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Ephrata talented, but very youthful under Moyer
Fresh off a section championship year, Ephrata has a whole new look heading into the 2016-17 high school basketball season.
A year ago, it was a magical run as Coach Mike Garman and crew finished 11-5 (13-11 overall) and captured the crown, qualifying for Districts in the process. Following the season, Garman called it quits and was replaced by long-time assistant Todd Moyer.
Fast-forward to this season, Moyer and crew enter the year having to replace five key members from the section winning team, including starters Kenzie Horst and Kay Liebl.
But there is still one big piece left in the cupboard as Caroline Stauffer, a four-year starter who finished last season just 59 points shy of 1,000, returns. While still out from off-season ankle surgery (she’s expected to return some time around the holidays), Stauffer is expected to lead a team full of young kids, who enter the year shy on experience but full of talent and promise.
Thus far, Ephrata has experienced some growing pains as the Lady Mounts are off to an 0-3 start. But they have shown, if nothing else, that the future is very bright.
How fast the likes of sophomores Maddie Root, Katherine Sola and Kandice Liebl, as well as talented freshmen Gabbie Gerola-Hill, Hannah Plowmaker and Jade Ringler can mature probably will determine whether or not this group will challenge in a wide-open Section Two this season.
Recently, Ephrata Review Sports Editor Todd Ruth chatted with Moyer about their prospects this season. The following is a transcript of their conversation:
Todd Ruth: So, how’s it going so far?
Todd Moyer: It’s been an education. I am learning things that I had not considered before. I was sitting back this weekend and thinking, over half the roster has never even played JV basketball, and we have nine of them playing varsity.
TR: That’s tough especially coming into this season without Caroline Stauffer, your most experienced and best player. How has that effected these younger girls.
TM: We played Central York Friday night, and we had two different game films of them from last year, and wow…what we saw Friday night we did not see on film. You could just tell the girls weren’t quite ready for it either. And with the lack of experience, it was an eye-opening experience.
TR: Did they play better Saturday against Penn Manor in the consolation game?
TM: Yes, we played much better Saturday. We were down eight at half-time, and it stayed that way through most of the third quarter and then Penn Manor hit three threes in-a-row and we couldn’t answer. And that’s about where the game stayed the rest of the way. We were hanging tough so it was a good step forward.
TR: At least they are learning on the fly, which is probably the best way for that to happen, no?
TM: Maybe not quite as fast as they had to Friday night. Central York’s pressure was ridiculous. I called a time-out within the first minute and it didn’t settle anything down. It’s one of those things where before you know it the game was gone. But the girls handled the pressure much better Saturday. We scrimmaged Lancaster Catholic and handled their 2-2-1 press pretty well but Central York took it about two notches above that.
TR: Taking over a young program like this, you had to know you would have some growing pains, right?
TM: Yes. I knew we’d have growing pains. I still do feel we have a chance to compete for the section. It all depends how fast we can learn and adjust.
TR: Once you get Caroline back that should help out a lot, having another senior on the floor. Is that how you see it?
TM: It will help but I also figure everybody else is going to be playing Caroline first and foremost, and right now trying to run an offense without Caroline is only going to help us when she does get back.
TR: Speaking of Caroline, she comes into this year with a great chance to get 1,000 career points. What are your expectations from her?
TM: I do hope she becomes a stabilizing force on offense, that when things start getting a little out of whack, she takes control and sets things up and settles things down. I also am looking for some leadership out of her at the defensive end. She and Eshkol have done a nice job with team leadership, and it will be nice to have two people out on the floor that way.
TR: Despite how inexperienced it is, this group does have some talent, especially with the younger players, correct?
TM: Right. That’s why I think we still will be able to contend. It’s just a matter of how fast they can grow up, learn, adjust to the varsity game…you can see them out there and they are sometimes playing the game they played when they played at the Jr. High level. I’m trying to impress upon them that when you played at the Jr. high level, you weren’t playing against the best ninth graders because they were already up on varsity. Now you are playing against the best that a school has, ninth through 12th. You are not playing against the average to goods. You are playing against the greats. But they are starting to learn certain things that work and certain things that do not work, and trying other things. I’ve seen steps forward, and I have seen some steps in neutral, but it’s our job as coaches to get them out of neutral and get them forward.
TR: I guess patience is the main virtue here, right?
TM: Yes. Patience is a key word. You have to have patience with them because we’ll go through things in practice and say, “you have to start doing it this way.” Some take it and try, and I’ve seen progression, and some will try it in practice and once you get into game situations they go back to old habits. Again, it’s the learning curve. They were able to it (at the lower levels) but it’s not the same up here.
TR: As far as the transition from Mike to you, are you guys doing similar things style-wise? Is it pretty much status quo or are you adding new things?
TM: I am still preaching defense and rebounding, which isn’t going to change, but we are doing some things differently offensively. I am doing some things differently defensively but the expectations for hard work is still there. They are still putting in the time and working hard and are trying to do everything they can to improve. We still have the family atmosphere. We are trying to deepen it that we all pull for each other. I think Saturday in the Penn Manor game I think I played 12 to 13 girls. I want them all to learn that the seniors have to pull for the freshmen, the sophomores have to pull for the juniors, etc. There were times I was subbing people in and out in five-second intervals. In this situation, I’d put someone in, if the situation changes I put someone else in. And by playing so many people, I have been surprised by what they are able to do already. I wasn’t expecting some things and I have been surprised, and I have started to toy with the starting lineup already because of it.
TR: Looking at your individual players, we talked a little about Caroline but who else is going to be in the mix giving you minutes?
TM: As you heard there are a lot of people getting minutes. Maddie Root, a sophomore, has been getting a lot of time out at the point, and I’ve seen her taking steps forward. Katherine Sola, another sophomore, has been getting a lot of playing time and is making progress. Eshkol Baykeda has been doing a lot of the leadership things and has been steady on the boards. We have two freshman posts in Hannah Plowmaker and Jade Ringler. Jade has been putting points up on the board for us and grabbing some rebounds, and Hannah has been grabbing some rebounds and playing more aggressively. Kandice Liebl is on her way back from injury. Bri Nelson has been getting some good time and has been hustling all over the floor. For the most part she does what I need her to do, whether it’s rebounding or playing a wing or guarding somebody tough. Freshman Gabbie Gerola-Hill was our all-star at the tournament this weekend. She played very well Saturday. She led us in scoring with 10 points and had a really good game. She was one that surprised me. I know she has talent but I didn’t think it was going to come out this quickly. Sarah Klemka, a senior, has been injured. Amanda Gauthier has given us good minutes off the bench. Maddie Jones has been our defensive person, along with Brooke Ludwig. And I’ve been bringing Tayler Moyer off the bench, just to get some outside scoring.
TR: That’s a lot of people contributing.
TM: I try to find a role for everybody to help them. You know, “this is something I can excel in so I know coach is going to have me for this situation. If somebody else has a different skill for another situation, I’m not mad if he puts them in for me.” It’s that kind of a thing. If they have a certain role that they look at, “OK here is my situation, this is where I can contribute to the team.”
TR: As far as where you are right now, what do you consider as strengths for your team?
TM: They play hard on defense. The results haven’t quite been there yet but they play hard, and our intensity is picking up. Part of the learning process is to learn to play the full 32 minutes. Right now we are playing 20-25…we are not playing 32 yet. We’ll keep working at it. What we are doing best right now is playing hard and playing pretty good defense. We don’t give up a lot of shots. We’ve been rebounding well too, and I don’t think we are that large of a team. We’ve been working the boards pretty well.
TR: Looking at the squad, is the youth and inexperience the biggest thing you have to overcome?
TM: I think so. I think once they start learning to adjust, I think you’ll see a difference. It’s a matter of how fast can we make this happen. I think obviously Caroline coming back will help. Right now on offense, I’m not sure who we are looking to when we need something. But someone is going to have to learn to step up because once Caroline is back they are going to have to step up there too.
TR: Who knows, if someone hits a big shot somewhere and gains some confidence, that could be a huge thing.
TR: It’s one thing to have to play these young kids if there was no talent there. But you have a lot of potential here for the future. Do you agree?
TM: Yes I do. I do have an eye for the future but I have an eye on right now too because I still think we can contend. I don’t know, maybe we are contending for the third playoff spot or maybe we are contending for the section championship…it depends how things develop.
TR: What are your goals for the program heading into your first year as head coach?
TM: My goals are I do want to contend for the section. I do want to make the league playoffs, and I’d like to see us keep developing that. Every game it’s a step forward. I realize with the youth that we have, it might be two steps forward, one step back at times, but I don’t want to go backwards. I’d rather hold steady for a game. but we want to keep improving throughout the season and see where we are at the end.
TR: Looking at Section Two, it has a little different look with Cocalico, L-S and Donegal coming up. What teams do you see challenging for a section title right now?
TM: L-S is a favorite, and Donegal I think will be in the running for it all. Cocalico is always solid. Garden Spot has everybody back and Manheim Central I think graduated one senior…there aren’t going to be any easy games but I do think it’s pretty wide open. I would say L-S has the most experience but Donegal is playing very well right now with their two tournament games that they’ve had. And Cocalico is Cocalico.
TR: So what you are saying is it’s going to be a dog fight?
TM: Yep, and hopefully we can end up being a big enough dog.