Fouling out: Daniel Boone, Ephrata combine for 52 fouls in Blazers’ loss

EPHRATA — With their first trip to the District 3 Class AAAA girls basketball tournament in three years looming, Daniel Boone head coach Ray Cinquanto could have hoped for a number of things from his young team on Friday night.

Spending what seemed like the entire evening in a free-throw shooting contest with 14th-seeded Ephrata, though, was not one of them.

On a night when both teams combined for 52 fouls and 30 trips to the free-throw line, it was the Mountaineers (17-7) who were able to capitalize when it mattered most, scoring 18 of its 43 points from the line to supplement Kelly Liebl’s game-high 21 points in a 43-31 victory over the 19th-seeded Blazers (14-11) in preliminary round action.

“It’s definitely hard when you heard the whistle like every five seconds, but our goal was to go out and have fun,’ senior guard Shelby Vanderslice said. “There are times when things happen that you can’t control, and you can’t change it, so we just played the best we could with the hand we were dealt.

“It was definitely hard getting into [a rhythm]. We didn’t even know if we played well. I mean, we played well as a team, but the whistle just seemed to get in the way tonight.’

With the victory, Ephrata advances to the tournament’s first round, where it will face third-seeded Central Dauphin East, which had a bye.

Things got off to a rocky start from the beginning for Daniel Boone, and quickly went from bad to worse as starter after starter began working their way into foul trouble. After one quarter of play, Ephrata held an 11-5 advantage, but the Blazers were easily tops in the foul department, getting whistled time and again and halting any momentum they would begin to acquire.

By the second quarter, Cinquanto was forced to go deep into his bench as Vanderslice picked up her third foul early on and Alayna Roesener, Kaitlyn Keeley and Julia Bookwalter found themselves in the same boat.

For as much as the Blazers were ending up on the wrong end of the whistles, though, Liebl seemed to always be on the right end.

She made four trips to the free-throw line in the second quarter alone, although she only made two of her eight attempts, but she accounted for four of her team’s six points from the floor, allowing the Mountaineers to carry a 10-point lead, 21-11, into halftime.

It was much of the same in the third quarter, as Liebl scored another seven points in a 9-4 run that made it a 30-15 game, but the Blazers tried to make a game out of it in the fourth, and actually outscored Ephrata 16-13 with both teams sporting mainly a bench lineup on the floor. The deficit was too much to overcome, though, and the Mountaineers cruised.

“It got a little out of control, but it was a good end to the season,’ Cinquanto said. “The seniors leaving after tonight was a part of it, so yeah, there was a game tonight, but there were other things of importance tonight, not just the game.

“It was bittersweet, and we had fun, but in the end we came a long way this season. We had a lot of young players this season, and we only graduate two seniors, so we have a bright future moving forward.’

Vanderslice and fellow senior Steph Sievers went out leading their team, as Vanderslice ended the night with a team-high seven points and Sievers chipped in with five of her own, all of them coming from the free-throw line.

“This sets the benchmark for the girls next year now,’ Sievers said. “I think it says that we’ve got to get past where we did this year. We want [the younger players on the team] to get past where we did this year.

“Our goal was to bring some of the winning tradition back this year. This whole season was just a step in the right direction. We wanted to get back on track and I think we did that this year.’

Vanderslice agreed.

“We were all just happy to be here,’ she said. “So many people didn’t even think we would do that, and we worked so hard that getting here was just great. We were just happy to be here.

“Things weren’t going our way, but we were here to have fun and play basketball.’

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