One for the win column

By on December 23, 2014
Ephrata’s Nathan Zimmerman (right) converts a lay-up in front of Garden Spot defender Brendan Bradley during Friday’s 44-43 Mountaineer victory. Zimmerman led the Mounts with 20 points in the contest.

Ephrata’s Nathan Zimmerman (right) converts a lay-up in front of Garden Spot defender Brendan Bradley during Friday’s 44-43 Mountaineer victory. Zimmerman led the Mounts with 20 points in the contest.

Mounts hold off GS

Ephrata’s first five opponents on the schedule were like a “Who’s who” of the Lancaster-Lebanon League. It featured three of the top teams in the League in Manheim Central, Cedar Crest and McCaskey, as well as Section Three contender Cocalico and Penn Manor, a competitive Section One team.

That’s certainly not a recipe for success for a team that returns just two players with significant varsity experience from last year. Thus, the Mounts’ 0-5 start was not surprising.

Friday night in New Holland, the Mounts finally faced a team similar to them in Garden Spot, which came into the contest with just one win.

The question was, which team would take advantage?

In a game that featured 12 lead changes with momentum swinging back and forth all night, it was Ephrata which came up with the key plays down the stretch to earn a hard-fought 44-43 victory, their first of the season.

Junior guard Matt McGillan converted the second of two free throws with 21 seconds to play to break a 43-43 tie and give the Mounts the lead for good. Nathan Zimmerman, who led all Ephrata scorers with 20 points, then secured a huge rebound at the defensive end to clinch the victory.

“It just feels good,” Zimmerman said of his team finally tasting victory. “Our first five games were really tough ones so it’s just good to get a win.”

Ephrata Coach Jason Coletti agreed.

“It’s good for the kids to get their first ‘W’,” he said. “With the first five-game stretch that we had, it’s good to see the kids have a good bus ride back to Ephrata with a ‘W.’ They needed it. As hard as they’ve worked in practice, they needed a win.”

Coming into the game, Ephrata put an emphasis on working the ball into the block where Zimmerman, at 6-7, had a huge height advantage over the Spartans. That strategy paid off as Zimmerman certainly got his points but also drew a lot of fouls.

Those fouls came into play in the fourth quarter when the Mounts went to the line 18 times and sank 11 key free throws.

“We wanted to attack down low,” Coletti said. “Zimmy, and even (McGillan) at guard, are pretty aggressive so we wanted to make sure we attacked the paint, whether it was posting up or drives. And I think that got them into foul trouble and we got some easy buckets from the free throw line. We knew we had a size advantage so we wanted to exploit that. We told them to be patient and let it develop, and we did a good job. The kids did a real nice job setting back screens and we had guys cutting to the basket. We got a couple big bucket off of that.”

Garden Spot (0-4 Section Two, 1-6 overall) led 9-7 after one quarter of play before the Mounts went on an 11-2 run midway through the second which eventually led to a 20-17 Ephrata lead at the half. Zimmerman had a pair of threes and another field goal during that stretch while McGillan, who finished with 13 points on the night, also drained a key trey.

But Garden Spot responded behind guard Brendan Bradley in the third. Bradley, who drained six treys on his way to a team-leading 20-point night, nailed threes on back-to-back trips which led to the Spartans regaining the lead at 31-29 heading to the fourth.

Ephrata, which was in the bonus for most of the fourth, went a perfect 7-for-7 from the line in the first four minutes of the period with Zimmerman canning the final one to convert a three-point play and give the Mounts the lead at 38-36.

Garden Spot eventually regained the lead at 41-40 on Bradley’s final triple of the night with 2:45 to go, and it stayed that way until the 1:20 mark when McGillan put back a rebound and was fouled on the play. He sank the ensuing free throw and Ephrata was back in the lead at 43-41.

After Bradley tied it on a pair of free throws, McGillan was fouled in the lane with 21 seconds remaining. After missing his first foul shot, he drained the second to give his team the lead for good.

“It feels great,” McGillan said of the win. “And it does give us some confidence winning a close game like that, but we still have plenty to work on.”

Coletti agreed.

‘I hope it builds some confidence,” he said. “I don’t think we played our best. I think we are capable of playing a lot better but a win is a win, especially with the first five games that we had. And any win you can get on the road you’ll take, whether it’s by one or 21. Hopefully this builds some confidence with the younger guys. We are still trying to get them used to being out there and to understand the varsity game. We got a sophomore and a freshman starting so getting that ‘W’ hopefully will get them to relax a bit.”

Zimmerman said the win felt like a lot of weight was lifted off his team’s shoulders.

“It is a big sigh of relief,” he said. “And for all the young guys, to get their first varsity win, it’s big. Now we get a home game against Lebanon on Tuesday heading into our Christmas break…it feels really good.”

The Mounts face the Cedars Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

In addition to the win over Garden Spot, the Mounts faced McCaskey last Wednesday at home where the Red Tornado raced out to a 47-20 half-time lead and did not look back en route to an 88-47 victory over the Mounts.

Randolph Speller led a group of four Red Tornado who finished in double figures, finishing with a game-high 22 points. Kobe Gantz added 18 while Elijah Brown (13) and Daizon Reid (10) also provided some scoring punch.

Zimmerman had 18 and McGillan 15 to lead the Mounts.

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