Another thriller: Mounts get past Eagles to remain perfect in section

By on December 28, 2016
Ephrata’s Dilyn Becker (right) drives past Connor Mack of Cocalico during last Wednesday’s showdown at the Ephrata Middle School. Photo by Dick Wanner

Ephrata’s Dilyn Becker (right) drives past Connor Mack of Cocalico during last Wednesday’s showdown at the Ephrata Middle School. Photo by Dick Wanner

Winning is fun.

That’s what Ephrata Coach Charlie Fisher has been preaching to his guys since taking over the program a year ago. And it’s finally starting to sink in.

Last Wednesday at home in a huge Section Two showdown against arch rival Cocalico, the Mounts won their sixth game in seven tries to start the season with a 53-46 victory over the Eagles.

Ephrata pulled ahead to stay midway through the third quarter after trailing for the first time in the game. The Mounts used a 13-1 spurt fueled by a full-court zone press to build a lead that reached 17 before the Eagles cut it close late.

The Mounts then made just enough foul shots in the final minute to hold off a furious Cocalico rally and gain their first win over the Eagles since January of 2013.

“We knew it was going to be a battle,” Fisher said of the win. “At half-time I said, ‘guys, what do you expect? We are playing Cocalico.’ No game is easy at this point, especially this one. This one is not easy. It was a battle and we knew we were going to be in a dogfight the whole time regardless of what the score was, because they can score a bunch of points in a little bit of time.”

Junior point guard Dilyn Becker led the way with a game-high 16 points for the Mounts, who improved to 3-0 in league play and remained tied atop Section Two with both Manheim Central (3-0, 6-0) and Lampeter-Strasburg (3-0, 4-2). Cocalico fell to 2-1 (2-6 overall).

“It’s fun right now,” Fisher said of the hot 6-1 start. “As a coach, you say winning is fun but they don’t realize what they are playing for until they taste it. They tasted it, and they are tasting it, and they now know, ‘hey, we are playing for something. We aren’t just playing because coach says winning is fun. We are playing because winning is fun.’”

Ephrata jumped out to a 14-10 lead after one quarter before the Eagles fought back to tie it 21-21 at the half.

Zach McGillan (6 points) opened the third period with a three pointer to put the Mounts up 24-21, but Cocalico’s Tyler Keppley, who along with Nick Monteleone led the Eagles with 10 points each, putback a teammate’s miss before Brad Heck (6) converted a lay-up with 5:16 to go in the quarter and suddenly the Eagles held their first lead at 25-24.

But the game turned Ephrata’s way after Brad DaBella converted a field goal in the paint to put the Mounts out in front by one. The Mounts then set up their press and caused the Eagles fits.

Ephrata forced six Cocalico turnovers in the final four minutes of the period, and most of them came off the press and resulted in easy transition baskets the other way.

In addition, Becker knocked down a pair of threes during that stretch as the Mounts opened up a 37-26 lead after three quarters of play.

“Their pressure hurt us,” Cocalico Coach Seth Sigman said. “We did not handle their pressure well. They went to the zone, full-court and we tried to make some splits that turned into lay-ups for them. That was the difference. It was a two, three-point game the entire way and then we had three straight turnovers. All of a sudden you blink and you are down 11.”

Cocalico did not go quietly, however.

With Ephrata seemingly in control with about two minutes to play up 10 (46-36), Cocalico began fouling and the Mounts couldn’t seem to knock down a free throw. Ephrata made just 5 of 11 free throws down the stretch as the Eagles clawed back to within 50-46 with 15 seconds to go.

But that was as close as Cocalico would get as Becker sank one of two free attempts before DaBella went a perfect 2-for-2 at the line with four seconds to play to finally put this one to bed.

“Tonight…that part of the game did not go our way,” Fisher said of his team’s performance at the line.

Everything else did for Ephrata, especially with Becker, who had a superb game at both ends, leading the show at the point.

“He’s playing with a different sense of confidence,” Fisher said of his junior point man. “When I first got here last year, I knew the skill set was there, but the mental aspect behind it wasn’t. He said the game was moving fast for him. He now realizes he can play. And he’s smooth. Defensively he’s smooth. Offensively he’s smooth…he knows what to do and he’s controlling the guys…everybody needs somebody like that, and it’s great when it’s your point guard.”

In addition to Ephrata’s effective press, another key to the Mounts’ victory was the defensive job they did on Cocalico scorer Aidan Trynosky, who suffered through a 1-for-8 shooting performance from the field and was limited to just six points.

“He just couldn’t really find shots,” Sigman said. “They did a nice job on him. They were face-guarding him everywhere, being real physical with him off the ball, and it worked. They did a good job. They dogged him the entire night.”

While Ephrata was idle until Tuesday’s holiday tournament opener, Cocalico faced another difficult non-league opponent when the Eagles traveled to Palmyra Friday night.

The Cougars (7-1) jumped out to a quick 19-8 lead after one quarter of play and held on for an eventual 57-41 victory over the Eagles.

Isaac Blatt led the way for Palmyra with 21 points while Bryant Willis added 12 and Braden Vernet chipped in with 10 points in the win.

Trynosky was the lone Eagle to reach double figures as he finished with 13 points in the loss.

While Ephrata competes in tournament play, Cocalico is now idle until Jan. 3 when the Eagles play host to Manheim Central in another key Section Two showdown.

The Mounts also return to Section Two play Jan. 3 with a home game vs. Donegal.

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