Less than 15 seconds after checking in, South Williamsport reserve Devin Gordon dribbled past two defenders and found a cutting Riley Thomas, another reserve, who converted a layup.
That play defined Friday's 75-57 win over Canton at the inaugural South Williamsport Tournament. Whoever coach Matt Fisher used excelled. Eight players scored, three reached double figures and a team that played only one significant varsity contributor from last season scored 28 fourth-quarter points.
Wellsboro also put together a similar fourth-quarter performance in a 67-54 win over Muncy. Like South, Wellsboro unselfishly dissected Muncy's defense and worked for easy shots that finally put the pesky Indians away. The Hornets return four starters from last year's 20-win team, so while they and South won in similar fashion they did so with contrasting roster makeups.
Joe Doganiero of Wellsboro shoots as Muncy’s Nick Ring draws a charge Friday night at South Williamsport.
And tonight they find out how they measure up against each other when they meet in an experience vs. youth championship. Muncy faces Canton in the consolation game.
"It's a long three weeks of practice getting to this point and it's good just to get guys out on the court playing together and see them respond and play well together," South coach Matt Fisher said. "It was fun. The guys were working together and talking and it was fun to watch."
"We have confidence in everyone. We've been working with everyone since we've been in the fifth and sixth grade," said Wellsboro forward Dylan Prough, who scored 13 points and grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds. "We know what each other's weaknesses and strengths are."
South's strength was its balance. As the game progressed, a team of mostly first-time varsity players started shining. They grew more comfortable and started unselfishly moving the ball inside and outside while getting quality shots.
Sophomore center Brock Jones scored a game-high 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds while Riley Hengler added 12 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Billy Rummings had 13 points and four rebounds off the bench. Point guard Sean McCormick was outstanding, scoring six points and dealing eight assists while senior Alex Kita scored nine points and grabbed eight rebounds.
Kita made his first varsity start and was one of several players who appeared nervous early. He missed all three of his first-half shots, but was terrific in the second half, playing well on both ends, making four of his first five shots and doing great in transition.
"The whole first quarter I missed all my shots just getting my jitters out," Kita said. "At halftime I came back and took a deep breath and then I was fine. Everyone had butterflies at beginning of the game and we shook them out and played really well."
Canton hung tough after trailing by 11 at halftime and pulled within seven on three third-quarter occasions. An Eddie Larcom buzzer-beating 3-pointer made it an eight-point game entering the fourth quarter but South dominated from there. Kita ignited a game-breaking 19-5 run with a 3-pointer off an Engler assist. Hengler had three assists during the early stages of that run and South finished with 22 assists.
Many of the fourth-quarter shots were layups as South flourished in transition. Even in half-court South methodically moved the ball and both starters and reserves made a big impact.
"There's a significant amount of chemistry built up on the team," Kita said. "We don't have any ball hogs. Assists are just as important as points."
"What was nice about the last eight minutes was the guys moved the ball real well," Fisher said. "We did well in transition and played very unselfish basketball."
So did Wellsboro.
The Hornets never trailed Muncy but the Indians never let them pull away and trailed by only five in the fourth quarter. But Wellsboro answered every run and showed veteran maturity in the final six minutes, hitting eight of its last 12 shots. Matt Reese was spectacular during that time and had three nice assists during that time, once eliciting a 'wow' from the Wellsboro bench. The last of those assists capped a 6-0 run and put Wellsboro up 63-50.
Jordan Jackson played a tremendous all-around game, scoring 17 points, grabbing nine rebounds and dealing seven assists. Muncy tied the game in the second quarter after trailing by nine in the first but Joey Doganiero scored seven straight points and never trailed again. The junior guard was fantastic from outside and scored a game-high 19 points while Kieron Smethers added five points, five rebounds and four assists.
"We needed this boost to get going," Prough said. "We are not a selfish team at all and that helps us in the long run."
Muncy lost its top two scorers from last year's state qualifier but showed a lot of upside against a Class AA district title contender. The Indians never backed down after it looked like Wellsboro might make it a rout early. Newcomers like Nick Ring, Teddy Clark and Jeff Scott all played well and Ring scored 15 points while grabbing 11 rebounds in his first varsity start.
Point guard Ammar Sabanovic shredded Wellsboro's defense at times and had six assists to go along with his four steals and 10 points while Dawson Fox scored a team-high 17 points.
"We did a nice job. You're never sure with the young kids how they're going to react and they reacted pretty well," Muncy coach Jason Gresh said. "They just kept fighting back and they never died."
Wellsboro 67, Muncy 54
Ammar Sabanovic 3 4-4 10, Billy Kolletzki 1 6-6 8, Dawson Fox 7 2-4 17, Teddy Clark 1 0-0 2, Nick Ring 7 1-3 15, Jeff Scott 1 0-0 2. Totals 20 13-17 54.
Jordan Jackson 8 0-0 17, Dylan Prough 6 1-3 13, Joey Doganiero 8 0-0 19, Matt Reese 3 0-1 7, Michael Pietropola 1 2-2 4, Kieron Smethers 2 1-2 5, Isiaha Williams 0 2-2 2. Totals 28 6-10 67.
Muncy16 12 14 12-54
Wellsboro17 14 16 20-67
3-pointers: Muncy 1 (Fox); Wellsboro 5 (Doganiero 3, Jackson, Reese).
Records: Wellsboro 1-0. Muncy 0-1.
South 75, Canton 57
Eddie Larcom 5 2-4 14, Emmett Watson 2 9-10 13, Wes Moore 2 1-4 5, Jesse Lattimer 4 1-2 11, Mason Moore 1 0-0 3, Tim Bassett 2 4-6 8, Christian Thoren 1 0-0 3. Totals 17 17-26 57.
Riley Hengler 4 2-2 12, Brock Jones 5 8-11 18, Sean McCormick 0 6-8 6, Tyler Schonewolf 3 0-1 6, Cody Nelson 0 0-0 0, Alex Kita 4 0-0 9, Eric English 2 1-2 5, Billy Rummings 6 1-6 13, Riley Thomas 3 0-0 6, Devin Gordon 0 0-0 0. Totals 27 18-30 75.
Canton9 13 17 18-57
South15 18 14 28-75
3-pointers: Canton 6 (Larcom 2, Lattimer 2, M. Moore, Thoren); South 3 (Hengler 2, Kita).
Records: South 1-0. Canton 0-1.