Monday, January 22, 2018
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Mounts down Elizabethtown

A certain intangible energy empowered the Ephrata Mountaineers Wednesday, as they moved into sole possession of first place in Lancaster-Lebanon League's Section Two race with a 42-38 win over the host Elizabethtown.

"It's so hard to explain," Ephrata coach Mike Garman said. "It's not something you can really coach. it's from within."

It came through Caroline Stauffer's game-high 20 points. It came through a first-half defensive stand. And it came through key plays down the stretch after the Bears found their bearings and rallied to tie the game in the fourth quarter.

"They found a way there at the end, even though it got close," Garman said, "to create another lead."

Stauffer gave the Mountaineers (9-5 L-L, 10-9 overall) their first lead of the contest with a 3-pointer from the left corner 13 seconds after the opening tip.

"Before the game," said Stauffer, a junior guard, "I just mentally pictured myself making shots. I was just ready. I needed to come out and set the tone for the team."

Stauffer added two more 3-pointers by the end of the frame, bucketing a shot at the buzzer to send Ephrata into the second quarter with a 9-4 lead.

"That really jump-started us," Garman said. "That was a big boost for us."

Meanwhile, Ephrata's defense held the Bears (8-6, 10-9) to four first-half field goals and 10 points before the break. The Mountaineers also shut out Marena Lonardi, Elizabethtown's leading scorer.

"They just did such a tremendous job defensively," Garman said, "and they got to every loose ball, and they rebounded. We weren't that big. They just played with so much heart."

Ephrata's Kay Liebl capped the Mountaineers' first-half scoring with a steal at Ephrata's 3-point line and a basket at the other end.

"In the first half, we just looked so tight," Elizabethtown coach John Myers said. "We knew it was a big game, and we were just playing with a weight on our shoulders."

The Bears shook the weight in the second half, riding a 10-0 run from the final minute of the third quarter to the 4:49 mark in the fourth, highlighted by a 3-point play stemming from a steal by Marena Lonardi and a pass to Elise Forry for a basket and one.

"We definitely came out fresher and more relaxed and everything in the second half," Myers said, "and we played much better."

But Ephrata answered, drawing from its certain, intangible energy to break a 31-31 tie with a Brittany Ritter 3-pointer with 4:30 to play.

"During timeouts, we were talking," Stauffer said. "We had the attitude that there was no way they're stopping us, and we're just going to keep going."

Stauffer took a defensive rebound to the Ephrata basket for a pair of points in the fourth quarter. On the next possession, she eased up on a rush to help Ephrata control the clock and set up a possession that ended with two of Kenzie Horst's 10 points.

"We knew (Stauffer) was the one to stop," Myers said. "And Horst. But good players make plays. She made plays."

With a one-game lead in the section, Ephrata wraps up its Section Two schedule with games scheduled for Thursday at home against Conestoga Valley and Tuesday at Solanco. Elizabethtown, paced by Rachel Sweger's 17 points, finishes with games scheduled at home Thursday against Lebanon and Tuesday at Conestoga Valley.