Not much fazes Hempfield’s girls basketball team these days.
Not after back-to-back Lancaster-Lebanon League Section One titles, last year’s league crown, and a perfect start to this season.
Not even a 10-point second-half deficit, on the road, behind enemy lines, against a veteran team coming off back-to-back section championships of its own.
The Black Knights shoveled their way out of a double-digit deficit with a game-changing 19-0 tear, and Hempfield held off host Ephrata 42-37 Tuesday night in an L-L League crossover clash.
“It was definitely a big gut-check,” Hempfield coach Kendra Merrifield said. “At halftime we challenged them to get back to our style of playing, which is all five of them together.”
The Knights (6-0 league, 9-0 overall) responded.
Ephrata’s Malory Kline knocked down a top-of-the-key 3-pointer on the Mountaineers’ first trip of the third quarter for a 28-18 lead. Hempfield answered back with a haymaker; the Knights closed the third on a 13-0 run, including Sophia Ott’s steal and buzzer-beater layup.
Hempfield, which remained alone in first place in the Section 1 standings, then went 6-0 to open the fourth and cap the 19-0 spree, and the Knights went from down 10 to up 11 when Autumn Cook polished off a conventional three-point play for a 42-31 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
The biggest shot of the game might have come just before halftime, when Hempfield’s Lauren Moffatt, who scored a team-high 14 points with eight rebounds, hit a 3-pointer to slice Ephrata’s lead to 25-18 at the break — while giving the Knights a ton of momentum going into the locker room.
“One of our big keys is focus and finish,” Merrifield said, “and I think this group has really bought into at whatever moment, whether we’re up or we’re down, our attitude and our demeanor doesn’t change and we’re calm and we just play our game.”
The Mounts (2-2, 4-6) had a 23-13 lead on the second of Cara Tiesi’s two first-half treys. Jasmine Griffin keyed Ephrata’s first-half explosion with 16 of her game-high 22 points.
But the 10-point deficit only spurred on Hempfield, which didn’t turn the ball over in the third quarter, caught and passed the Mounts, and remained perfect.
“They’re so used to being in these kinds of tight games,” Ephrata coach Brian Cerullo said about Hempfield. “Their kids are really calm under pressure. They know how to hold onto the basketball. They know how to make the other team work on defense. We made them work, but there were too many long stretches when we couldn’t score.”