Those walking past the Ron Insinger Gym at Loyalsock this past summer often watched Omar Little and Saabir Gibson playing together. More aptly, they observed them working together.
Little and Gibson enjoyed solid football seasons last fall but they balanced football with basketball last summer and constantly worked to improve. Visiting Shikellamy learned how far those two have come Thursday night.
Little scored a career-high 31 points while displaying plenty of explosiveness, and Gibson added a career-high 17 points off the bench as Loyalsock cruised to a dominant 95-55 win. Together, Little and Gibson hit 17 of 24 shots and excelled in all other facets too.
"I love playing with Omar. He's like my little brother," Gibson said. "I'm in the gym every day and he's helping me get better, I'm helping him get better. This is just a product of all our hard work."
Loyalsock (3-0) opened the game on a 20-1 run and was never seriously threatened against last year's District 4 Class AAA runner-up. Starters and reserves excelled with forward Ben Sosa scoring 15 points, grabbing nine rebounds and making four steals. Ten of the 11 players Insinger used scored and Loyalsock had 81 points through three quarters.
Still, Little and Gibson stole the show. Sosa and Mike Pastore (5 first-quarter points and rebounds) ignited the early run, but Little took over in the second quarter, scoring 12 of his points and having a hand in 13 straight as Loyalsock opened a 47-23 lead. Little attacked the basket, shot well and set up his teammates while also playing good defense. He added four assists and four rebounds while reaching 31 points with two minutes remaining in the third quarter.
The three-year starting guard elevated his performance in last year's postseason, helping Loyalsock reach the state quarterfinals. It appears, that might have just been the start.
"I felt good but it was just good teamwork," said Little, who made 11 of 16 shots. "I feel like I've gotten a lot better but it's my team. They're helping me go hard in practice and I'm helping them go hard in practice. It's all about the team and coming together right now."
A question mark entering the season was the team's depth, but early indications are it could be a strength. Gibson looks like one of the area's most improved players and played his best varsity game. In addition to scoring 17 points and hitting 6 of 8 shots, Gibson grabbed four rebounds and made two steals.
"I said at halftime I love being the sixth man off the bench," Gibson said. "I love coming in and being aggressive and trying to get steals and trying to do anything. Tonight I just got hot."
Gibson drove that point home when he drained a near half-court buzzer-beating 3-pointer that put Loyalsock up 53-28 at halftime. He missed only one shot the rest of the night and made sure Shikellamy received no respite when Little, Pastore or guard Kyle Datres (6 points, 6 assists) exited.
Gibson was one of six reserves who made a strong impact. Together, that group scored 34 points, grabbed 16 rebounds, dealt five assists and made three steals. Each practice, starters and reserves go against each other and the dividends, thus far, have been impressive.
"Saabir did a good job and the whole second team did a good job," Little said. "Those guys are coming through and they work hard every day in practice. They give us a challenge every day."
"We feel like we could be our own team in the Heartland, our own effective group," Gibson said. "We play against one of the best teams in the state every day at practice so we have a lot of confidence when we go out on the floor."
Brennan Casale grabbed six rebounds off the bench while Cory Young added five points in the third quarter when Loyalsock hit 13 of 18 shots. The Lancers scored 60 points between the second and third quarters.
C.J. Tyler 3 2-3 8, Austin Mowery 4 1-1 12, Garrett Kemberling 2 2-2 6, Kyle Leitzel 8 1-2 18, Derek Amerman 2 0-0 4, Harry Herbster 2 0-0 4, Ryan Kenner 1 0-0 2, Jake Hare 0 1-2 1. Totals 23 7-10 55.
Omar Little 12 6-7 31, Kyle Datres 2 2-2 6, Ben Sosa 6 3-3 15, Mike Pastore 2 2-2 6, Tommy Baggett 1 0-0 3, Wes Lapoint 2 2-4 6, Luke Glavin 1 2-2 4, Saabir Gibson 6 1-2 17, Cory Young 2 0-0 5, Brennan Casale 1 0-0 2, Ryan Loeh 0 0-0 0. Totals 35 18-22 95.
Shikellamy8 20 21 6-55
Loyalsock21 32 28 14-95
3-pointers: Shikellamy 4 (Mowery 3, Leitzel); Loyalsock 7 (Gibson 4, Little, Baggett, Young).
Records: Loyalsock 3-0. Shikellamy 0-2.
JV Score: Loyalsock 48-42.