Ephrata earns cheers in win
Mounts top Cocalico to forge tie for lead in L-L Section Two BY JASON FULGINITI, Sports Staff
It was by far the biggest crowd Sarah Haddon and her teammates had ever had at one of their girls' basketball games.
Problem was ...
"It was mostly (Cocalico's) crowd," Ephrata's senior forward said Friday night. "It was mostly their student section. So we all said, 'Let's just go out there and pretend they're cheering for us.' "
The strategy apparently worked, because before long, Cocalico's student section didn't have a whole lot to cheer about.
Using a swarming mix of zone and man-to-man defenses to hold Cocalico to a season-low in points, Ephrata forged a tie for the L-L League Section Two lead with a 38-28 victory over the Eagles in front of an overflow crowd in Denver.
Cocalico (12-3 L-L, 16-4 overall), which could have clinched the section crown with a win Friday, finishes the regular season at Solanco (10-5, 13-8) Tuesday, when Ephrata (12-3, 16-5) will host Lebanon (6-9, 9-12).
Should Cocalico and Ephrata both win Tuesday, they would square off in a one-game playoff for the section title later next week at a site and time to be determined.
Both teams already have clinched L-L playoff berths.
"They executed," Cocalico coach Tony DiMatteo said of the Mountaineers, who held his team to its lowest output since a 33-29 loss to Solanco on Jan. 9. "They had a really good gameplan and they made shots when they had to.
"We got in a hole and we couldn't get out of it. (Ephrata) did a nice job."
Most notably on defense.
Mixing man-to-man defense with a 2-3 zone throughout, the Mounts held Cocalico to just 12 first-half points (after which Ephrata led 17-12) and to just two points in the third quarter, when they blew the game open.
Forced to take one quick shot after another from the perimeter, the Eagles finished 10-for-43 (23.3 percent) from the floor by game's end, including a dismal 5-for- 24 clip (20.8 percent) in the second half.
"We stressed that all week," Ephrata coach Mike Garman said afterward. "Just that you have to be able to go out and defend and make them work for everything they get, and (the Mounts) did a great job.
"If you're giving up layups instead of (forcing the opponent to take) 20-foot shots, it makes a big difference."
As it did Friday, when Cocalico took its last lead, 12-11, with 3:47 left in the second quarter.
But after ending the first half with a 6-0 run, Ephrata put the game out of reach by outscoring the Eagles 12-2 in the third, giving it a 29-14 lead with a quarter left to play.
Haddon, who finished with 10 rebounds, had six of her game-high 12 points in that quarter.
"They were on a mission," Garman said of his players, who lost a 46-43 decision to Cocalico in Ephrata on Jan. 7. "They definitely wanted to come over here and win. We had nothing to lose (knowing Cocalico would have clinched the section with a win). So for us to come over here and be tentative just wasn't going to work. (The Mounts) had to be as aggressive as they can."
But the night wasn't completely void of drama for Ephrata, which turned the ball over 10 times in the final quarter, setting the stage for a 12-6 Eagles run that cut the lead to 35-26 with just under 2:00 remaining.
But a putback by Haddon with 1:30 left pushed the Mounts' lead back into double figures (37-26), enabling them to work the clock the rest of the way.
And to, potentially, set up a rubber match for the section title next week.
"I don't know if my heart can take another one to be honest with you," Garman said with a grin. "But we have to win Tuesday or this whole talk doesn't mean anything."