Round Three for all the marbles Ephrata, Cocalico to play off for section title
By: TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor email@example.com, Staff Writer
The Cocalico and Ephrata girls battled each other all year.
The two teams were neck and neck from seemingly the opening tip of the season’s first contest, and 16 league games later, the two rivals find themselves still tied atop the Section Two standings.
It was a two-team race all year, and fittingly, it will now come down to one head-to-head, 32-minute sprint Friday night at Garden Spot (7 p.m.) in a one-game playoff to determine the Section Two champion.
It doesn’t get any better than that.
"What a great way to determine who the section champion is," Ephrata Coach Mike Garman said of the pending playoff. "I’ve said all along that whoever wins this section will earn it. They are going to have to earn it, and now we’ll play on a neutral court and see what happens."
Round Three was set-up Tuesday night after both squads took care of business on the final night of section play.
In Ephrata, the Lady Mounts (13-3 section, 17-5 overall) shook off a pesky Lebanon squad with a fourth-quarter surge to earn a big 42-32 victory over the Cedars. And in Quarryville Tuesday, Cocalico rebounded with a strong effort following its 10-point loss to Ephrata Friday which forced the section tie in the first place.
Tuesday, the Lady Eagles were all business as they broke open a 21-15 half-time lead with a 14-6 third-quarter run en route to a 45-34 victory over host Solanco.
Cocalico (13-3, 17-4) must still play a non-league game Wednesday (vs. Muhlenberg) in the rescheduled finals of the Muhlenberg Holiday Tournament before turning its full attention to Ephrata.
"We are going to focus on (Muhlenberg) because that’s an important game for Districts, but (late Wednesday) night we’ll start thinking about Ephrata," Cocalico Coach Tony DiMatteo said Tuesday night. "I just think it’s great for the Ephrata kids, and it’s great for the Cocalico kids. This is what you play for. It’s a rivalry, we respect them…Coach Garman was one of my coaches when I was growing up and I respect him tremendously…I just think this is like a storybook, and it’s great for both communities."
Friday’s winner will not only claim the section title, but will enter next Tuesday’s L-L League playoff opener opposite Elco (11-5, 14-8), the runner-up from Section Three. Friday’s losing team will square off against Section Three champion Lampeter-Strasburg in Tuesday’s first round.
The rest of the first-round match-ups include: Manheim Township (Section One champ) vs. Annville-Cleona (Section Four runner-up); and Lancaster Catholic (Section Three champ) vs. Hempfield (Section One runner-up).
The L-L League semifinals are set for next Thursday, with the finals on tap Saturday, Feb. 16.
First things first. Back to Friday’s upcoming game where Garman said it will have a little of everything on the line.
"It’s just going to be a tremendous game," he said. "I mean you’ve got two teams that are rivals, and you have two teams that have had real good years.. I know one thing…Cocalico is going to be a very determined team as far as wanting another shot at us. It’s just going to be a heck of a game."
Both coaches said there is little they can take out of the previous two games that will give them a distinct advantage this time around.
"Honestly, it’s going to be the way we play and execute for us," DiMatteo said. "Both games were different, and this Friday night is going to be a different game. It’s going to come down to whoever executes. We always talk about basketball being a game of act and react, and we didn’t react well Friday. The first game we did, so we are just going to have to be ready to play. I have faith in the girls. I think they are ready and they believe in themselves, and they are looking forward to it."
Garman said, "I think if you look at it, they won a game and we won a game so it’s pretty much even-steven. I don’t think there is anything that we’ve gained (from the previous two games) other than the fact that we beat them on their court but they beat us (at home). It will come down to the same things that it always does…We have to play good defense, we have to rebound and make some buckets…If you can somehow make (Cocalico) work for everything, I think that always is important."
In Tuesday’s win over Solanco, Ephrata started slowly and held just a 20-15 cushion at the half. The Lady Mounts maintained that five-point advantage heading to the fourth before finally putting some distance between themselves and the Cedars.
Ephrata’s Sarah Haddon, who led all scorers with 15 points, went 5-for-6 from the line down the stretch to help her team pull away. Sarah Hoffer also had a solid game for Ephrata, adding 12 points in the victory.
Lauren Chambers scored 13 points off the bench to pace Lebanon.
In Cocalico’s victory, the Lady Eagles cranked up the defense in limiting L-L leading scorer Gillian Glackin to a mere eight points.
Cocalico’s Marissa Gingrich was the lone player in double figures in the game as she scored 13 in the victory.
As stated above, Tuesday’s significance was forced after Ephrata pulled into a first-place tie with Cocalico following a 38-28 victory over the Lady Eagles before a packed crowd in Denver this past Friday.
Cocalico, which held a one-game lead over Ephrata and could have clinched the section title with a win, let this game get away in the third quarter.
Haddon, who scored six of her game-high 12 points in the third, led the Lady Mounts on a 12-2 run out of the half to break open what was a 17-12 half-time lead.
Ephrata led 29-14 after three quarters and cruised the rest of the way to draw even with Cocalico in the standings.
"We were well aware of what was on the line tonight," Ephrata senior Hannah Reimel, who scored 10 key points in the win, said after the game. "(But) we took it like it was just another game. We had to do what we had to do and we knew we needed to play as a team. And we did."
Garman said his team was played as if it were on a mission.
"We wanted to be aggressive at both ends of the floor," he said. "We had nothing to lose, so for us to come over here and be tentative wasn’t going to work. We were just going to be aggressive as we could. They wanted to come over here and get a win and they weren’t going to be denied."
Cocalico, which never really got going offensively until the fourth quarter, was stymied by a steady mix of 2-3 zone and man-to-man defense from Ephrata. The Lady Eagles, who had no scorers reach double figures and were held to a season-low 28 points, were just 10-for-39 from the field on the night while committing 14 turnovers.
"We stressed defense all week," Garman said. "Just to be able to go out and defend, and make them work for everything that they were going to get, and I felt they did that very well. If you make people work for shots, some times it works and some times it doesn’t. Tonight, the girls did a great job defensively. We had a goal to hold them to 35 and fortunately, we did a little better than that."
DiMatteo said his team’s poor offensive performance had a lot to do with Ephrata, but some of it was self-inflicted.
"I think (Ephrata) executed on offense and defense, and I don’t think we executed very well at all at the offense end," he said. "I thought our defense was OK. We just shot horribly, and that absolutely had a lot to do with their defense. But we also had a lot of open looks and easy lay-ups that we missed. It was just a bad combination for us."
Kelly Liebl ignited an early Ephrata run, nailing a three on the Lady Mounts’ first possession and following it up with a deuce on their next trip and a quick 5-0 lead. But Marissa Gingrich, who led Cocalico with seven points, scored five in the period and cut Ephrata’s lead to just 9-7 by period’s end.
In the second quarter, Cocalico’s Emily White’s basket gave the Lady Eagles their first lead of the night midway through the quarter at 12-11, but Ephrata then went on a 6-0 run to the end of the quarter to take their five-point lead into the locker room.
After Haddon led off the third with a field goal to up the Ephrata lead to 19-12, Kristen Boyer finished a putback at the 5:30 mark to cut the deficit back to five. But the Lady Mounts then went on a 10-0 run to close out the quarter and the game, for all intents and purposes.
"We felt like we had nothing to lose tonight," Ephrata’s Haddon said. "We felt like they had all of the pressure on them, and we played really loose out there. It was just a great team-effort by all of us."
Both Ephrata and Cocalico have already qualified for Districts, although first-round match-ups won’t be determined until Thursday. More GIRLS, page B-6