Waskowicz buzzer beater nips Mounts in OT, 54-53
When the Cocalico and Ephrata boys match-up on the basketball court, it always seems to spawn new heroes.
A year ago in Denver, it was Ephrata’s Nathan Zimmerman drilling a jumper at the buzzer to win in their first meeting, In the second clash in Ephrata, it was Brock Gosling and Tucker Lescoe, who led the Eagles to that monumental four overtime victory.
Tuesday night, in a game both teams absolutely had to have, it was Cocalico senior John Waskowicz’s turn.
With Ephrata leading 53-52 in overtime, Waskowicz’s eight-foot turn-around jumper off an inbounds play swished at the buzzer to give the Eagles a 54-53 thrilling win in another amazing finish.
“I don’t think I ever had a feeling quite like that before,” Waskowicz said of his game winner. “I was just really relieved to see it go through the hoop.”
The win pulled the Eagles into a second-place tie in Section Two with the Mounts, who could have clinched a playoff spot with a win over Cocalico. Instead, now the Eagles (8-7 section, 11-9 overall) have the inside edge to the L-Ls (since they’ve beaten Ephrata twice), needing just a win at Solanco Wednesday or an Ephrata loss to Lebanon to claim second place.
The eventual second-place finisher will advance to the L-L League Tournament, which gets underway Tuesday night with quarterfinal action. Which ever team finishes second, they’ll travel to the Section Four champion Tuesday night (either Lancaster Mennonite or Lancaster Catholic).
“This game was probably the most important game of our season so far,” Waskowicz said. “We knew for us to make playoffs we had to beat Ephrata.”
And Cocalico Coach Travis Wealand knew it wouldn’t be easy.
“That’s just what happens I guess with a backyard rivalry like this,” Cocalico Coach Travis Wealand said of the win. “Ephrata played a great game. They came out in the second half and made tons of shots. They are tough to guard and they have a lot of guys that can score. We found a way to win it at the end but it’s always a battle, and any time you come out on top in a game like that it’s a definite bonus.”
The loss for Ephrata was especially tough, not only because the Mounts missed out on a golden opportunity to clinch, but how it was lost. After shooting 1-for-19 from the field to start the game which put them in a 23-4 hole, Ephrata shot the ball brilliantly in the third to come all the way back and grab the lead.
Ephrata was 9-for-9 in the third quarter alone as the Mounts outscored the Eagles 22-12 to trail by just 37-34 after three quarters of play. Brady Sipe led the charge with two big threes as he scored 10 of his team-high 21 points during that stretch to get his team within striking distance.
It was nip and tuck the rest of the way, and the Mounts appeared to have the upper hand when Sipe canned another trey with 2:03 to go in the fourth to give Ephrata the lead. But after the Mounts’ Aaron Huston missed the front end of a one-and-one, Cocalico’s Austin Noll came down and drained a three with 12 seconds to go to give the Eagles a 49-47 lead.
But Sipe went coast-to-coast and converted a driving lay-up with one second to play to force overtime.
In the OT, Lescoe, who was brilliant early scoring 15 of his game-high 26 points in the first half, hit his sixth three-pointer of the game to give the Eagles a 52-49 lead with 1:47 to go.
But Ephrata’s Aaron Hubbard (16 points) sandwiched a pair of lay-ups around an Eagle turnover and Ephrata led 53-52 with 26 seconds to go in the extra session.
It looked like that was going to be enough when Lescoe’s drive down the lane with seconds to play bounced off the rim. But the ball went off an Ephrata defender and out of bounds so the Eagles got another chance.
And Waskowicz was there to step up in a big way. He set a pick off the inbounds, rolled and found the ball in his hands, and delivered.
“When we called that play I said do it all the way through, and that would get the ball in john’s hands. He missed a lay-up earlier and was a little dejected but we told him, ‘ you got to keep playing, and he stepped up big and made the biggest shot of his life. He’ll remember that forever.”
As for the Mounts, they need to regroup and get a win Wednesday night at home against section champion Lebanon, and then hope for the best.
“Emotionally we got to bounce back and be ready for Lebanon,” Ephrata Coach Jason Coletti said after the tough loss. “And we need some help from Solanco. The guys were wanting to clinch a playoff spot on their own, something they haven’t done here in quite some time. Unfortunately it ended the way it did. It is what it is. One rebound…that’s all we needed. We couldn’t grab the ball, it goes out of bounds, and they make the shot.”
Zimmerman added 12 for Ephrata in the loss.
This past Friday, Cocalico kept itself in the race by knocking off first-place Lebanon, 51-38 in a game played in Denver.
Trailing 27-23 after three quarters, the Eagles exploded in the fourth, out-scoring the Cedars 28-11 to key a 51-38 victory.
Spencer Moser tallied 16 key points to lead Cocalico while Dante Haines chipped in with 13 for the winners.
Ephrata also was in action Friday on the road at Conestoga Valley where the Mounts claimed a 61-40 victory.
Ephrata pulled away in the second quarter, out-scoring the Buckskins 23-9 to take the lead for good. The Mounts’ Roman Heckstall led all scorers with 18 points while Hubbard chipped in with 12 for the winners.
Last Wednesday, Ephrata also picked up an 82-51 victory on the road at Elizabethtown.
In that one, the Mounts broke open a tight game, out-scoring the Bears 40-18 in the second half en route to the easy win.
Five Ephrata players landed in double figures in this one as Hubbard and Zimmerman each scored 18 points apiece to lead the way. Heckstall chipped in with 13 while Sipe (12) and Matt McGillan (10) also reached double digits for the Mounts.
Cocalico also was in action Wednesday, hosting Exeter in a non-league contest played in Denver.
Cocalico used a 24-14 first-half run to key an eventual 45-35 victory over Exeter. Lescoe had a monster night, scoring a season-high 29 points, which included seven three-pointers, to key the win.