Monday, January 22, 2018
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Donegal holds off Ephrata

For the Donegal girls’ basketball team, it was a pretty basic blueprint.

Jump out to an early lead, withstand a rally or two and win.

The Indians followed it to perfection Tuesday night, the end result being a 56-53 win over Ephrata in a Lancaster-Lebanon League quarterfinal at Donegal.

The win pushes the Section Three champs into a Thursday semifinal opposite Section One champ McCaskey, which bounced Lebanon Catholic 67-46 in another quarterfinal.

“Our girls step up in big moments,” Donegal coach Chadd Ward said. “Tonight was a big moment for them, for the Donegal program. I just think that’s what they do, they shine in these big moments.”

The Indians broke out of the gate with a 7-0 lead and eventually led 17-11 after one quarter. Kristen Stark fueled their quick start by scoring eight of her 16 points in the first quarter.

“We got off to a little bit of a slow start,” Ephrata coach Mike Garman said. “That really hurt. I think had we come out and maybe gotten a lead or been right with them, that might have been a little different.”

Donegal added a point to its lead in the second and third quarters and took a 42-34 lead into the fourth. Donegal’s largest lead was 38-25 with 3:31 left in the third.

The Mounts (16-7) made it a five-point game (53-48) game with 1:47 left, but didn’t get closer until Kelly Liebl drained a 3-pointer with five seconds left.

“Every time I thought we got it to where we needed it to get to, they would get another easy bucket,” Garman said. “They scored 56 points. It’s tough to win when you give up 56 points.”

Rachel Robinson, scoreless in the first quarter, matched Stark with 16 points, while Meghan Diffenderfer added 13 for the Indians.

Turning point: Trailing 40-31 with 21 seconds left in the third, Ephrata’s Caroline Stauffer hit a trey to seemingly give the Mounts some momentum. But, with two seconds left, Stark answered at the other end with a long baseline jumper with her toe on the line to put Donegal up eight heading into the final quarter.

Player of the game: Liebl pumped in 30 points, 15 in each half.

Key statistic: Only three players scored for Ephrata. Aside from Liebl’s 30, Stauffer added 15 (all in the second half) and Kenzie Horst had eight.

Quotable: Garman, on Liebl: “Kelly’s just an amazing individual. She just competes and competes. ... I’ve never had anyone like her. She wanted to win this so bad.”

Up next: Ephrata, seeded 14th in District Three Class AAAA bracket, hosts No. 19 Daniel Boone on Friday night. The winner plays at third-seeded CD East next Tuesday.