially against Schultz, so we really needed her out there coming back after half-time,” she said. “She worked through the whole game and didn’t foul out so I was really proud of her. Like I said, she was a big presence for us defensively and made a lot of things happen. She was the one we needed to be in there guarding (Schultz).”
While limiting the L-S offense, Ephrata slowly crept back in the game in the third quarter. Horst, who finished with nine points, and Johanna Hoffer both made big shots in the lane to cut the deficit to 32-26 midway through the third.Ephrata eventually got it down to five before Stauffer drained one of three treys on the night with 21 seconds to go in the third to make it a two-point game at 34-32.
In the fourth, Stauffer remained hot, hitting Ephrata’s first three buckets of the quarter to keep the Lady Mounts within striking range at 43-39 with 5:26 to play. Ephrata did lose Kay Liebl to fouls early in the period, but the Lady Mounts kept coming.
Kelly Liebl canned a pair of free throws with 3:09 to play to cut the deficit to two, and Ephrata’s trap forced an L-S turnover which resulted in a Horst lay-up to knot the game at 45-45 with 2:47 to play.
Then, following a Schultz miss at the other end, Stauffer drained her big basket with 1:44 to play to put the Lady Mounts ahead to stay.
“Considering the things that we are dealing with, missing Hannah and the foul trouble we were in, that was a real good win,” Garman said. “It was a game, even though we had a bad second quarter, to their credit, they came out in the second half and did a great job.”
Kelly Liebl said her team has confidence in close games thanks to last-second wins over Fleetwood early in the season and Lebanon this past week.
“I just think we really feed off each other during those times,” she said. “I just think we realize we can go out there and win games. We can play with teams that are very talented. We just have to be ready out there and everyone has to come ready to play. Our bench has to be ready. We are not deep as a team so our bench has to be ready to come in when we need them. They’ve been doing it so far.”
And they’ll need to find a way to do it against arguably the best team they’ve faced to date in Palmyra (9-0) Tuesday.
“They are outstanding,” Garman said of the Cougars. “They are the best girls team I’ve seen in a long while. They do everything well. They pass well, they run the floor well, they can shoot. they have three or four kids that can score…they do everything. We’ll just have to go out and play good man defense and be a little patient on offense. They’ll press us the whole game. We are going to have to play a near-perfect game, and they’ll have to struggle, for us to win. They are very, very good.”
Last Tuesday at Lebanon in a game with huge Section Two implications, the Lady Mounts delivered in a big way.
Ephrata led for most of the way but found itself tied with the ball and seconds to go in overtime. That’s when Stauffer dished to a wide open Hoffer, who kissed a lay-up off the glass as time expired to give the Lady Mounts an exciting 46-44 victory over the Cedars.
It was the first two points of the season for Hoffer, who came off the bench to get the game winner. Stauffer led the way for Ephrata with 12 points while Raezer scored a season-high 11 points in the win. Horst added 10 in the victory.
Lebanon (4-1, 6-3), which suffered its first section loss of the season, had two players in double figures. Alexis Hill led the way with 13 points while Jasmine Turner chipped in with 10 for the Cedars.
Ephrata, which is now one game back at 3-2 in Section Two play, returns to league play Friday night on the road at E-town. The Lady Mounts return home next Tuesday to play host to Conestoga Valley.

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