He only played JV basketball last season and watched from the bench as Loyalsock captured a District 4 Class AA championship.
As he practiced throughout the offseason, all Mike Pastore wanted was an opportunity to play varsity as a sophomore. All he wanted Friday against visiting Central Mountain was an opportunity to shine in some big moments.
Pastore took advantage of both opportunities in a big way. And now a player who did not play any varsity minutes a season ago could become a huge factor as Loyalsock seeks a second straight district crown.
Mike Pastore of Loyalsock is fouled by Travis Turchetta of Central Mountain on a fastbreak in the first quarter on Friday at Loyalsock. View additional photos at cu.sungazette.com.
Pastore scored 16 points off the bench in only his second varsity game Friday and hit a huge go-ahead, fourth-quarter 3-pointer as Loyalsock rallied for a 68-57 home win. The quick and sharp-shooting guard scored five straight to ignite a 15-0 fourth-quarter run that turned a 3-point deficit into a 12-point lead.
"In practice everyone busts their butts and nobody had any idea what the lineup would be until the first game," said Pastore, who has 27 points off the bench in two games. "Everybody just kept working and working. I got put in a situation and did my job."
He did it well all night. Pastore was huge on a night when Omar Little picked up three first-half fouls. Little came back and was terrific, scoring a team-high 20 points while having a hand in eight straight during that game-changing run. Had it not been for Pastore's contributions, which included seven first-quarter points, Loyalsock might not have been in position to make that comeback on a night Central Mountain's Cole Renninger put on a show and scored a game-high 31 points.
Pastore brought energy and strong all-around play off the bench and when he was on the court with Little and fellow guard Kyle Datres in the fourth quarter, Loyalsock took off, outscoring the Wildcats, 21-10. A good defender, Pastore made some nice hustle plays and added a steal and an assist. He rebounded a missed layup during the 15-0 run, then found Kyle Datres for a 3-pointer that extended the lead to 59-50.
"Mike got his opportunity to play and he can flat-out score. He has a lot of confidence for a sophomore," Loyalsock coach Ron Insinger said. "He can win the loose balls and he just doesn't give up on you. He gives it every ounce of energy he has and he has put me in a comfort zone with bringing him off the bench early in a game."
All the Lancers looked like they were in a comfort zone in the fourth quarter. Loyalsock hit 6 of 9 shots from the field, played outstanding defense, excelled in transition and played well inside and outside. Datres (11 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds) finally slowed Renninger and Little was a force with his scoring and passing.
Little fed Pastore for the go-ahead 3-pointer and found him again for a layup seconds later. He then added two free throws and scored 14 second-half points. Little hit a 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter and the Lancers (2-0) hit 3 of 4 from 3-point range in the fourth. Roger Wilson owned the inside during that time and finished with his second straight double-double, scoring 12 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
"It was basically a team thing and that's what carried us in the fourth quarter," Little said. "All summer we work hard as a team and work on a lot of things so during the season then, everything feeds off that team work."
"Omar played like a senior with three fouls and Roger took care of the glass," Insinger said. "We had a lot of major contributions there. We a couple guys under the weather and everyone stepped up."
That was pivotal in overcoming Renninger's brilliant performance. The senior guard who is receiving Division I interest was sensational, scoring 31 points, making eight steals, grabbing six rebounds and adding three assists. Renninger made five straight third-quarter shots as the lead changed hands eight times and scored in every way imaginable.
Late in the second quarter, Renninger made a steal, fell away from the basket but still managed to put in a left-handed reverse layup. In the third quarter, he did his damage from the outside and consistently drained long-range jumpers despite having defenders hounding him.
"With a player like that we just had to play help-side defense and play defense as a team because nobody could guard him 1-on-1," Pastore said. "It boosts our confidence majorly to beat a player like that and a team like that. It was a big win."
Tyler Everhart also played well for Central Mountain, scoring 16 points and adding four 3-pointers. The Wildcats trailed by seven in the first quarter but led by four at halftime before both teams constantly swapped leads in the third quarter. Renninger hit a fade-away 3-pointer to stop the 15-0 fourth-quarter run and Luke Wise scored on a layup moments later to make it a seven-point game, but four straight points from Little and Pastore clinched the win.
"Both teams were tired," Little said. He (Renninger) is a really good player and he worked his butt off. That was a good game."
CENTRAL MOUNTAIN (57)
Cole Renninger 12 4-10 31, Travis Turchetta 1 0-0 2, Luke Wise 2 0-0 5, Tyler Everhart 6 0-0 16, Tanner Blazina 1 1-1 3, Von Walker 0 0-0 0, Tanner Meeker 0 0-0 0, Luke Stevenson 0 0-0 0, Kyler Klein 0 0-0 0. Totals 22 5-11 57.
Kyle Datres 2 6-7 11, Omar Little 7 4-4 20, Roger Wilson 5 2-3 12, Ben Sosa 3 0-1 6, Jimmy Webb 1 0-2 3, Michael Pastore 6 3-5 16, Wes Lapoint 0 0-0 0, Ryan Bogaczyk 0 0-0 0, Luke Glavin 0 0-0 0, Tommy Baggett 0 0-0 0. Totals 24 15-22 68.
C. Mountain16 17 14 10-57
Loyalsock17 12 18 21-68
3-pointers: C. Mountain 8 (Everhart 4, Renninger 3, Wise); Loyalsock 5 (Little 2, Datres, Webb, Pastore).
Records: Loyalsock 2-0. Central Mountain 0-3.
JV Score: Loyalsock 67-41.