Girls teams have work to do down the stretch

By on January 22, 2014

Ephrata’s Irene Lascarides (right) drives against Marissa Gingrich of Cocalico during their recent game in Denver. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

Ephrata’s Irene Lascarides (right) drives against Marissa Gingrich of Cocalico during their recent game in Denver. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

If the season would end today, both Cocalico and Ephrata would be on the outside looking in as far as the L-L League girls basketball playoffs are concerned.

Who would have thought that when the season began?

But with always tough Lebanon sitting atop the Section Two standings and the surprising the emergence of a young Conestoga Valley squad, both the Lady Eagles and Lady Mounts find themselves looking up in the standings.

Fortunately, there are games yet to be played, but both squads have some work to do.

Cocalico (5-5 section, 9-6 overall) is in better position, sitting one game behind CV (6-4) and two behind frontrunning Lebanon (7-3) with one more crossover game to play (Penn Manor tonight) and five more section contests. Ephrata (4-6, 7-9), the defending Section Two champ, needs to beat Warwick tonight (6:30 p.m. in Lititz) before closing strong in its five Section Two contests that remain.

The top two teams in each section qualify for the L-L League playoffs which begin Monday, Feb. 10.

“Our focus is just going to have to be one game at a time at this point,” Cocalico Coach Tony DiMatteo said Tuesday. “You really can’t worry about what everybody else is doing. We just sort of have to take care of our own business. We are in a little bit of a hole here…we know that. Lebanon and CV are both up on us, but we get to play them again. Anybody can beat anybody. I think the league has proven that. On any night, anyone can win so we are just looking at being ready for our next game.”

As for Ephrata, which won the section title a year ago, for the Lady Mounts to be in contention this late in the season is an accomplishment in itself. Despite graduating four senior starters from last year’s team, the Lady Mounts have hung in and shown major growth with a lineup made up predominantly of underclassmen.

No matter what happens the rest of the way, Ephrata Coach Mike Garman said Tuesday the year is already a success.

“I think going into this year with a young team, you always try to set your sights high because that’s what you want to do,” he said. “I think overall, we’ve done some good things this year. It’s a group of kids that works hard and is very gritty. We just compete, and that’s all you can ask.”

The Lady Mounts certainly did that Monday night at home in a non-league contest vs. Section Four leader Elco.

Ephrata dug in defensively and built a 23-11 half-time lead and held off the Raiders down the stretch in what turned out to be a 37-22 Lady Mounts’ victory.

The 22 points was a season low for the Raiders, who are averaging close to 50 points a contest.

As for the Ephrata offense, while no one reached double figures in scoring, Kenzie Horst had eight points to lead the way while Kelly Liebl and Caroline Stauffer each contributed six points in the win.

Ephrata also was in action this past Friday on the road at Hempfield where the host Black Knights prevailed in the Section One-Two crossover game by a 46-26 decision.

Leading 13-7 after one quarter, Hempfield (8-2, 10-6) out-scored Ephrata 10-1 in the second period to blow it open.

Kelly Liebl scored seven points to lead the Lady Mounts while Alecia Rohrer had 11 to pace the Black Knights.

While Ephrata was losing at Hempfield, Cocalico suffered a stunning 43-41 double overtime loss at Cedar Crest.

DiMatteo, who returned to the bench after missing several games due to the death of his mother in Florida, surprised his team by arriving just before the start of the contest.

“It was a pretty emotional night,” he said Tuesday. “I changed my flight to land at Harriburg, and got a ride and walked in toward the end of the JV game. My kids didn’t know I was coming, so that was pretty emotional and they were pretty fired up,”

It carried over and helped the Lady Eagles to a 28-22 lead after three quarters of play. Cocalico still held a three-point lead when Cedar Crest called a time-out with 15 seconds to play. Following the time-out, Crest missed from inside the arc, but after an offensive rebound, the Falcons kicked it out to Nikki Wagner, who drained a three at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.

“We had the game,” DiMatteo said. “I told my kids, let’s force them inside the three-point line, and they did exactly what I said. But (the Falcons) got the offensive rebound, kicked it out, and hit the three.”

Cedar Crest then went up early in the first OT, but key three-pointers by Cocalico’s Marissa Gingrich and Natalie Sukanick brought the Lady Eagles back and forced a second extra session.

Then, late in the second OT, the score was knotted at 41-41 when the Falcons had possession with a chance to win it. They worked the ball around before Abby Munnion got the ball at the foul line (with her back to the basket) with just a few ticks to go. She turned, let it go and it went in at the buzzer, giving the Falcons the exciting two-point win.

“We forced the ball to the right person, someone who hadn’t scored all game,” DiMatteo said. “She had her back to the basket, we were pressuring her, and she turns around and throws it up and it goes in. Two buzzer beaters in one night…what are you going to do?”

Gingrich led the way for Cocalico with 17 points while Emily White chipped in with 10 for Cocalico. Wagner paced CC with 15 points in the win.

Both Cocalico and Ephrata were scheduled to be in action Tuesday night but all games around the league were postponed. The Lady Eagles will make up their home game with Penn Manor Wednesday night (7:30 p.m.) while Ephrata heads to Warwick for its make-up game Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.

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