Wednesday, January 24, 2018
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Cedars Rally Past Mounts

LEBANON — At least Charlie Fisher, Ephrata’s young boys basketball coach, knows now that his young, resurgent team isn’t afraid.

The fearless Mounts played what had to have been their best game in years Monday. It wasn’t enough, however, because Camryn Shaak wouldn’t let Lebanon lose.

Shaak, a senior guard, scored 19 second-half points to help the Cedars rally to a 52-50 win in a dramatic quarterfinal game of the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs.

“I was just out there playing," Shaak said after reviving the offense-challenged (on this night) Section One champs. “We’ve all been through this before. We all rose up."

It means the Cedars (19-4) will face Section Three champ Lancaster Mennonite in a 7 p.m. league semifinal Wednesday at Cedar Crest. Mennonite held off Manheim Township 77-70 in their quarterfinal Monday.

Ephrata could have been seen as the outlier among the league playoff eightsome, a three-win team a year ago, with only two seniors, that defends like crazy but often struggles to score.

Fisher believes his guys shook off the playoff nerves in last week’s narrow, tense defeat of Columbia in a play-in game.

“It was a different bunch tonight on the bus, in the locker room," he said. “We played with some confidence tonight. We weren’t worried about anything."

The Mounts’ defense, a version of the Virginia pack-line man-to-man, slowed the Cedars’ half court offense to a trudge.

Meanwhile, Ephrata got to the rim some and even threw in a 3-pointer here and there. It led 18-7 early in the second quarter and 24-13 with a couple minutes left in the half.

Shaak, a shooter, went to the break with more airballs (two) than points (one).

What got him going was nothing fancy, just a couple free throws early in the third stanza.

“That’s how it was growing up, shooting with my Grandpa," Shaak said. “If you’re struggling, get to the foul line."

This time he really got going. He drilled a three two possessions after the freebies. Then a drive. Then another three. And another, as Lebanon went from down eight to within 33-32.

The Cedars took the lead briefly, on a rim-run by Sabu Pereyra, at 36-35. Ephrata’s Dilyn Becker answered with a 35-foot bomb at the quarter buzzer, the place going flat-out nuts.

A couple elements swung it Lebanon’s way. Its full-court press forced nine second-half turnovers. Ephrata was in the team-foul penalty for the entire fourth quarter and virtually half the game.

Critically, Lebanon made 17 of 20 free throws.

And the Cedars, some of whom have been playing together since their biddy-ball days, had a bit more poise and polish down the stretch.

But only a tiny bit more. Ephrata’s Brad DaBella (17 points) nailed three clutch treys in the fourth quarter.

Lebanon’s Shaq Ortiz — not normally a bomber — matched the second of them. Shaak matched the last of them, with 1:25 left, to give his team a 51-50 lead.

The Mounts got three shots at it the next trip, two of them blocked in traffic. They missed the front end of a one-and-one with 38 ticks remaining. Lebanon got a free throw from Pereyra at :25.4, and Ephrata sort of held for the last shot.

It ended up with a baseline inbounds with 4.6 seconds left, but got only a tough 3-point attempt at the buzzer.

“We were ready for everything," Fisher said. “The 1-2-2 (zone press) killed us."

“I know I have tough kids," Lebanon coach Tim Speraw said. “I know they’re gonna fight back. The majority of my halftime speech was, ‘How bad do you want it?’ ‘’

He found out.