Monday, January 22, 2018
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Ephrata clinches LL Section 2 Title


Kay Liebl sat on the visitor's bench toward the end of the first half in Quarryville Tuesday night, as her third foul flashed on the scoreboard alongside Ephrata's first-half lead over host Solanco.

The Mountaineers needed to clear one more hurdle to claim the Lancaster-Lebanon League's Section Two title, and Liebl, one of the team's senior captains, wanted to make sure they cleared it.

"At the end of the first half," Liebl said, "I didn't like the idea of sitting on the bench. I wanted to make sure I came out strong because at that point, we hadn't won anything yet."

Liebl scored 17 points in the third quarter, finishing with 23 points, and Ephrata clinched its first section title since 2013 with a 60-32 win.

The road to a section title

"When we lost to Lebanon last year," Ephrata coach Mike Garman said, "and lost the chance to win the section championship, I think it really just didn't sit well."

Looking to change this season's ending, the Mountaineers knocked off Warwick on the road Jan. 15 to pull even with Elizabethtown in the Section Two title race and won each of their six games since, including a 43-28 decision at Elizabethtown.

"That was really sort of a springboard for us," Garman said of the win at Warwick, "and it sort of set the tone."

Stauffer's opening spark

Caroline Stauffer set the tone for the Mountaineers (11-5, 13-9) Tuesday, netting 12 of her 18 points in the first quarter.

"She sparked us from the beginning," Garman said of Stauffer, "just like she did against E-town. And it was huge."

Stauffer opened the scoring with a cut from the left side into a jumper from below the free-throw line 12 seconds into the game, and she boosted the early Ephrata lead to double digits with a steal and a score with 1:04 left in the first quarter.

"It's great to have someone on the court that can always bring everyone up," Liebl said of Stauffer. "If we're in a slump, she'll take the ball to the hole. She'll shoot the outside shot. She'll get us going a lot of the time."

Meanwhile, Ephrata's defense pitched a shutout in the first quarter before Solanco's Jess Cabrera broke the scoreless drought for the Golden Mules (5-11, 7-15) one minute into the second frame with a 3-pointer from well beyond the top of the key.

"We got off to a slow start, a real slow start tonight," Solanco coach Chad McDowell said. "It wasn't anything we had done differently. It's just that shots weren't falling, and their defensive pressure forced us into turnovers, and they went into transition and got layups."

Liebl attacked in tran sition throughout the third quarter, sitting in Ephrata's second-half zone before pouncing on Solanco passes and converting them into a career-high point total.

"Kay has such great anticipation," Garman said, "to be able to get in the passing lane. She's so quick, and she just thrives on it."

'We're building a program'

But the Golden Mules continued to kick. Cabrera finished with nine points on three long-range shots. Aleska Burger and Nikki Boultinghouse added six points apiece. Gabby Rossi, the team's lone senior, also finished with six points, receiving a warm ovation from the home crowd and a hug from McDowell when she subbed out of the game late in the fourth quarter.

"We're building a program," McDowell said. "She's part of that program now. She's part of that foundation. She's part of that legacy."

The Mountaineers advance to the Lancaster-Lebanon League tournament's quarterfinal round with a home game against Lebanon Catholic. The Golden Mules closed their doors to face the emotions of a season's end.

"Our number-one goal this year was to get experience," McDowell said, "and I thought we did a nice job of getting experience. I thought the girls played hard every time they stepped on the court."