Mounts hold off Oley Valley

By on December 30, 2014
 Ephrata’s Nate Zimmeman (left) drives past Ben Kerkeslager of Oley Valley during Monday’s first-round game of the Ephrata Tournament. (Photo by Stan Hall)

Ephrata’s Nate Zimmeman (left) drives past Ben Kerkeslager of Oley Valley during Monday’s first-round game of the Ephrata Tournament. (Photo by Stan Hall)

Confidence breeds success.
And the Ephrata boys basketball team is beaming with it right about now.
Monday night, in the first round of the Ephrata Holiday tournament, the Mounts raced out to a big lead and then held off a late charge by Oley Valley to earn a trip to Tuesday’s title game with the 56-46 victory over the Lynx.
Matt McGillan and Nate Zimmerman provided a one-two offensive punch, combining for 41 of the Mounts’ 56 points in the win. McGillan led the way with 22 and Zimmerman added 19 as the Mounts staked claim to their third-straight victory after starting the season 0-5.
What’s the difference now?
“It’s confidence,” Ephrata Coach Jason Coletti said after Monday’s game. “You can start to see the confidence growing. We are getting good ball movement, and they are starting to see people. They are relaxing out there and playing with a little more positive energy now. We’ve won three in-a-row, and we talked in the locker room about the fact that the Ephrata boys have never won their own tournament, so that’s something they are striving for and would be a nice honor for these guys.”
Standing in their way is Palmyra (4-6), which scored an easy 67-47 victory over Donegal earlier Monday in first-round action. The two teams will square of Tuesday night at 8 p.m. for the title.
“They are fundamentally sound,” Coletti said of the Cougars. “They don’t hurt themselves. They have two or three very good shooters that you can’t leave them open. They are going to run very similar stuff as us so it’s going to be a challenge for sure. They play in a very competitive Mid-Penn League so they are used to going up against quality competition. We got our hands full tomorrow.”
And evidently, so does Palmyra.
Monday night, Ephrata raced out to a 24-9 lead midway through the second quarter. Zimmerman scored 12 points in that early run, but what stood out was the Mounts’ ball movement in the half-court set. Several times Ephrata (3-5 overall) worked the ball around which eventually led to easy, back-door lay-ups, which is something Coletti ha been stressing.
“The kids really shared the basketball,” he said. “That was something we talked about, especially in their 1-3-1 defense. You are not going to be able to drive as easily as you can, so look for the open man, move the ball around, and if you throw the ball down in the corner, it flattens the zone out and a lot of people are going to be open if you skip the basketball. We really focused on skipping the basketball and then sharing it…and we got a lot of lay-ups because of it.”
Oley’s Sebastian Williamson did score two late baskets to end the half with the Lynx trailing Ephrata by 11 at 24-13. And he was only getting started.
After Ephrata opened the third quarter on a 9-0 run to open up its biggest lead of the game at 33-13, Williamson took over with four minutes to go in the third. The junior point guard, who would score a game-high 30 points on the night, tallied the Lynx final 15 points of the quarter to help his team cut the deficit to just four at 34-30 heading to the fourth.
In the fourth, Ephrata opened it back up to 11 to off-set another 10 points by Williamson in the final eight minutes. Fortunately for the Mounts, the lead never dipped under six points as they put it away at the foul line, sinking 12 of 17 taken during the final period.
“He had a great second half,” Coletti said of the OV point guard. “We knew (Williamson) and (Ben Kerkeslager) were their two main weapons, and he single-handily brought them back in the third quarter by getting to the basket. We knew he was going to get to the basket. He didn’t have any three pointers all season, so we knew he was a driver. But we stopped him enough times in the fourth quarter where they didn’t get the lead.”
Kerkeslager chipped in with 14 points for the Lynx (1-8), who will take on Donegal in Tuesday’s consolation game at 4 p.m.
As for the Mounts’ overall performance Monday?
“It’s a win,” Coletti said. “You know we played well the first two-and-a-half quarters and built a big lead, and then we kind of lost our intensity. We are not used to playing with a lead, much less a double-digit lead, but the guys held on. They made enough plays and executed. We take any win.”
In addition to Monday’s tournament game, Ephrata earned its second Section Two win in-a-row last Tuesday with a 49-44 victory at home vs. Lebanon.
Trailing 20-16 at the half, Ephrata (2-3 Section Two) out-scored the Cedars 16-7 in the third quarter to take control and key the win.
Zimmerman scored a game-high 18 points while McGillan (13) and Micah Krauter (10) also scored in double figures for Ephrata. Jahlil Ortiz led the Cedars (2-3 section, 5-4 overall) with 15 points.
Following Tuesday’s Ephrata Tournament finale, the Mounts play host to first-place Elizabethtown (3-2, 4-4) Friday night at home. An Ephrata win would pull the Mounts into a first-place tie with the Bears. The Mounts also will be in action next Tuesday at Conestoga Valley.

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