Loss to Shippensburg ends Mounts’ season

By on February 28, 2018
Ephrata’s Zack McGillan (right) is double-teamed by Shippensburg defenders Collin Taylor (30) and Nick Gustafson during Monday’s District game. Photo by Preston Whitcraft
Ephrata’s Zack McGillan (right) is double-teamed by Shippensburg defenders Collin Taylor (30) and Nick Gustafson during Monday’s District game. Photo by Preston Whitcraft

Ephrata’s Zack McGillan (right) is double-teamed by Shippensburg defenders Collin Taylor (30) and Nick Gustafson during Monday’s District game. Photo by Preston Whitcraft

Sometimes no matter how much you want something, no matter how much effort you put forth, for whatever reason, it just doesn’t happen.

That’s life.

And unfortunately life happened for Ephrata Monday night in the District Three 9th Place consolation semifinals at East Pennsboro High School.

Facing a 12th-seeded Shippensburg team that had some nice pieces but at times looked ripe for the taking, Ephrata simply suffered through one of its worst shooting nights of the season at the worst possible time.

The Mounts shot 14-for-51 from the field and committed 15 turnovers offensively. Shipp, behind 1,000-point big man Carter Van Syoc, who scored a game-high 21 points, took advantage.

The Greyhounds grabbed the lead midway through the first quarter and gradually pulled away, getting out in front by as many as 21 points in the fourth quarter before closing out a 53-37 victory.

With the win, Shippensburg (16-8) advances to Wednesday’s 9th Place finals (5 p.m. at Mechanicsburg) opposite New Oxford, which handled Conrad Weiser 71-48 Monday. In addition, the Greyhounds clinched a State playoff berth.

The 9th-seeded Mounts fell one game short of making States for the first time since the 2004-05 season. They closed out the year at 19-8.

Despite Monday’s loss, first-year Coach Jon Treese said he was pleased with his team’s effort on a night where little went right, offensively.

“I was proud of our energy,” he said. “I felt we attacked well early and gave ourselves a good opportunity. Despite not being able to get anything to go in, we still played very good defense.

“Shippensburg had a very good game plan to change defenses a lot, which I think kept our guys less than comfortable. Also, Shippensburg matched our physicality and intensity, which ultimately let them protect their lead. I am always proud of the effort with these guys, and the seniors were great leaders all night.”

The Mounts trailed just 11-10 after one period, but Shippensburg began to gain control in the second as Ephrata’s shooting woes continued. Three pointers by Zach Cullen (6 points) and Alaric Hartman helped stretch the Shipp lead to 23-16 before Ephrata’s Brad DaBella, who led the Mounts with 18 points, momentarily stopped the bleeding when he converted a lay-up with 1:06 to go.

Ephrata appeared as though it would get one more look before half to further cut into the lead after Hartman was whistled for an offensive foul. However, a Mount turnover gave the ball back to the Greyhounds, and Nick Gustafson stuck a 10-footer with four seconds left to give Shipp a 25-18 lead heading to the half.

The Mounts, who came from behind last Thursday to beat Northern York at home, appeared on the verge of a run early in the third. Zack McGillan put back a miss 50 seconds into the third, and after Van Syoc converted a lay-up in transition, DaBella came down and nailed a triple to cut the Ephrata deficit to 29-23 at the 6:06 mark.

But Ephrata suddenly got cold again, canning just one more shot— a McGillan three — the final five minutes and change of the third as Shipp opened up an 11-point spread (39-28) with one quarter to play.

Any thoughts of a comeback this time would fade when Ephrata went scoreless for the first four-plus minutes of the fourth. The Greyhounds went on a 10-0 run during that span to open up the lead to 21 (49-28) before cruising to the finish.

“I think my only disappointment (with the loss) is for the kids not getting to experience more basketball, which I felt they truly earned,” Treese said. “We talked about being our best version (Monday), making sure we were at our best. That sometimes is tough to do after 26 games.”

In addition to Van Syoc, Collin Taylor added 12 points for the Greyhounds. DaBella was the lone Mount in double figures although Dilyn Becker (8) and McGillan (7) both chipped in for Ephrata.

Despite the loss, Ephrata still turned in one of its best season in years. In addition to winning 19 games, the Mounts finished second in a highly-competitive Section Two, were 0.1 seconds away from possibly playing in the L-L Finals, and they won a District playoff game.

“I feel we took another step forward as a program,” Treese said. “This group has been building for three years. We experienced a great opportunity to play for a league title, and we won a very tough battle in a district playoff game. For me as a coach, a great accomplishment of the kids was accepting the transition of a new coach and keeping the program moving in the right direction. These guys made sure to do things the right way. We learned a lot through losing and thankfully learned a lot through winning which I think will resonate with our younger guys who are taking on new roles.”

The Mounts will replace seven seniors next season, including starters DaBella, Sam Cable and Becker, as well as role players Holden Haws, Eli Basenga and Corbin Weaver.

That group, along with Brendan Holbritter, who missed the season following an off-season accident, was the core that helped turn a losing Ephrata program into a winning one.

“I could write a whole book about this group of seniors,” Treese said. “They are a special group of young men. They are a ton of fun to be around. I could never say enough about how hard they work at practice and how focused they are for games. I told our underclassmen last night that this group gets to forever hold onto the fact they started a winning trend for Ephrata basketball. They built the foundation and set the standard that all future teams need to uphold. Every coach is in search of that group, the ones who turn things around, create excitement, bring success. I am so fortunate to have been given the opportunity to coach these guys.”

Ephrata advanced to Monday’s game following a fantastic finish to last Thursday’s ninth place consolation quarterfinal game at home vs. 16th seeded Northern York.

Trailing by six points (43-37) with 1:33 to play, the Mounts staged a furious comeback, finishing the game on a 9-0 run to steal the 46-43 thriller.

After Michael Ginder sank a pair of free throws to give Northern its six-point advantage with 1:33 to play, Ephrata’s Rodriguez scored on a putback off a Becker miss to cut it to 43-39 with 1:10 to go.

Ephrata then made it a two-point game following a Northern turnover as DaBella drove down the lane for two with 52 seconds to go. And then after Nik Kozain missed the front end of a one-and-one, Ephrata tied it on a pair of free throws by Rodriguez with 45 seconds left.

The Mounts then took the lead for good (45-43) 10 second later after a steal by McGillan, who then fed a cutting Rodriguez for a lay-up and the go-ahead bucket.

Then, after Becker made one of two free throws to make it 46-43 Ephrata, Northern had one last shot to tie it. however, Christopher Hartley’s three-point attempt from the baseline was long, and the Mounts survived and advanced.

“I wrote it on the board man, though we say, ‘32 minutes for another 32 minutes,’” Ephrata Coach Jon Treese said following the win. “They were hitting shots in the second half, and if they get a couple more they put us away. We really knew that our advantage was going to be attacking and getting to the rim. We had a good athletic advantage and we had guys that finish the ball really well. it just took us a while to get there. Our senior leadership and our experience gave us just enough to kind of weather the storm and find a way to finish at the end.”

The Polar Bears led throughout as Ephrata tried to overcome a rough start offensively as the Mounts shot just 28 percent (7-for-25) in the opening 16 minutes.

Northern (11-13) led 19-17 at the half but increased it to nine points (35-26) with 2:10 to go in the third on back-to-back three-pointers by Hartley (15 points on five treys) and Nate McGill. But DaBella scored the final seven points of the quarter, including a putback that turned into a three-point play, to get Ephrata back to within two at 35-33 after three.

Rodriguez scored 10 of his game-high 21 points in the fourth quarter to lead Ephrata. DaBella chipped in with 16 in the victory.

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