So close …

By on February 11, 2015
Ephrata’s Kelly Liebl (right) shoots over Donegal’s Meghan Diffenderfer in Tuesday’s L-L Quarterfinals. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

Ephrata’s Kelly Liebl (right) shoots over Donegal’s Meghan Diffenderfer in Tuesday’s L-L Quarterfinals. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

Liebl’s career night not enough as Donegal edges Ephrata

If Ephrata could take back anything from it’s L-L Quarterfinal game at Donegal Tuesday, it would have been the way the Lady Mounts started.

The Lady Mounts came up empty at the offensive end on their first four trips as Donegal jumped out to a very quick 7-0 start. After that, the Lady Mounts were physical, effective at both ends, and stayed step for step with the Indians the rest of the way.

Problem was, they could never quite close that hole created by the bad start. And despite a monumental effort from senior guard Kelly Liebl, who scored a career-high 30 points, the Indians kept Ephrata at arm’s length and held on for an eventual 56-53 victory.

“I think the start of the game was the key,” Ephrata Coach Mike Garman said following the loss. “After that point it pretty much stayed the same. Every time I felt we got it to where we needed to get to, they would get an easy bucket. The way we started the game definitely hurt. I think if we’d have come out a bit differently it might have been a different outcome. But we couldn’t quite get there.”

Kristen Stark led the Indians with 17 points while sophomore forward Rachel Robinson chipped in with 15 and Meghan Diffenderfer 10 in the victory. With the win, Donegal (19-4) advances to Thursday’s L-L semifinals (7 p.m.) at Hempfield where the Indians will take on McCaskey, a 67-46 winner over Lebanon Catholic Tuesday.

“Our girls step up in big moments,” Donegal Coach Chadd Ward said. “Tonight was a big moment for them, for the Donegal program. I just think that’s what they do, they shine in these big moments.”

With the loss, the Lady Mounts (16-7) will be idle until Friday when they begin District play. The Lady Mounts will host Daniel Boone in a District play-in game Friday at Ephrata Middle School, beginning at 7 p.m. The winner of that game will move on to next Tuesday’s first round and will face third-seeded CD East.

“(Daniel Boone) is a very different team than (Donegal),” Garman said. “They are not nearly as athletic, but they are very physical. They’ll pound the boards but they don’t have the quickness and speed and I think that will be an advantage for us. They have two players who are very good, one is a guard and one is a post player. It should be a very good game.”

As was Tuesday’s, despite the slow start. The Indians’ swarming defense and their ability to get to the basket paid early dividends. Through the game’s first three minutes, Ephrata turned it over three times while at the other end, Stark cashed in on a pair of buckets while Diffenderfer converted a three-point play to stake the Indians out to the quick lead.

“We had mis-match problems,” Garman said. “That was the big thing. Robinson is tough to guard and Stark is tough to guard…They are a very good team. They are a tough team.”

Kenzie Horst’s putback of a Liebl miss finally got Ephrata on the board with 4:28 to go in the first, and Liebl then tallied the Lady Mounts’ final seven points of the period to cut the Indian lead to 17-11 after one quarter.

Liebl scored eight points in the second but Ephrata couldn’t make up any ground. In fact, Robinson, who tallied six in the quarter, increased Donegal’s lead to seven (28-21) at the half with a hoop late in the period.

The Indians then opened the third quarter with a quick 6-2 run to make it 34-23, and it looked as though the game and momentum could have swung their way for good. In fact, Diffenderfer scored on a pair of drives and added two free throws with 3:31 to go to give the Indians their biggest lead of the game at 38-25.

But Ephrata responded behind its best two scorers. Liebl got to the basket twice for easy buckets before Caroline Stauffer (15 points), who was held scoreless in the first half, hit a pair of field goals, including a three, to cut the deficit to just six points at 40-34. A Stark jumper as time expired in the quarter temporarily stopped the bleeding for Donegal as the Indians took a 42-34 lead to the fourth.

The game turned physical in the latter stages of the third and the entire fourth quarter. Donegal had several players in foul trouble which put Ephrata in the one-and-one for the entire fourth. And the Lady Mounts weren’t immune to fouls either, as Kay Liebl was whistled for her fifth foul before the fourth period even started.

Donegal built a 10-point lead with just 3:14 to go and appeared to be on the verge of salting this one away. But again Ephrata made it interesting.

Stauffer picked off an errant pass and took it coast-to-coast to cut it to 53-35 with 1:58 to play. Then after drawing a charge, Kelly Liebl hit one of two free throws, and Horst snared the miss on the second shot and put it back in to suddenly cut it to 53-48 with 1:46 to go.

After a pair of free throws by Donegal’s defensive specialist Kayla Walker upped her team’s lead back to seven, Stauffer scored on a post up with 43 ticks left to cut it to 55-50.

But Ephrata would run out of time as Robinson converted one of two free throws before Liebl closed her career scoring night with a three-pointer in the final seconds.

“Like I said it just seemed like every time we’d finally get to where we needed to be they would score a bucket,” Garman said. “And it was always in close. Defensively we battled and fought but they are a good team. If you are forcing them to take perimeter shots it makes a difference. They are very good at getting to the rim.”

Liebl also was good at getting to the rim on this night. She made 11 field goals, including a pair of threes, and was a thorn in Donegal’s side all night.

“We knew she was a great player and we knew she was going to get hers, but man, she played a heck of a game tonight,” Ward said of Liebl. “We couldn’t stop her and usually Kayla Walker is pretty good at playing in front, sliding her feet and getting her hands active but Kelly did a really nice job of controlling the game. I mean we went to a box-and-one and I just eventually said if she comes near you just go at her and make somebody else have the ball in their hands.”

Garman called his senior guard’s performance, “amazing.”

“She just competes and competes,” Garman said. “I’ve never had anyone like her. She’s just a unique individual. She wanted to win this so bad.”

Liebl’s one flaw on this night was at the line as she hit just six of 14 shots there. Ephrata as a whole made just eight of 17 from the line while Donegal converted 16 out of 26 attempts.

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