The Mounts jumped ahead of Elizabethtown in Section Two with a 43-38 win on Wednesday, January 27, 2016. John Buffone
ELIZABETHTOWN — As the final seconds wound down in Wednesday’s L-L League basketball contest versus Ephrata, Elizabethtown’s Rachel Sweger went up for a shot beyond the arc, searching for her fifth 3-pointer of the game and trying desperately to help her team draw even with the visiting Mountaineers.
But Ephrata’s Kay Liebl reacted quickly, deflecting the shot and helping the Lady Mounts hold on to the 43-38 victory, putting Ephrata up one game over the Lady Bears in the Section Two standings with two League games to play.
The backcourt tandem of Liebl and junior sharp-shooter Caroline Stauffer (20 points) led the way with aggressive defense throughout a contest that at times seemed more like a game of arcade pin-ball than girls’ high school basketball.
“I think it was a little over aggressive, but we definitely wanted to come out strong,” began Stauffer, acknowledging the physical play on both ends, “and show them that they weren’t going to push us around. We were going to take it to them.”
Stauffer’s trio of three’s in the first quarter helped the Mounts to a 9-4 first quarter lead, while Ephrata’s defense had the Bears (8-6 Section Two, 10-9 overall) on their heels much of the first half, translating to a 19-10 halftime edge in favor of the Mounts (9-5, 10-9).
But Etown would respond in the second half, utilizing a traditional 3-point play from forward Elise Forry that sparked an 8-0 run to open the fourth quarter.
“The first half we looked so tight,” said Bears’ head coach John Myers. “We knew it was a big game … and none of our kids looked like we were having fun. We definitely came out fresher and more relaxed in the second half and played much better.”
Etown was paced by Sweger (17 points) and Amber Orban (9 points) on offense as leading scorer Marena Lonardi was held without a point before fouling out with midway through the final frame.
“We played them at home and they beat us pretty good, actually had us down by 25,” explained Mounts’ head coach Mike Garman. “I think that was just something that was in the back of our minds. We knew coming up here was a really tough game. Our kids, first half, just played such tough defense.”
After the Etown tied the score at 31 on a pair of Orban free-throws, Ephrata went right back on top on a wing 3-pointer from senior Britt Ritter.
“We all kind of got together and just decided we’re not going to let them come back,” Stauffer said of the effort to pull away late. “During timeouts we had the attitude that there’s no way they’re stopping us. We’re just going to keep going.”
Ritter’s assist inside to Kenzie Horst (10 points) pushed the lead to seven, withstanding another trey from Sweger, before the defense and a Liebl free-throw helped to close it out.
Both teams previously clinched a spot in the League tournament, though a more favorable matchup likely awaits the team who finishes out on top in the quarterfinals, set for February 8.
“We both can’t come out on top, unfortunately,” Myers said in regard to Wednesday’s game, though perhaps offering a peek of what’s around the corner. “All it means is you have to go play the game. Nothing is assumed; we have to win two and they have to win two.”
For at least one night, however, things appear a bit more cut and dry for the Lady Mounts.
“We’re not even looking forward right now; we’re just ready to keep going and pushing forward,” Stauffer said, “and we’ll see where it takes us.”
Ephrata 43, Elizabethtown 38
C. Stauffer 6 5-8 20, K. Horst 5 0-1 10, L. Shuke 3 0-0 6, B. Ritter 1 0-0 3, K. Liebl 1 1-3, K. Umana 0 1-2 1, K. McKim 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 7-14 43.
R. Sweger 6 1-3 17, A. Orban 3 2-2 9, E. Forry 2 1-3 5, B. Polites 1 1-2 3, S. Pierson 1 0-0 2, S. Arnold 1 0-0 2, M. Lonardi 0 0-0 0, S. Ortiz-Kreiner 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 5-10 38.
EPH _ 09 _ 10 _ 12 _ 12 _ — _ 43
ET _ 04 _ 06 _ 13 _ 15 _ — _ 38
3-Point Goals — Ephrata 4 (Stauffer 3, Ritter); Etown 5 (Sweger 4, Orban)
JV Score — Ephrata 34, Elizabethtown 25