Seconds after he and his senior teammates grabbed the trophy, Dan Temons took a step back, smiled and pumped his fist.
Just one week after winning a championship, Loyalsock celebrated another. Saturday, Loyalsock added another banner to its growing collection and raised the bar for future Heartland Conference teams.
Omar Little scored a game-high 18 points, Roger Wilson recorded a double-double and Loyalsock downed Lewisburg, 57-50 at Williamsport while capturing the first HAC Tournament championship. The Lancers (21-3) beat Lewisburg for a third time and are the only team to beat the Green Dragons. They also completed a perfect 18-0 season against Heartland teams from all three divisions, especially impressive since all three divisions produced district champions last year.
CRAIG S. McKIBBEN JR./Sun-Gazette
Loyalsock coach Ron Insinger holds up the net after his Lancers defeated Lewisburg on Saturday night for the first Heartland Athletic Conference championship at Williamsport High School. The Lancers defeated the Green Dragons for the third time this season. View additional photos at cu.sungazette.com
"We practice hard and work hard. When you work hard and do what you're supposed to do in practice it works out in the game," Little said. "We have a lot of confidence. Our coaches believe in ourselves and we believe in ourselves as a team."
"I told them on Thursday there's 24 teams in the Heartland and there's only four left and tonight there were only two left so we did gain supremacy and these guys deserve it," long-time Loyalsock coach Ron Insinger said. "They played 32 minutes of hard basketball tonight and I couldn't be more proud of them."
Loyalsock (21-3) captured the HAC-II championship at Lewisburg last week and never trailed in its third straight hard-fought game against a fellow state-caliber team. The Lancers opened an early eight-point first-quarter lead before the Dragons tied it in the second. Loyalsock, though, used a 16-4 run to end that half, build a 12-point lead and take control.
Lewisburg (21-3) kept trying to rally as it did last week when it erased an 11-point halftime deficit at one point, but never pulled closer than seven. The Dragons played inspired basketball after senior captain Travis Conrad was injured in the first quarter, going on a 13-5 run without him to tie the game 20-20 on Jesse Flannery's jumper. Just as quickly as that deficit vanished, Loyalsock put Lewisburg back in a hole as Little heated up again and scored five points during the game-changing run after Conrad returned.
"I don't know if that (Conrad's return) motivated Loyalsock more or if we got a little relaxed," Lewisburg coach John Vaji said. "We lost a little bit of that edge and intensity and they got on a run and got going again."
Little and fellow guard Mike Pastore set the early tone, scoring Loyalsock's first nine points. Little had eight first quarter points and the Lancers hit 9 of 12 first-quarter shots. That helped open things up for Wilson who played another strong game, scoring 15 points, grabbing 14 rebounds and blocking three shots.
Ben Sosa also played well inside, scoring eight points and grabbing seven rebounds. He and Little grabbed three huge offensive rebounds in the game's final three minutes as Lewisburg tried making a comeback. Those rebounds allowed Loyalsock to burn more time off the clock and a Wilson layup off a Kyle Datres assist clinched the win, extending the lead to 55-43 with 1:10 remaining.
Datres dealt eight assists and played excellent defense for a third straight time against Lewisburg.
"We work as a team, that's all that matters," Little said. "We didn't let it get to us when they came back. We just kept our confidence and poise and came back."
Sam Allen did all he could to help Lewisburg rally, scoring 11 of his team-high 16 points in the fourth quarter. The 6-foot-6 freshman also grabbed nine rebounds, dealt four assists.
"Sam came to play tonight. He was aggressive, he played hard," Vaji said. "I'm sure he will sleep well. He played admirably and went toe to toe with one of the best centers in the area and didn't back down."
Nick Costigliola played a strong game off Lewisburg's bench, scoring nine points and making three steals. His last-second steal and dish to Sam Allen cut the deficit to four after the first quarter and fellow reserve Dan Cole had a hand in the second quarter's first four points as Lewisburg tied it for the first time.
Despite last night's win and going undefeated in Heartland play, Loyalsock will be seeded No. 3 in districts behind Wellsboro and Lewisburg. The Lancers are seeking their second straight championship and will play either No. 6 Bloomsburg or No. 11 Hughesville in the quarterfinals. Lewisburg could face Mount Carmel, Line Mountain, Canton or Williamson.
"It's like a brand new season," Insinger said. "Everyone is 0-0 and everyone has a clean shame. What a shame if you're not excited for that."
Travis Conrad 3 0-0 7, Erich Kline 2 1-2 6, Sam Allen 7 2-5 16, Mike Driscoll 3 2-2 9, Jesse Flannery 1 0-0 2, Nick Costigliola 3 3-4 9, Dan Cole 1 0-0 2, Matt Fedorajka 0 0-0 0, Drew Newcomb 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 8-13 50.
Roger Wilson 6 3-4 15, Kyle Datres 0 2-2 2, Omar Little 7 3-5 18, Ben Sosa 4 0-1 8, Mike Pastore 4 0-1 9, Ryan Bogaczyk 1 0-0 2, Tommy Baggett 1 0-0 3. Totals 23 8-13 57.
Lewisburg16 8 11 15-50
Loyalsock20 16 9 12-57
3-pointers: Lewisburg 3 (Conrad, Kline, Driscoll); Loyalsock 3 (Little, Pastore, Baggett).
Records: Loyalsock 21-3. Lewisburg 21-3.