Oh, what a night! Zimmerman’s buzzer beater stuns Eagles

By on January 9, 2013

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

Nate Zimmerman believes he may have made a game-winning buzzer beater as a youngster in the Ephrata Rec League.

"It was like in fifth grade, I think," he said, sounding a bit like he wasn’t 100 percent certain.

While those details may have been a bit sketchy for the Ephrata sophomore, he was absolutely certain no shot ever was bigger than the one he hit Monday night at Cocalico.

With the score tied 52-52 in this back-yard Section Two battle, and after Ephrata clawed back from being 13 down in the fourth, Zimmerman got an open look from about 15 feet out with time running out. He calmly raised up and drained it just as the buzzer sounded, setting off pandemonium in the Ephrata student section while leaving Cocalico’s stunned in the process.

"That was exciting," Zimmerman said of his shot, which not only gave the Mounts a huge 54-52 overtime win over Cocalico but also clinched Ephrata’s first road win since the 2009 season.

"I just heard a stat that this was (Ephrata’s) first road win in four years. I didn’t know that," second-year Ephrata Coach Jason Coletti said after the victory. "Some of these kids never enjoyed a bus ride home so that’s huge to come out on their court, in front of their student section and get a win, especially being down as much as we were. We did it last year against Cocalico being down 18 at our place, but it’s different on the road. It just shows you how good this team can be if they take care of the basketball."

That wasn’t the case through the first three quarters as Cocalico (3-4 section, 6-5 overall) took advantage of 13 Ephrata turnovers to take a commanding 39-26 lead into the fourth quarter.

Freshman Tucker Lescoe, who led his team with 18 points, ignited an early Cocalico run by hitting three treys on the Eagles’ first four possessions. The Eagles, who led 24-17 at the half, opened up their lead behind four three-pointers by Oliver Denlinger (16 points) in the third.

However, in the fourth, the Mounts (2-5 section, 3-9 overall) started to make each possession count. Aaron Hubbard (13 points) opened the quarter with three free throws to cut the deficit to nine. With the Mounts playing solid defense at the other end, they began to feed Evan Radcliffe on the post, and with success. Radcliffe (game-high 20 points) made three big buckets, including a three-point play with 3:11 to go to bring the Mounts to within three (41-38)

"I couldn’t hit anything from the outside so I decided to take it inside," Radcliffe said. "It was working for us for the most part, so we kept trying it."

It looked as though Cocalico would hang on, however, when Lescoe was twice fouled and converted four big free throws to push the Cocalico lead back up to 45-38 with 2:12 to play.

But after Brady Sipe hit a pair of free throws at the other end, the Mounts forced a turnover before Sipe added a field goal with 1:37 to go to make it 45-42. Ephrata then fouled Lescoe with 58 seconds to play, but the freshman missed the front end of a one-and-one, and the Mounts had the ball with a chance to tie.

Hubbard got an open look at a three and drilled it with 33 seconds to go to even it up at 45-45.

"We just knew we could do it if we kept playing hard," Radcliffe said. "Guys stepped up and made some shots at the end."

After Lescoe was whistled for a charge at the other end with seven seconds left in regulation, Ephrata had a chance to win it in regulation but Radcliffe couldn’t get a shot off at the buzzer.

"We stopped turning the ball over," Coletti said when he was asked what fueled his team’s comeback. "We felt OK coming into half-time only being down seven because we felt we should have been down a lot more with the turnovers. I told them at half-time, ‘if you don’t turn the ball over and you chase them off the three-point line you will win. In the third quarter we had a lot of turnovers and they got back up, but still in the fourth quarter I told them no turnovers and we are going to come back and make this interesting. They didn’t turn it over, we got shots every time, Evan was huge down low and we pulled it out."

After the teams traded free throws to start the OT, Zimmerman gave the Mounts a 50-47 advantage when he drained a three with 2:56 to go. Cocalico’s Shea Evans (11 points) then cut it to 50-49 with a stickback before Radcliffe posted up for two more with 1:54 to play to make it 52-49 Ephrata.

Lescoe made it a one-point game again at the 1:21 mark with a pair of free throws, and after a Zimmerman miss Radcliffe was whistled for his fifth and final foul.

With Radcliffe out of the game, the Eagles Brock Gosling went to the line with a chance to put his team back in front. However, he could only make one out of two and the Mounts got the ball back with the score tied at 52-52.

With 1:01 to play, Ephrata ran the clock all the way down to 13 seconds before calling a time-out to set up what turned out to be Zimmerman’s game-winning shot.

Hubbard got the ball on the right side, ran off Zimmerman’s screen at the top of the key. Zimmerman rolled to open space and Hubbard found him. Zimmerman, who scored nine points on the night, then raised up and delivered the gamewinner.

"We’ve had a couple games where it came down to us wanting to get the last shot, or even a couple of quarters in the middle of a game when we wanted to get the last shot, and we’d never get the last shot," Coletti said. "My speech to them during the time-out was, we get the last shot. We are not giving the ball back to them for a Hail Mary or whatever. If we shoot and miss, we still go to overtime. We focused on getting the last shot, the play just developed and Zimmy hit a bigtime shot."

Radcliffe added, "Just to get a win against our cross-town rivals is always great. That makes it extra special."

The result certainly didn’t come as a complete surprise to Cocalico Coach Travis Wealand, who as an Ephrata graduate has been on both sides of this great rivalry.

"The records don’t matter in a game like this," he said. "Our guys were excited for tonight and I’m sure those guys were as well. They made a huge shot. I thought the guys competed hard (but) Ephrata was just a better team tonight."

"Ephrata played hard and were an inspired team," he continued. "All credit goes to them. They took us out of our game. In a rivalry game, you need to execute, and we didn’t do that well enough tonight."

Despite the tough loss, which snapped a four-game Eagle winning streak, Wealand also believes his team rebound with a solid effort Wednesday night on the road at Solanco.

"We have to be ready for Wednesday," he said. "I’m confident our guys will come back and work hard and keep it rolling. They know they can play better than they did tonight, and I believe they will."

In addition to Monday’s contest, both Ephrata and Cocalico were also in action with a pair of games late last week.

Last Wednesday night in Witmer, Cocalico opened up a double-digit lead at the half and held off the host Buckskins the rest of the way to earn a 64-50 victory.

Lescoe erupted for a game-high 23 points while Gosling chipped in with a season-high 17 points in the victory.

Ephrata hit the road Wednesday to play Section Two leader Elizabethtown, and a bad second quarter by the Mounts led to a 61-42 Bear win.

E-town outscored Ephrata 16-3 in the second quarter to pave the way to their win.

Radcliffe scored 13 points and Sipe added 10 for the Mounts. E-town had three players finish in double figures.

Friday night in Denver, host Cocalico trailed Lebanon, 33-31 heading to the fourth quarter. However, the Eagles rallied for a 21-point final period to key a 52-47 victory.

Spencer Moser scored 15 points to lead Cocalico. Lescoe added 13 while Denlinger chipped in with 12 for the winners.

Ephrata, meanwhile, was in action at Conestoga Valley where the host Buckskins pulled out a tight 55-53 decision.

Anthony Brown scored 14 points while teammates Jon Perez (12 points) and Alex Martin (11) also were in double figures to lead the Buckskins to the two-point win.

Radcliffe scored a game-high 18 points while Hubbard added 13 in the Ephrata loss.

Ephrata returns home Wednesday to host Lebanon before entertaining Cedar Crest Friday.

Cocalico hits the road Wednesday at Solanco before returning home to face McCaskey this Friday. More BOYS, page B-3

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