Sell Helps Engineer Dramatic Comeback As Manheim Central Powers Past Ephrata For Third Place Finish In Exeter Tip Off Tournament
Written by: Andy Herr on Sunday, December 9th, 2018
In basketball, much like in life, every day presents an opportunity to grow and improve. And while Saturday afternoon in the 3rd place game at the Exeter Tip Off Tournament may not have been exactly the learning lesson that either Manheim Central or Ephrata truly wanted to absorb just two days into their seasons, both the Barons and Mounts found themselves in that very situation after dropping their opening round contests against Conrad Weiser and Exeter on Friday respectively. So, with both squads staring down the barrel at a 0-2 start to begin the 2018-19 campaign, getting off to a fast start was of the upmost importance.
In that regard, hang a big check mark next to Ephrata’s name Saturday.
Ignited by a quick 5-0 flurry out of the gates thanks to the efforts of senior forward Zac McGillan, the Mounts had successfully landed for the first jab of the game one minute into the contest before eventually seeing their early lead swell to 8-0 after a pair of freebies converted at the line by fellow Ephrata senior Jared Groff at the 5:10 mark on the opening stanza.
However, the Barons would be able to answer back with a bonanza of their own as senior sharpshooter Chase Marquette quickly got Manheim Central back into the thick of things with a pair of treys to slice into the early Ephrata lead at 8-6, forcing the Mounts to burn a timeout and regroup with 4:09 left to play in the first.
Ultimately, the black-clad Barons would go on to finish the quarter on a 10-2 run, having things end in a stalemate at 10-10 after the first quarter of action.
Once the second quarter got underway, Manheim Central continued to remain white-hot.
Aided by yet another corner three, by none other than Chase Marquette of course, the Barons would eventually go on to enjoy their biggest lead of the young season at 18-14, following a pair of free throws cashed in by senior guard Cam Sell with three minutes having already ticked off the second quarter clock.
Needing to make a play with momentum quickly sliding in the direction of the Barons, someone, anyone wearing an Ephrata jersey needed to make a play in order to halt the early Manheim Central snowball.
Enter Xavian Rodriguez stage right.
After sacrificing his body on the defensive end and successfully earning a charge for his efforts, Rodriguez implored his fellow Mounts to match his level of intensity. And while likely ignited from the charge he had just taken moments earlier, Rodriguez began stirring the drink for Ephrata on the offensive end as well by dishing off a nice feed to Mounts’ big man Lyle Kopp who got the hoop plus the harm as Ephrata had quickly whittled the Barons’ lead down the tiniest of margins at 18-17 with 2:37 left in the opening half. Shortly thereafter, Kopp would proceed to chip in two more to his 14 point effort on the afternoon with a go-ahead bucket the next trip down the floor for Mounts as Ephrata regained control at 19-18.
But the Ephrata lead would prove to be short-lived for the duration of the opening half as Manheim Central would jog off into the dressing rooms with the slim 24-23 advantage over their fellow L-L League counterparts after a highly-competitive, back and forth 16 minutes of action.
Much like in the same vein that the first half got underway, the second half must have seemed eerily similar for the Manheim Central-backers as Ephrata stormed out the gates with an early third quarter salvo to knock the Barons back on their heels coming out of the intermission. In fact, not only were the Mounts able to seize back control of the scoreboard, they were then able to build upon their newly established lead, suddenly making it a four point advantage at 29-25 after a strong take by one of the best players in the entire Lancaster-Lebanon League, Xavian Rodriguez.
Now fortunately for Manheim Central, some of those same familiar themes from the previous half reemerged once again as the third quarter worked itself into shape with the Barons finding a way to stick with it and ultimately dig themselves out of an early hole. And without a shovel to use for digging, the Barons would instead use a timely 3-ball to climb back up to the surface drilled by senior forward Josh Young to cut the Ephrata lead down to one at 31-30, only to see Chase Marquette then proceed to pull off the sweet behind-the-back finish in transition, giving the lead back to Central at 32-31 with just under three minutes left to play in the third.
But over the course of the final few minutes of the third period, the Barons would continue to be without an answer as to Xavian Rodriguez as the seasoned Ephrata veteran capped off the Mounts’ 5-0 rebuttal with a pair of freebies at the charity stripe to pull Ephrata back in front at 36-32, which would remain the score once the third quarter ultimately expired just a few minutes later.
After getting off behind the 8-ball and spotting Ephrata an early bucket within the first 30 seconds of the final frame, Manheim Central once again found themselves down by a half dozen with the Barons struggling to find an offensive flow thanks in large part to the extended zone that the Mounts had suddenly thrown at them defensively. However, as any good shooter will tell you, nothing can make you salivate quite like playing against a zone. And right on cue, Chase Marquette would proceed to knock down a badly-needed triple, trimming the Ephrata lead in half to 38-35 with 7:20 left to play. On the day, Marquette would go to finish with a game-high total of 18 points, 12 of which came from behind the arc.
But as if the Ephrata defense wasn’t hard enough to go against, the Barons soon discovered that going up against Jared Groff wasn’t exactly a picnic either as the Ephrata big-man would knock down a pretty spot up jumper, only to follow that up with a clutch steal defensively the next trip down the floor for the Mounts with the game slowing tilting in their favor, now up by a touchdown at 42-35 with nearly half of the final quarter already having been expired.
So needless to say, it was imperative for someone wearing a uniform with the word “Manheim” inscribed across the chest-plate to come up with some answers in crunch time.
World, say hello to Manheim Central senior guard Cam Sell.
With the Barons currently looking up at that aforementioned seven point hole, Central stuck to its DNA that is defined by the word “grind,” and quickly knocked off four points from the Ephrata advantage with Sell burying a triple from the top of the key, trimming the Ephrata lead to 42-39, as the Mounts called time in order to regroup with 3:30 left to go.
But the quest to overtake the lead would continue to be difficult as evidenced by Zac McGillan knocking down what felt like a dagger-like triple, extending the Ephrata lead back up to six for the immediate answer in the face of the recent Manheim Central blitz.
However, Sell too would prove to be a sharp thorn in the Mounts’ collective side for the duration of the contest as evidenced by a steal and finish which cut the Ephrata lead back down to four at 48-44 with now 1:07 left on the game clock as Sell continued to press on and lead the late Manheim Central comeback. And after holding to Ephrata to nothing on the Mounts’ ensuing offensive possession, Sell, now clearly in a dangerous rhythm for the opposition, proceeded to pull up from behind the arc the Barons’ next trip down the floor, knocking down the timely trey to slice Ephrata’s lead to 48-47 with roughly one minute left to go as the Barons called timeout to regroup and set up defensively.
And whatever the message was defensively that was uttered in the huddle following the timeout, it had to have been received loud and clear as the Barons defense promptly forced a quick Ephrata shot coming out of the timeout with the Manheim Central defense collecting the defensive rebound, effectively setting the stage for some early season last-second heroics.
So, when given the opportunity to earn a walk-off win, it would be wise to hand the keys over to your player who was without question, absolutely unconscious at that point in time. Well fortunately for the Barons, their man of the hour would not disappoint during their time of need as Cam Sell came down the floor, rose up, and canned the cold-blooded go-ahead trifecta, setting off a scene of mass hysteria just inches away on the Manheim Central bench with just 1.2 seconds left to go.
And in the most apropos of ways, Sell would have the honors of officially closing the book on this one, intercepting the last-gasp Ephrata baseball pass to give Manheim Central the incredible 50-48 come-from-behind victory to secure a third-place finish at 2018 Exeter Tip Off Tournament.
Now, while Saturday’s win was certainly cause for excitement and jubilation in the Manheim Central locker room after the game, and rightly so given the what felt like the sheer improbability of it all, the fact of the matter was that the Barons had traveled up to Berks County this weekend with the intent to come home with a 2-0 record when all was said and done. Yet even while that did not happen as evidenced by the Barons’ 1-1 record coming out of the weekend, there was still plenty of work that Barons’ head coach Charlie Fisher was looking to get accomplished this weekend.
“Our goal coming in was to put ourselves in a position to win basketball games,” Fisher said on Saturday. “From that, we wanted to develop a mindset that we can learn how to win a basketball game. That was our number one goal.”
“Today, down seven, it’s like ‘Guys, at some point, somebody has to make a play to win a basketball game.’ I think in that moment, in those last two minutes, we learned how to be competitive at the right moments, at the right time, and make the play.”
“I think the biggest difference from yesterday to today was that when we took those shots, when we drove to the basket, when we made our passes at the end of the game, we were more confident,” Fisher remarked. “I thought that same thing was happening on the defensive end. When there was a loose ball, when there was a rebound, I thought we were going to it whereas yesterday, the loose ball was sitting right there.”
“Our thing right now is confidence and to be fearless,” the second-year Manheim Central head coach went on to add. “If you’re confident and fearless, let the rest fall into place.”
NEXT UP: After their win on Saturday, the Barons will go right back at it on Monday night with their home-opener against a Muhlenberg squad likely smarting from a tough 81-79 home defeat at the hands of McCaskey on Saturday night. But make no mistake about it, playing a game against a familiar foe, albeit in a consolation game setting, is likely one that will set the Barons up for future success sooner rather than later.
“I thought that considering the crowd, the time, the second game of the year, and everything going on, I thought that it was very competitive,” Coach Fisher said about the added benefits of having gone up against a familiar foe in Ephrata so early in the season. “I thought that Ephrata came out with a lot of momentum. I thought we then built up some momentum, and then it was back and forth,” Coach Fisher said summing up the events that had just transpired. “Considering all the outside surroundings, it was a very competitive basketball game. It was one of those games that’s fun to coach in.”
For Ephrata, the Mounts will now look to rebound in search of their first victory of the season as the Purple and Gold get set for a Tuesday night excursion to Garden Spot. And while it remains to be seen as to whether the Mounts will indeed be able to pick up that first win of the season in New Holland, rest assured that it doesn’t appear that Ephrata will have to wait overly long for that initial victory of the season. After all, you’d be hard-pressed to find a much more dangerous two-headed monster in the L-L League than Xavian Rodriguez and Zac McGillan that will help lead the way as the promising supporting cast starts to round into form.
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