Flat at the finish: Mounts struggle as hot Hershey closes door on season

By on March 1, 2017
Ephrata’s Brendan Holbritter (right) drives on Hershey’s Drew Painter during Thursday’s playoff game in Ephrata. Photo by Dwight Palm
Ephrata’s Brendan Holbritter (right) drives on Hershey’s Drew Painter during Thursday’s playoff game in Ephrata. Photo by Dwight Palm

Ephrata’s Brendan Holbritter (right) drives on Hershey’s Drew Painter during Thursday’s playoff game in Ephrata. Photo by Dwight Palm

This season will certainly be looked upon as an outstanding one for the Ephrata boys basketball program.

After hovering at or below mediocrity for the last decade or so, the Mounts have turned things around dramatically under second-year Coach Charlie Fisher.

Although they had just three wins a year ago in Fisher’s initial campaign, the building blocks were set. And the Mounts took off and ran this season, earning Ephrata’s first winning season since 2005 while advancing to both the L-L League and District Three playoffs.

But as good a year as it was, certainly, Fisher couldn’t imagine going out the way his team did last Thursday in a District Three ninth-place consolation game at home vs. Hershey.

Fresh off three tough last-second losses in four games, including a gut-wrenching 38-37 loss to L-S in the first round of Districts last week, the Mounts simply had little left in the tank.

And the Trojans took advantage.

With Ephrata trailing 9-8 after one, the Trojans caught fire at the offensive end in the second quarter, making their final eight shots, including four, three-pointers to open up a huge 32-14 half-time advantage. The lead continued to swell to as high as 33 points in the second half before a late charge by Ephrata cut it to a more respectable 65-45 final.

Jake Wilson scored a game-high 22 points to lead Hershey (13-12), which moved on and defeated Garden Spot, 54-43 Monday to clinch a spot in the upcoming State Tournament.

Ephrata, meanwhile, closed out the season at 16-10.

“All good things got to come to an end,” Fisher said following the loss. “Here is the thing, it’s hard for anybody to come back from winning to losing in the last minute, followed by winning to losing in the last minute, and then the L-S game we lost in the last minute, so that was three out of four. The Columbia game was tight but we were able to win that one. It was a matter of time but it stinks that it ends this way. I’m proud of the effort. I’m just not OK with how it ended.”

The key to Ephrata’s success this season was its play at the defensive end (the Mounts allowed just 45 points per game), but Thursday Hershey continued to get good looks at the basket and converted in the second quarter.

Wilson did the most damage with eight of his points in the second quarter as the Trojans went on their 23-6 run. And Luke Blackburn (8 points) closed out the half in style, draining a three at the buzzer.

While Fisher certainly credited Hershey, he said some of the Trojans’ success was attributed to his team’s defense on this night.

“The biggest thing is they got hot,” he said. “But some of that was us not paying attention to detail. Other times we were a step too slow. When you play our defense, you can’t be a step too slow. That’s the thing when you battle and you grind out 40-point wins like we do, you got to show up, and we didn’t do it.”

To their credit, the Mounts did finish strong on this otherwise forgetful night. Trailing 51-20 heading to the fourth, Ephrata got about as hot as Hershey was in the second quarter. Junior Brendan Holbritter hit three triples while scoring all 11 of his points in the final frame. Sophomore Zack McGillan, who led Ephrata with 13 points on the night, added 10 fourth-quarter points.

Defensively, Ephrata forced a whopping 10 turnovers in the final eight minutes after getting just four through the first three quarters.

In the end, the Mounts found a way to finish off the season on a positive note.

Ephrata’s lone two seniors on the team, Micah Krauter and Larson Kopp, had eight and two points respectively in their final game in purple and gold.

Looking ahead to next season, Fisher, who returns nine of his top 11 players, said they need to continue to improve, starting with the off-season.

“We need to get better,” he said. “We had a great off-season last year, and the off season that’s coming up needs to be as good if not better than it was last year, because that’s how you start a program. The young guys that are going to be on JV again, they need to know, next year is my time to be on JV again, and then the following year it’s my turn to be on varsity because a lot of the team leaves. That’s how programs start. From sixth grade on up this summer we hope we do what we have to do to improve as a program, and go from there. We got the first winning season under our belt, the first playoff appearances, and now we just have to build everything else. Moving forward, that’s going to be the goal.”



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *