He was sidelined but was still being a leader.
After picking up his second foul midway through the first quarter of last Wednesday's District 2-4 Class AAAA championship against Scranton, Jahad Thomas grabbed Chris Kinley by the jersey pulled him close and delivered a message.
"Jahad said, 'keep it close until I come back,'" Kinley said. "He told me to keep control."
Williamsport’s Chris Kinley, right, goes up for a layup last month against Princeton Day Academy.
With Williamsport's all-state forward out and an eight-point deficit facing his team, Kinley took over and started dominating the middle. By halftime, Williamsport trailed by only one and it pulled away in the fourth quarter, winning 68-58 while securing its second straight district championship. Up next is a first-round state tournament game against District 11 third-place finisher Bethlehem Liberty on Saturday.
Kinley showed why he is a Navy recruit, scoring 18 points, hitting the boards hard and playing with a combination of toughness and athleticism. Thomas scored 16 second-half points and Isaiah Washington had 18, but Kinley was every bit as valuable Wednesday.
"I tried to go up strong and make some strong moves and if didn't have it then I kicked it out," Kinley said. "We were playing as a unit. It worked out well and I'm proud of it."
"Chris was very aggressive and that is what I love about my team," Thomas said. "If one player falls off we still go other players that contribute to the team."
Kinley is part of an experienced and well-rounded group that has led a Williamsport resurgence the last two years. After enduring consecutive five-win seasons, the Millionaires (22-2) once again are a state title contender. Williamsport has won 13 straight and, going back to last year, is 34-4 in its last 38 games. This team is the first Williamsport squad to win back-to-back district championships since the 2001 and 2002 teams made it four straight.
The bench has come up big as well while contributing to the success. Thomas Ross, Tyler Gardner and Greg Ousley have played well throughout the postseason while Brandon Fedoriw and Brice Harris also have made an impact. Even those who do not play in the games have found a way to contribute, giving the starters and key reserves good looks in practices while getting them prepared for the next opponent.
"We had to play a lot of these guys when they were young out of necessity, but in hindsight it was a benefit because their character is such that it didn't make them weaker, it made them stronger. They knew what they had to do to prepare and get better and have re-established Williamsport basketball," coach Allen Taylor said. "It helps put the program in the position that we wanted to be. We have a lot of young guys that are really interested in playing basketball and want to duplicate what these guys have done.
"They have risen the standard."
Both Wyoming Valley West and Scranton gave the Millionaires strong challenges in districts and Williamsport trailed in both games. Still, the Millionaires found ways to win each game, outscoring Scranton, 28-15, in the fourth quarter. They were the most talented team in the field and also the toughest.
"In the 90s, Williamsport was winning districts every year," Washington said. "Williamsport has a tradition of winning districts so it feels good to be part of the team that is bringing it back."
Every point was precious in Saturday's thrilling District 4 Class A championship between St. John Neumann and Sullivan County. That being the case, Ryan Reid scoring eight points off the bench was akin to a 25-point performance. Reid has delivered well in that role all year and was huge against Sullivan, hitting a series of key shots while helping Neumann rally for a 37-32 win.
Neumann (23-2) captured its first district championship since 2000 and only the third in program history. It plays Harrisburg Christian on Friday at Montoursville. Reid hit 4 of 7 shots off the bench and put the Knights ahead to stay, banking in a runner with 4:14 remaining. The hard-working sophomore also played tough interior defense and was part of a group that held Sullivan to just four second-half field goals.
"I just felt like we needed to get going," Reid said. "Anything I could do to help on the offensive end I wanted to do and I wanted to play good defense, too."
Reid hit a jumper to end a first-quarter scoring drought and also scored late in the third quarter, pulling Neumann within four. He made his biggest play when he drove into the middle and made a difficult shot against a tall front line, putting the Knights ahead to stay.
Last spring, Reid helped Neumann's baseball team have one of the best seasons in program history. Now he is replicating that role in a different sport.
"Ryan has been outstanding all season," Neumann guard Jordan Cole said. "He played amazing."
BACK TO BACK
Loyalsock had to travel a difficult path, but once again is the District 4 Class AA champion. The Lancers (24-3) overcame a nine-point late second-quarter deficit and downed Wellsboro, 57-37, at Mansfield University, capturing their second straight title and eighth since 2001. Loyalsock entered the season with a collective bulls-eye attached to it but went undefeated in the HAC-II, winning the district's toughest league before taking the first Heartland Conference championship and sweeping four games from state qualifier Lewisburg.
"We always talk in the locker room about this and have been saying all year that we depend on each other and trust each other out there," said senior Roger Wilson, who recorded double-doubles in all three playoff wins. "It's a whole team out there and everybody comes through."
Loyalsock meets District 3 third-place finisher Mid-Valley on Saturday at Williamsport at 3 p.m. A win there would give coach Ron Insinger his 800th career win.
NO CRYSTAL LIGHT
Muncy junior Crystal Good is one of District 4's smallest forwards. She is only 5-foot-5 but plays like she is 6-5. She proved it again Friday against Lewisburg, making several big plays as Muncy won, 41-31, and clinched a Class AA state tournament berth. This is the third straight year Muncy is state-tournament bound after doing so as a Class A team the past two seasons.
Good then is a perfect reflection of the entire Muncy team. The Indians are the district's smallest Class AA team, missing the cut-off by one student, but keep following Good's example and playing big. The feisty forward grabbed a game-high nine rebounds and made three steals against Lewisburg. Her defense was relentless inside and helped Muncy negate Lewisburg's height advantage.
"Crystal has done that for us all year long. She always steps up," Muncy coach Craig Weaver Jr. said. "I always say, 'girls don't worry about your stats.' Stats don't tell the story and Crystal is one of the girls that proves that. She doesn't have a lot of stats to show but there she is, one of our biggest players. She gets us going. She gets up on the boards and her defense overall is a real big boost for us."
Dr. Masse's Final Boys Top Five
1. Williamsport (22-2); 2. Loyalsock (24-3); 3. St. John Neumann (23-2); 4. Lewisburg (23-4); 5. Sullivan County (22-3)
Players of the Week
Dawson Prough, Wellsboro
Dan Temons, Loyalsock
These two combined on what might be the play of the year. Late in the district final, Prough passed to Temons who converted a layup and scored the game's final basket. Temons is an autistic senior who has beaten the odds and excelled on and off the court while becoming a Loyalsock inspiration.
The senior experienced a dream come true Saturday and will never forget that moment. The move was as classy as it gets on Prough's part and the freshman displayed a maturity well beyond his years. That moment drove home how great sports can be and Prough's gesture should be remembered by Wellsboro fans as much as the team's outstanding 23-2 season.
Dr. Masse's Final Girls Top Five
1. Muncy (18-7); 2. Montoursville (16-7); 3. Lewisburg (17-9); 4. Williamson (17-6); 5. Wellsboro (12-12)
Player of the Week
Jordan Jones, Muncy
The junior guard was outstanding, scoring 41 points in two playoff games while showcasing her strong all-around game.
Chris Masse can be reached at 326-1551, ext. 3113, or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/docmasse.