Spartans deal Mounts first Section Two loss

By on December 20, 2017

Ephrata was dealt a tough blow Monday night. And it actually happened before the ball was even tipped in their Section Two showdown vs. visiting Garden Spot.

During pre-game warm-up, junior forward Xavian Rodriguez, who was coming off a 24-point performance in Friday’s win over E-town, was informed by the referees that he could not play with the splint he’s used all season to protect his injured finger, due to safety concerns.

With little time to find a replacement splint for his digit, the Mounts were forced to start the game without him. And boy, did the Spartans take advantage.

Garden Spot burst out of the gates and sprinted to an eventual 38-19 lead. The Mounts seemingly had no answer early for the Spartans’ quickness, or their hot shooting from the three-point line. Midway through the third, Rodriguez finally entered the game for the first time wearing a replacement split, and made an immediate impact.

With Rodriguez on the floor, Ephrata climbed back into it and got to within six points at 49-43 early in the third, thanks to a 24-11 surge. However, the Spartans got some key buckets late, saw Rodriguez foul out (in a little more than one quarter), and GS was able to hold on for a 57-47 win.

“Our guys were resilient,” Ephrata Coach Jonathan Treese said when asked about his team’s second-half rally. “We can’t fix circumstance, and (starting the game without Rodriguez) was the circumstance we were given. We got to make the best of it, and they jumped out on us. After that first quarter, we improved as the game went on. It was just too big of a hole for us to dig out. I learned that we are resilient, and I feel I learned that we have our best basketball ahead of us.”

Jordan Shewbridge did most of the damage offensively for Garden Spot (2-0 section, 4-1 overall). The senior knocked down three treys on the night en route to finishing with a game-high 22 points. Fellow guard Jacob Arndt chipped in with 12 points for Garden Spot.

Senior Sam Cable scored 13 points to pace the Mounts (1-1 section, 4-2 overall). Zack McGillan added 11, including three treys.

As for Rodriguez, he scored eight points and was credited with three steals before leaving the game for good with five quick fouls.

Treese was asked why the splint, which had been approved for play in each of the five previous games for Rodriguez, as well as senior reserve Holden Haws, who wears an identical splint for a similar injury, was not allowed on this night.

“We were told with the soft tape around (the splint), that it was safe for basketball,” he said. “I don’t know why it can change so drastically. We’ve had different crews from two different chapters allow it. I don’t really know.”

“According to the interpretation of the lead official, he said no matter what, it has to be soft. At the time, we were measuring is it safe for them to take the splints off and try to play? We were trying to look into what other options we had, splint-wise, that would work. Of course we don’t want to see kids hurt themselves worse, so that was a very tough position to be in.”

Eventually, they were able to find something that would work, and moving forward, Treese said, “we are going to make sure we have clarification so we know exactly how we are suppose to handle those things because we were obviously given different information.”

As for the game itself, Garden Spot sprinted out to a quick 10-0 lead less than two minutes into the game as the Mounts struggled with the Spartans’ ability to drive and dish.

After a quick time-out, Ephrata did reel off five straight points as Cable nailed a pair of free throws before McGillan splashed a three to cut the Spartan lead in half. However, a Shewbridge trey sparked a 10-3 GS rally to the end of the quarter to up the lead to 20-8 after one.

The Spartans continued to pour it on in the second, opening the quarter on a 13-3 run that was fueled by four Ephrata turnovers which led to three transition buckets and a pair of threes, one each from Kellito Westmoreland (8 points) and Arndt to up the advantage to 31-11.

Ephrata did finish the quarter strong with an 8-3 rally, but the damage was done as the Mounts trailed 38-19 after 16 minutes of play.

“We knew they were going to spread us out and use the dribble-drive attack to get the looks that they wanted,” Treese said. “We didn’t do a great job of stuffing up those gaps so they were allowed to get way too deep in the paint. Our rotations were just a little too slow. We just came out flat and credit to Garden Spot. Like we told our guys, if they come out and get the looks they want early and they start hitting, you are going to have to ride that run. It’s going to last for awhile. Eventually we’ll tighten some things up and take away some of those good looks. But if they are getting good looks and are hitting them, they are a dangerous team. They can put 20, 30 up in a quarter just like that. And that’s what they did.”

Ephrata trailed 42-21 early in the third when a Jared Groff bucket and a three-point play by Dilyn Becker (6 points) cut the deficit to 16 and got the home folks on their feet. The Mounts also got it cranking on the defensive end, forcing three-straight turnovers during that stretch.

Then with 5:05 left in the quarter, Rodriguez made his first appearance and that seemed to spark them even more. After a lay-up by Garden Spot’s Westmoreland, Rodriguez converted six-straight points at the other end on a pair of field goals and two free throws, and suddenly the Mounts cut the deficit to 44-32, and it would remain a 12-point game into the fourth.

Garden Spot then opened the fourth spread out in four corners, looking to slash and dish while bleeding some clock. But Ephrata kept coming.

Defensively, the Mounts held GS scoreless through the first half of the period while Cable converted a pair of lay-ups and Becker added a hoop to cut it to 49-43 with 5:20 still to go.

To their credit though, the Spartans would hold on. Keontae Nunn answered Ephrata’s run with a big bucket with four minutes to go, then Arndt made one of two free throws to kick the lead back to nine (52-43) with 3:10 remaining.

After Rodriguez was whistled for a charge and his fifth foul with 2:30 to go, Ephrata did get it back to a six-point game on a bucket by Becker and a foul shot by Brad DaBella (7 points). But Shewbridge converted a lay-up with 1:19 to play and the Spartans finally put it out of reach going 3-for-4 from the line in the final minute to seal it.

Despite the loss, Treese, who is in his first season as Mounts’ head coach, is happy with his team’s play after six games.

“There are certainly a lot more positives than there are negatives,” he said. “I would say the things that we weren’t doing well we were able to address and improve upon. I know Garden Spot had a lot of open threes tonight but in general we’ve rebounded better since we took that loss to Exeter. And last week each game we guarded the three-point line a little better. Those are big improvements that will win us basketball games in our section down the road.”

This past Friday vs. E-town, Ephrata had its best offensive output of the season as three players finished in double figures, led by Rodriguez’s 24 points. DaBella, who nailed four treys in the game, chipped in with 19 while McGillan added 10.

Ephrata used a 15-2 first quarter run to take control in an eventual 61-48 victory in the Section Two opener for both schools.

The Mounts also were in action last Wednesday at Warwick where they earned a 59-57 victory over the Warriors in overtime.

The Mounts out-scored Warwick 11-9 in the extra period to hold off the Warriors and earn the victory.

DaBella paced the Mounts with 20 points. Rodriguez added 18 and Sam Cable had 12.

Ryan Shirk scored a career high 22 points to lead the Warriors.

Ephrata will be back on the court Wednesday night in Denver as the Mounts get set to battle arch rival Cocalico in another key Section Two match-up, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

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