Tuesday, January 23, 2018
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Mounts edge Tide

Ephrata was playing its first postseason boys basketball game in 12 years Friday, after its first winning season in 12 years.

Early on, as coach Charlie Fisher admitted afterward, “We were as nervous as could be."

The Mounts got over it. They held off a spirited Columbia rally to advance to the main bracket of the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs with a 43-39 win at Conestoga Valley.

This was a play-in game, between the third-place finishers in L-L Sections Two and Three. The Mounts (16-7) earned a Monday trip to Lebanon to face the Section One champion Cedars in a quarterfinal game.

“What a great experience that will be," said Fisher, who looks younger than some of his players.

Ephrata won just three games a year ago, in Fisher’s first season at the helm.

It took the Mounts nearly six minutes to score Friday, but that’s not terribly unusual.

“We play defense," Fisher said, “and hope the ball goes in the basket."

Eventually it did, but Columbia, quick and scrappy, led most of the first half. The Crimson Tide was up 15-7 early in the second quarter before Ephrata’s intermittent zone press started to have its intended, if subtle, effect.

“We wanted to press more, but early on, we couldn’t make a bucket," Fisher said. “We just wanted to try to control their get-it-and-go."

Ephrata ended the half with a 7-0 flurry, five of the points by junior forward Brad DaBella, to lead 21-17.

The Tide suffered through a labored, seven-turnover third quarter, in the final seconds of which Ephrata stood on the foul line with a chance to push the lead to 11.

It missed both. Still afloat, the Tide rose up in the final stanza.

Columbia scored on six straight possessions, culminating in a circus, over-the-head layup by Jaden Neal and then an Andrew Sheckard 3-pointer. The Tide led, 36-34.

There was some clutch one-upping from there to the wire. Ephrata’s shooter, Brendan Holbritter, answered Sheckard’s three.

Columbia missed at the other end. Ephrata found its quarterback, Dilyn Becker, who got fouled with a half-minute left and drilled both.

Columbia’s Meleik Crenshaw scored on a tough one-hander in traffic to make it 39-38.

Again Ephrata got it to Becker. Again the Tide fouled him, and again he went to the line. He is Ephrata’s leading scorer (albeit with a modest 9.8 points per game) but went into this game’s final 30 seconds scoreless and 0-for-2 from the line.

He drilled two again.

“A smooth player with a smooth stroke," Fisher said. “He needs to be on the court, regardless."

Here Columbia blinked. Up three, Fisher had his guys switching screens and defending the arc very aggressively.

The Tide threw the ball to Ephrata’s Micah Krauter, who pushed it ahead to Xavian Rodriguez for a clinching layup.

The first three quarters were ... let’s used the word “labored” again. But the final stanza was championship stuff.

Krauter scored 12 and Rodriguez 10 for the Mounts. Neal, quick and athletic, had a game-high 15 for the Tide (16-5), who figure to be a tough out as a likely four-seed in a strong, top-heavy Class 3A bracket in the upcoming District Three playoffs.

As for the Mounts, Fisher admitted to them after the game that, “I think I was as nervous as you were."