Ephrata Makes A Statement As Mounts Dominate Conrad Weiser, Notch Impressive Nonleague Victory To Continue Hot Start
Written by: Andy Herr on Thursday, December 16th, 2021
You know, there’s something to be said for putting in the effort and the work. As we almost all can relate, whether it be in sports, or in life in general, rolling up your sleeves and dedicating yourself towards achieving a sought-after goal can often be one of the most rewarding things that you’ll ever have the pleasure of partaking in. Of course, that is to say that it’s not always an overnight success story. No, sometimes the road to travel on the way back up isn’t the easiest of paths to take given the traffic jams and detours sometimes placed upon your way. Regardless though, you can be rest assured that your hard work will never truly be in vain, albeit if you don’t end up stealing the headlines and reaping the fruits of your labor right away. Ironically, speaking of which, there just so happens to be a boys’ basketball program residing in the Lancaster-Lebanon League that seems to fit that very same definition. That of course being none other than the Ephrata Mounts.
Since second-year head coach Scott Gaffey- a legitimate and certified hoops junkie given his very bloodlines-took over control of the program before the start of the 2020-21 campaign, the offseason work put in by Ephrata’s program since his arrival has been equal parts impressive and much-needed. You see, in years prior, seeing Ephrata pop up in the offseason circuit was something typically relegated to just one summer league by and large. However, in the last two years alone, the Mounts’ program has done an about-face, crisscrossing the eastern part of the state by partaking in a bevy of summer leagues and showcase events that they can work themselves into. And when you get right down to it, is there really any other way to negotiate with the other heavyweights that call L-L Section Two their home? Yeah, simply wishing and hoping you can get past the likes of E-Town, Conestoga Valley, Lebanon, and Warwick without working for it isn’t exactly the greatest of approaches to take.
Yet while Ephrata has certainly begun the tough-as-nails process of grinding and undertaking the necessary obligations to try and reach the summit of the division, the wins thus far have admittedly still been in relatively short supply. Yet while even though it may be for a just brief snapshot in time, perhaps the Mounts’ dominating 19-point victory over Dover in the consolation round of the Red Lion Tip-off Tournament on Saturday afternoon can prove to be the catalyst for Ephrata’s rise through the ranks of not just the section, but the L-L League as a whole.
Well, if that were truly the case, there was only one real way to see if that notion could hold its own. And that of course would come with a Wednesday night trip up to Berks County to tangle with an always formidable Conrad Weiser club, a Scouts bunch that was surely chomping at the bit at exacting some revenge upon someone from the Lancaster-Lebanon League foe given their 46-37 setback on their home floor at the hands of Cedar Crest on Saturday afternoon.
Sure enough, at least given their performance on Wednesday night that is, that notion seemed to ring true in spades.
Early on against Conrad Weiser, it was evident that Ephrata had arrived in Robesonia with the intention of clearly and decisively outworking their competition. And as was to be expected given such a high exertion put forth on the defensive end of the floor, the Mounts were successfully able to hold the Scouts without a field goal until the 3:15 mark of the opening frame when the hosts finally got the scoreboard courtesy of a nice dish from Aanjay Feliciano to a streaking Brady Snyder who finished at the cup through contact, slicing the slim Ephrata lead down to a pair at 4-2.
But truth be told, close score at the moment or not, the outcome was never really in doubt on this night.
After allowing Weiser to get as close as that two-point difference following the Snyder bucket, the Mounts proceeded to take off and never look back. Case in point, a pair of freebies knocked down at the charity stripe from the perhaps the most fearless player in the entire L-L League, Mason Hagen, before the Mounts’ senior guard quickly followed that sequence up with a floater in the lane shortly thereafter, making it an 8-2 affair in favor of the guests before the first quarter clock would later expire with Ephrata holding serve by virtue of a 10-4 count, a half dozen of which came courtesy of Hagen.
Unfortunately, as far as the Conrad Weiser contingent was concerned, the second frame only continued to be more of the same narrative.
Even when the Scouts were able to muster some sort of momentum -such as the case when Weiser 5’11 junior guard, Alex Snyder, knocked down a triple to immediately answer a 3-ball knocked on Ephrata’s previous trip by way of Dylan Kohl- a 5-0 salvo from the handiwork of Hagen later on in the period gave the Mounts their largest lead of the night up until that point at 18-7 with three minutes and change still left to go before intermission. And from there, the purple-clad gang only continued to exacerbate the difference, something best exemplified by way of Brody Martin’s old-fashioned three-point play in the waning moments of the first half which helped propel Ephrata into intermission with a sizable and emphatic 25-7 cushion at the end of the first 16 minutes.
Yet even while Conrad Weiser would author their best quarter of the evening up until that point in time with a solid third quarter effort, the hole in which the Mounts had thrown them into was simply much too large to try and climb back out from underneath of.
In fact, while the Scouts would trim the Mounts’ buffer down to 32-19 at the three-minute of the third frame following a trifecta splashed in by freshman guard, Brady McKee, before a nice move inside from senior big man, Charlie Dobb, a strong and impressive third quarter from Ephrata’s Dylan Kohl proved to be much of the difference in the separation between to the two squads to continue onward as the Mounts’ junior wing knocked down a triple of his own later on in the quarter, effectively allowing Ephrata to keep Conrad Weiser at arm’s length away from them. On the night, while the Mounts didn’t have all that many entrants crack into the scoring column, Kohl more than carried his weight as best evidenced by his game-high 16-point output which helped fuel Ephrata into the final eight minutes with the two-touchdown advantage at 35-21.
Speaking of Dylan Kohl, there he was in the fourth as well, keeping his hot hand alive and well by pumping yet another 3-ball, this one making it a 38-21 Ephrata to start the last period. And while Weiser would put forth their best imitation to try and mimic the Mounts’ shooting prowess down the final stretch -as evidenced by way of the two triples sunk by Scounts’ guards Donovan Gingrich and Riley Civiello respectively- the dominance in which the Mounts had exerted over the entirety of the previous 32 minutes on Wednesday was far too great for the Scouts to try and overcome as Ephrata was able to make it a happy bus ride home to Lancaster County by carrying their 44-32 triumph back with them, a performance that had to arguably one of the Mounts’ most impressive performances in the last handful of seasons which saw the guests lead from wire-to-wire.
But make no mistake about it. There was nothing really in the way of glitz and glamour that propelled Ephrata to the performance they put forth against Conrad Weiser on Wednesday night. No, this was something that could only be chalked up to pure, unbridled effort.
“One of our keys all season that we’ve been telling guys is that we have to ‘out tough’ people for four quarters which means playing physical, being the first to the floor, taking charges, and winning the battle on the boards,” Ephrata head coach Scott Gaffey said in the aftermath of his squad’s resounding win when asked if Wednesday would by and large help serve as the blueprint for what his team would need to come equipped with in order to have success on any given night. “Yes, I think that’s the way we have to play to be successful and the guys have been buying in.”
But the thing about it is, hard work on the court itself during games should come naturally when you put in all that time and dedication to your craft when the bright lights are turned off and no one outside your team’s walls is really paying attention. Oh yeah. Did we mention that the Mounts have also been doing that in bunches? What makes it even more impressive though is that not even a lack of wins up until this point seems to have been getting the message lost in translation either.
“Yes, we had a lot of guys put in a ton of time this off-season,” said Gaffey of the apparent culture-shift seen the offseason program. “We just had the mindset of trying to get better every single game last season and in the offseason. That doesn’t always result in a win, but I think our guys bought into that. We told guys, ‘You can’t go from being 0-22 to winning every game, it’s a process,’ but we knew we had ground to make up. In order to do that, we had to try and outwork some people this offseason and we had a good group of guys that bought into that. We started a ’30 Plus Club’ which is a program for any player that made it to 30 or more total workouts, summer league games, lifting sessions, and open gyms. We’ve had over 35 guys qualify program-wide from 7th thru 12th grade that did that, so I think we have had a good buy in program-wide.”
Then again, sometimes it’s the long road and tough journey back up that makes the eventual summit all the more sweeter. And if that’s the case, the Ephrata Mounts appear to be well on their way towards telling one heckuva story sooner rather than later.
NEXT UP: Following their impressive nonleague on the road at Weiser on Wednesday, it’s right back to the grind for the Mounts on Thursday night when they take their first big swing at a giant this season when they welcome the Lebanon Cedars, the defending league champions, into town for a key Section Two contest that will surely help lay the groundwork for what figures to be arguably the league’s most competitive division all year long in a key litmus test for both squads.
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