Twin Valley Hangs Tough, Staves Off Valiant Late-Game Ephrata Charge As Raiders Prevail In Nonleague Tussle
Written by: Andy Herr on Sunday, February 2nd, 2020
Okay, here’s a simple truth that comes contained with the framework of any high school basketball season. Yes, while the season can be undeniably long, especially if you find yourself with a goose egg still hanging in the win column with the finish line of the regular season rapidly approaching in your windshield view, the opportunity still exists for you to pick up your much-deserved, first win of the season.
As far as the Ephrata Mounts were concerned, that most definitely was the case for the Purple and Yellow on Saturday afternoon.
Yes, while the Mounts’ 2019-20 campaign is certainly not what those in Ephrata’s camp had been hoping for at the onset of the season, the Mounts still found themselves with the opportunity to tally what would be without a shadow of a doubt the most feel-good triumph of anyone league-wide this season should they be able to capture that elusive first win against Twin Valley.
And while the Mounts would indeed fight valiantly all the way up until the final horn, this too would unfortunately end with that all too familiar, sinking feeling at the end of the 32 minutes of play against the Raiders hailing from Berks County.
Considering that the both the Mounts and Raiders appeared to be come into Saturday’s nonleague tilt as essentially equals when having their respective resumes compared head-to-head against one another, it was certainly understandable to see neither side be able to generate much in terms of separation on the scoreboard in the early going. Yet once one team eventually did manufacture that critical space, it would prove to be Twin Valley as the green-clad Raiders jumped out to an 11-3 lead following a 5-0 blitz authored by senior guard, Aidan Kaplan, with the opening quarter now just inside of a minute left to go.
Fortunately for the homestanding Mounts, Ephrata was then able to find their cut-stopper in junior big man, Tyler Nelson, as the Mounts’ imposing paint-protector ended the Twin Valley salvo with a tough bucket inside, trimming the Raiders’ lead back down to a half dozen at 11-5 with the second quarter getting set to commence.
Yet for as poorly as Ephrata had begun in the opening eight minutes on Saturday, the Mounts clearly came out with a vengeance to begin the second frame.
Case in point, a fantastic dish in transition from sophomore forward, George Willetts, to a streaking Tyler Nelson, for a bucket which sliced the Twin Valley cushion back down to size at 11-7, before a timely 3-ball drained by junior guard, Parke Haws, then trimmed the Raiders’ lead down to just a penny at 11-10 with just under five minutes left to go in the opening half.
To their credit though, Ephrata was simply not satisfied with the aspect of merely getting within reach of their guests. No, they clearly had intentions taking over the lead as the second quarter moved along.
Sure enough, that very event would happen to take place just a few minutes later as a fantastic put-back at the cup, this one courtesy of sophomore forward, Robert Campbell, gave the Mounts the slim 16-15 lead as both teams would later retire to their respective dressing rooms for the halftime intermission.
For a first half that saw both Ephrata and Twin Valley take their respective swings at one another throughout various portions of the first and second quarters, the initial first few minutes of the third quarter saw a more back-and-forth narrative begin to take shape.
In fact, just when Twin Valley would go back in front courtesy of a bucket inside by freshman big man, Jack Shugar, the Mounts then counterpunch right back with an enormous 3-ball sunk by senior point guard, Jaron Heckstall, putting Ephrata out in front.
However, from that moment on, Twin Valley would simply refuse to play the role of hospitable house guest as the Raiders proceeded to close the second stanza on a 7-0 run, capped off by a back-breaking trifecta nailed by senior guard, Cameron Stoudt, sending Twin Valley into the final quarter with ownership of the 27-21 lead.
So, with perhaps their best remaining chance of claiming a victory still very much hanging in the balance with the final eight minutes set to get underway on Saturday afternoon, it was certainly apropos to see Ephrata come out of the gates with a steely-eyed determination to their game.
Sure enough, Twin Valley would end up having to bear the brunt of said Mountaineer facelift considering the Raiders suddenly found themselves nursing a two-point lead follow a pair of smooth, consecutive triples dialed up Mounts’ senior guard, Allen Nelson, with 6:12 still left to go.
But the Mounts only kept persisting onward.
In fact, while coming on the heels of yet another Ephrata 3-ball, this one thanks to Parke Haws, the Mounts would then reclaim the lead shortly thereafter as another bucket inside by Tyler Nelson gave Ephrata the 32-31 lead with four minutes still left to tick off the fourth quarter clock.
Yet just as every close game seems to inevitably be determined by, foul shooting down the final stretch figured to be the greatest determining factor as to who would be able to walk out of Ephrata Middle School with a hard-fought win on this early February afternoon.
And with Twin Valley protecting their slim 35-34 lead following a magnificent go-ahead, take to the rack thanks to the efforts of sophomore guard, Beau Allen, Aidan Kaplan was able to later split a later offering at the charity stripe which had helped put the Raiders back up by a deuce at 36-34 with just 1:23 to play.
That said, the Twin Valley momentum blast would prove to be short-lived however as a cold-blooded, spot-up jumper cashed in by Parke Haws at the foul line on the Mounts’ ensuing offensive trip knotted things back up at 36-36, before a tough-as-nails 2-2 trip to the foul line capped off the Raiders’ next offensive series by way of Cameron Stoudt, putting the visitors back in front at 38-36 with just 32.7 left to go in regulation.
Unfortunately, as far as the hometown fans were most concerned, that would prove to be all the closer their Mounts would end up getting on this day as an untimely Ephrata turnover underneath the Twin Valley basket on the Mounts’ final offensive possession of the game proved to be final difference as Twin Valley was able to escape out of Lancaster County and galivant back home to Elverson with a well-earned 38-36 victory for their troubles over a gusty Ephrata bunch.
NEXT UP: For Ephrata, the Mounts now find themselves with just one final opportunity on making good on that quest to taste the sweet nectar of victory in their 2019-20 campaign. Rest assured, it certainly won’t be an easy task considering that the E-Town Bears, a playoff-bound group as L-L League Section Two runner-up, will roll into Ephrata for the Mounts’ season finale on Tuesday night. And yes, while this season does not need much in terms of persistent repeating on just how tough it has been for the Mounts dating all the way back to early December, the fact of the matter remains that this is not a program that has been devoid of success, especially recently considering Ephrata had appeared in both the L-L League and District 3 playoffs just a few seasons ago. When you combine that recent success exhibited by this same coaching staff along with simply emphasizing the size of town that Ephrata is and the talent pool sure to be found residing inside its borders, there’s no reason not to suspect that the Mounts can get right back into the thick of a playoff hunt sooner rather than later.
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