Walsh, Barons spoil Mounts’ season debut

By on December 10, 2014

The odds weren’t good for the Ephrata boys.

Ephrata’s Nate Zimmerman (right) pulls down a rebound in front of Manheim Central’s Ryan Carlino during Monday’s season-opener.

Ephrata’s Nate Zimmerman (right) pulls down a rebound in front of Manheim Central’s Ryan Carlino during Monday’s season-opener.

The fact that their opening-night opponent Manheim Central had all its starters back from the team that advanced to the District Three Triple-A championship game last year was one thing.

Add to it that the Barons had already played two games, bringing home a runner-up finish from the Hamburg Tip-Off Tournament last weekend, and you get the picture.

Sure enough, the young Mountaineers found themselves in a 19-2 first-quarter hole and could never recover, falling 74-40 to a senior-laden Manheim Central team on Monday in Manheim.

Baron star guard/forward Matt Walsh, who finished with a game-high 18, collected his 1,000th career point in the one-sided victory.

“They’re a good team. Their size is hard to beat. We can certainly play better than we did, but we’ll just go back to work,” said Mounts’ assistant coach John Coletti, who was filling in for his son Jason, serving a one-game suspension after receiving a technical foul in a win over Lebanon on the final night of the regular season last February.

Taylor Funk and Dan Wiederrecht added 17 and 10, respectively, for Central, who improved to 2-1.

Junior guard Matthew McGillan and senior center Nathan Zimmerman, Ephrata’s only returning players from the squad that finished 11-11 in 2013-14, led the Mounts with 16 points apiece.

But it wasn’t enough against a Baron team that not only featured a ton of experience, but also a couple twin towers in 6-foot-8 Funk and 6-foot-5 Walsh.

“I think we were nervous,” Coletti said. “We have a lot of talent, but they’re young and learning. I think our future looks bright. But we’re going to struggle until we get them all on the same page.”

The Barons were clearly on the same page from the get-go. Walsh netted 10 of his points in the game’s first six-plus minutes, including a pair of three-point plays. And when Wiederrecht converted on a fastbreak with 1:43 remaining in the quarter, the Barons had a big 19-2 advantage.

While Manheim Central shot 8-of-13 from the floor in the opening stanza, the Mounts got out of the gates just 0-for-7 before McGillan finished on a putback with more than five minutes elapsed. Zimmerman’s ‘three’ cut the Barons’ lead to 19-5 at period’s end.

“We just ran our stuff,” Walsh remarked. “We focused on getting stops and running the other way in transition. That’s pretty much how we got (the big lead).”

Besides taking advantage of their pressure defense, forcing turnovers and running the floor, the Barons built a 22-13 edge on the glass going into the break. Funk and Walsh combined for 13 of those boards.

“We have some seniors and seniors can apply some pressure and look really good applying pressure because 18 year olds are playing 16 year olds and it’s a big difference,” Manheim Central coach Chris Sherwood said.

The Mounts were still within 13 points, 27-14, when sophomore guard Alexander Rummel scored on a layup with 2:55 left in the half. But deuces from Wiederrecht book-ended a 9-2 MC run, highlighted by Funk’s putback slam, sending the Barons to the locker room with a 36-16 advantage.

“It’s hard to prepare for another team when you’re guys are still learning,” Coletti said. “Then you go up against a 6-8 guy and a 6-5 guy, they never see that. We have a lot of young guys and there’s some good ball players there. For the first varsity game, it’s pretty tough &tstr; especially in a packed house against a team that’s pretty good and supposed to do well this year.”

As the Central boys pulled away in the third, outscoring Ephrata 15-5, Walsh was in the center of things with six of those points, including his milestone 1,000th with :35 left in the quarter to push the Barons’ lead to 49-21.

After a brief stint on the bench with four fouls, he returned to the game and reached the milestone, driving from the right elbow, swooping toward the basket and dropping in a layup to get his 1,000th.

“I think the more I thought about it, the harder it got,” Walsh admitted. “I just tried to relax myself and say, ‘You know, if it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, then I have another game.’ So at that point, I just relaxed and played the game and that’s when it happened.”

To Ephrata’s credit, they battled to the end, as McGillan scored 11 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter. It wasn’t enough, but they did leave a favorable impression on Sherwood.

“(McGillan)’s a heck of a ball player,” he said. “I really think that he’s the full package because he plays so hard all the time … Those kids are going to be good for Ephrata. Listen, I can remember a couple years ago a Donegal team that ripped our heads off and that only made our young guys better. Now here we are and that will be them in a couple of years. It’s the cycle of high school basketball.”

Walsh was a freshman on the Barons’ team that lost 73-47 to a Donegal squad that would go on to the PIAA semi-finals just one year later.

On Monday night, he celebrated a rare milestone playing for a Manheim Central team with some high aspirations of its own.

“It’s satisfying to get it,” Walsh said. “I’m not completely satisfied yet, but it is a nice feeling … It just kinda signifies all the work I’ve put in during the season, out-of-season. It shows all the support and love I had growing up all throughout high school, all throughout middle school, from my family, friends, coaches and everybody that’s been involved in my life.”


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