Ephrata girls clinch L-L playoff spot

By on January 28, 2015
 Ephrata’s Kenzie Horst (left) rips the ball away from Lebanon’s Jayden Shellehamer during last Thursday’s tussle. (Photo by Stan Hall)

Ephrata’s Kenzie Horst (left) rips the ball away from Lebanon’s Jayden Shellehamer during last Thursday’s tussle. (Photo by Stan Hall)

The Ephrata girls basketball team rebounded from a tough loss to Lebanon Tuesday night, blitzing visiting E-town, 53-35 to clinch an L-L playoff berth.

Caroline Stauffer scored a game-high 21 points to pace the Lady Mounts, who outscored the Bears 30-16 in the middle two quarters to take command. With the win, Ephrata (10-4 section, 13-6 overall) secured at least second place in Section Two and remained one-game behind Lebanon, which defeated Solanco Tuesday.

Both Ephrata and Lebanon have two league games remaining. If they end in a tie, a one-game playoff will be needed.

Back to Tuesday, where in addition to Stauffer, Kelly Liebl added 17 points and Kenzie Horst 11 to the winning attack. With her 17 points, Liebl now needs just 48 points to reach 1,000 for her career.

Bri Polites paced E-town with 14 points in the loss.

Last Thursday at home, the Ephrata girls wasted a golden opportunity to gain a stranglehold in the Section Two standings.

In a battle for the section lead, the Lady Mounts out-played Lebanon for most of the way, and led by 10 points midway through the third quarter before letting it all slip away in an eventual 36-33 verdict.

Cedar freshman Alexis Hill spearheaded the comeback and gave her team its first lead since early in the first quarter when she sank a pair of free throws with 10 seconds to go. Then, after Kelly Liebl’s coast to coast layup spun out, Hill, who led her team with 14 points, was fouled and made another free throw to finish off the Lady Mounts.

“She wanted the ball,” Lebanon Coach Ben Brewer said of his freshman. “And I was proud of our team for realizing that. That was a team win, but at the offensive end we realized Hill wanted the ball and she was gonna make it happen. For a freshman to say, ‘Give me the ball, I’m gonna help you win this game’, that’s pretty cool.”

Hill did admit she was nervous stepping to the line in the waning moments.

“I was nervous at the line, yes,” Hill said. “But the whole time I was standing there, I knew I could do it. And they went in.”

With the win, the Cedars gained a one-game lead over Ephrata in the standings, and also avenged an earlier loss to the Lady Mounts.

“You are up and leading the whole game and you let it slip away… you just can’t do that,” Ephrata Coach Mike Garman said. “So I would say that (Lebanon) is going to be the section champs. I can’t see them not winning out. Now we have to win some games and maybe we’ll get lucky. But Lebanon’s a really good team.”

To see Ephrata lose this game after playing so well for three-plus quarters had to be deflating for Garman and his troops. Trailing 6-4 after one quarter, Ephrata opened the second period with a 12-0 run to take command at 16-6. Stauffer, who led her team with 13 points, and Kelly Liebl both drained three pointers during that stretch while Horst (9) netted a pair of field goals for Ephrata.

Alicia Haitos finally got the Cedars on the board with a three pointer to stop the second quarter bleeding, but the Lady Mounts carried a 21-13 lead into the locker room.

A Johanna Hoffer jumper with 5:07 to play in the third gave Ephrata its largest lead of the game at 25-14, and it looked as though the Lady Mounts would finish it off.

But the Cedars responded late in the period, turning a pair of steals into Hill lay-ups at the other end. Jayden Shellehamer also drilled a key three pointer as the Ephrata lead was cut to 30-24 heading to the fourth.

Turnovers plagued Ephrata in the fourth as Lebanon switched from a zone to a man-to-man. The Lady Mounts had seven of their 14 turnovers in the game over the final eight and half minutes of the contest.

Ephrata would score just one more field goal in the game when Horst converted a lay-up with 3:42 to play to put her team up by five at 33-28. Lebanon would eventually tie it at 33-33 on a Haitos drive, setting the stage for Hill’s heroics at the foul line.

“Turnovers killed us in the fourth quarter,” Garman said.

Liebl, Ephrata’s leading scorer, finished with just eight points after scoring seven in the first half.

“Kelly scored just one point in the second half, and we are not going to win when she scores one point in the second half,” Garman stated.

The Lady Mounts have three games remaining in the regular season. Friday night they travel to CV before heading to Exeter Saturday for a non-league tilt at noon. They close out the regular season next Tuesday at home vs. Solanco.

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