MILTON - Dylan Casale repeatedly found the open man Saturday against Southern Columbia.
He found what he wanted most, though, after the game ended. Breathing a sigh of relief, Casale firmly held a district championship plaque in his hands. That plaque was the culmination of four years of his hard work. It was the culmination of his team's year-long quest and its do whatever it takes mentality to achieve it.
Roger Wilson recorded a double-double, Casale dealt eight assists, Jackson Kurtz played another strong game and every player coach Ron Insinger used made a big impact as Loyalsock routed Southern Columbia, 67-49 and captured the District 4 Class AA championship. The Lancers (22-3) won their 12th straight in emphatic fashion against their fellow HAC-II champion and left no doubt they are the district's best team.
"This is what I wanted my whole career. I just wanted this game more than anything," said Casale, who had 10 points, eight assists and four steals. "I think we wanted this game more and that's the bottom line."
Loyalsock captured its seventh district title since 2001 and gave Insinger his 15th district crown along with his 775th career win. The Lancers next play Saturday at a District 4 site, possibly in a double header with Williamsport, against District 2 third-place finisher Riverside.
The Lancers dominated the second and third quarters, outscoring Southern 30-12 during that time while controlling all facets. Loyalsock opened a double-digit lead early in the third quarter and Southern (20-6) never again pulled within single digits.
"What I like most about this team is we don't have any superstars," Insinger said. "We just have a great blend of young men who have set some goals and have great work ethics that have helped them achieve them."
It was a performance as complete as it was impressive. Loyalsock conducted a layup drill at times in the second half, making 13 of 18 shots between the third and fourth quarters while also playing outstanding defense. Wilson overwhelmed Southern inside, scoring 21 points while grabbing 12 rebounds and making two steals.
Wilson was unstoppable at times in the second half, scoring 17 of his points while making all but one of his nine shots from the field and the line. Casale did a great job setting him up as did Kurtz (8 points, 9 rebounds, three assists), Kyle Datres (8 points, 4 assists), Ryan Bogaczyk and Jimmy Webb.
"It's not even describable how good it feels. I'm speechless right now," Wilson said. "Cutting down two nets in one season...I'm at a loss for words. We're just a team. That's basically it. We're a complete team now."
Southern and Loyalsock split two regular-season games by six combined points and it looked like the third meeting might produce another close finish when the first quarter ended in a 14-14 tie. Instead, Datres, Casale and Wilson started making the Loyalsock offense hum and the Lancers opened the second quarter on an 8-0 run. Southern pulled within four, but two Webb free throws to end the first half made it 26-18 at halftime.
The Tigers overcame a 13-point deficit against top-seeded Athens in the semifinals but learned a harsh lesson Saturday - Loyalsock is not Athens. The Lancers started blowing open the game in the third quarter, dissecting the Southern press that had given them problems the first two times they played. This time, the more Southern pressured, the more Loyalsock made it pay.
Webb, one of three freshmen who have made a huge impact this season, drained a 3-pointer that highlighted a 12-5 spurt and put Loyalsock ahead 42-27. And unlike the last time these two played when Loyalsock put Southern on the ropes, it also landed the knockout blow.
"That (3-pointer) felt pretty cool. Dylan hit me. I was wide open and I just dropped it. It was awesome," said Webb, who had seven points and several hustle plays off the bench. "We figured out their press so we set up a play to get Roger wide open underneath and Jackson and Dylan did a great job getting him the ball and we just kept it going."
Loyalsock was locked in the entire second half and Datres' pull-up 3-pointer in transition officially made it a rout, giving Loyalsock a 50-30 lead early in the fourth. The Lancers unselfishly and efficiently moved the ball, consistently setting teammates up for good shots and the lead was 22 when starters from both teams were pulled with 1:51 remaining.
Southern is as mentally strong as any district team, proving it with dramatic playoff wins over Central Columbia and Athens. But the Tigers had no answer Saturday and Loyalsock's outstanding play on both ends took its toll.
"You could see the looks on their faces. They looked like we hit them and they just couldn't recover," Casale said. "All those layups back-to-back, any team would get down after that."
Things are only looking up for Loyalsock, however. Players took turns climbing the ladder and cutting down the net following the win. Climbing each step toward the story.
The Lancers are once again king of the District 4 Class AA mountain.
Dylan Casale 4 2-2 10, Kyle Datres 3 1-2 8, Roger Wilson 8 5-5 21, Jackson Kurtz 4 0-0 8, Ryan Bogaczyk 1 5-8 7, Omar Little 1 0-0 2, Jimmy Webb 1 4-4 7, Bobby Oeler 1 0-0 3, Luke Glavin 0 1-2 1, Ben Sosa 0 0-0 0. Totals 23 18-23 67.
Brad Fegley 5 2-2 13, Casey Savitski 3 1-2 8, Kristian Klebon 4 0-0 10, Keith Day 1 1-2 3, Austin Zelinski 1 0-0 2, Mike Klebon 2 1-2 6, Bryce Parry 1 0-0 2, Matt Klock 1 0-0 2, Cody Pavlick 1 0-0 2, Dylan Stymer 0 0-2 0, Tyrell Thomas 0 3-4 3. Totals 18 8-16 49.
Loyalsock14 12 18 23-67
Southern14 4 8 23-49
3-pointers: Loyalsock 3 (Datres, Webb, Oeler). Southern 5 (K. Klebon 2, Fegley, Savitski, M. Klebon).
Records: Loyalsock 22-3. Southern 20-6.