Demarr Wright remembers the first time he saw Kayla Gee play. She was a sixth-grader at a summer Loyalsock basketball camp and the Lancer coach watched her sink one big shot after another.
Wright could not wait to coach her. That moment has now come and Wright could not be happier.
Gee drained a game-winning 3-pointer with 7.8 seconds left Wednesday at home, breaking a tie and lifting Loyalsock to a thrilling 44-41 win over cross-creek rival Montoursville. The sophomore guard scored a game-high 12 points, including eight in the fourth quarter as the Lancers (1-3, 1-0 HAC-II) won their first game, handed Montoursville (3-1, 0-1) its first loss and defeated its rival for the first time in three seasons in a game that had as many twists turns as a Stephen King novel.
"When I first came here I used to say Kayla had ice in her veins," Wright said. "She would come to camp and she would win every award. She would knock down 3s and do step backs and I was like, 'I can't wait until she plays for me.'"
Instead of winning shooting contests, Gee won the game last night. A long Kendall Watkins jumper tied the game at 41-41 with 58 seconds remaining. Following a Montoursville turnover seconds later, Loyalsock pulled the ball out and held for the last shot. The Lancers methodically moved the ball around until Watkins received it at the top of the key.
The sophomore forward took one dribble before whipping a pass to Gee on the right wing. Gee lofted the shot over the outstretched arms of a defender and swished it as the Loyalsock bench erupted in joy. Last spring as a freshman, Gee outdueled some of the state's premier pitchers while helping Loyalsock capture the HAC-II championship.
It is a new sport and a new season, but Gee, who also hit two foul shots to tie the game late, still has that clutch gene working.
"We had to score so we had to get a good shot off so we just kind of took our time and waited for the opportunity and as soon as the opportunity came I took it," said Gee, who also had four steals and eight fourth-quarter points. "I just happened to get the shot. It just kind of all came together. It was really exciting."
Montoursville played an outstanding game and revealed a lot about itself, nearly winning despite not having all-star point guard Kirsten O'Malley who was sidelined with a back injury. The Warriors overcame a nine-point first-quarter deficit and led by as many as five early in the fourth quarter.
Freshmen Lexi Marchioni (10 points) and Gillian Mitchell were outstanding after playing four quarters in the junior varsity game while every player coach Kevin Kurtz used elevated her performance. Marchioni scored six of her 10 points in the fourth quarter and hit both ends of a 1-and-1 to put Montoursville ahead 39-37 with 1:37 remaining.
Junior Marissa Hall injured her ankle in the third quarter but returned in the fourth and also calmly hit both ends of a 1-and-1 with 1:10 remaining to put Montoursville ahead 41-39. The Warriors did not win, but they should gain a lot of confidence from last night's performance.
"Montoursville is a good team and to not have your star and have a chance to win the basketball game at the end speaks volumes about them," Wright said. "They put two freshmen out there that just got done playing a whole JV game and that is impressive."
So were the Lancers under pressure. Loyalsock lost its opening three games to two Class AAAA teams and three-time defending District 4 Class AA champion Mount Carmel. They played the last two teams tough, but were tired of moral victories.
And when the Lancers had little margin for error, they played their best basketball. Watkins and Gee made the team's last five shots from the field and foul line. Allie Pagana helped spark the defense and had eight points, six rebounds and four steals, the same statistics Angie Cardillo produced.
"I knew this game was going to be a big game and we just had to stay calm so that helps," Gee said. "We always love playing Montoursville because they are our big rival team and it's exciting."
Montoursville took the lead entering the fourth quarter after Alexis Weisser hit a buzzer-beater off a putback to end the third quarter. Marchioni dished to Marissa Folk (7 points, 6 rebounds) and hit a jumper to stretch that lead to 33-28 in the fourth quarter's first minute. Instead of buckling, though, Loyalsock fought back and scored the next seven points, Watkins hitting her 3-pointer to give it a 35-34 lead.
From there the game was tied five more times as the longtime rivals played one of the most exciting cross-creek games in recent memory.
"If we can learn not to beat ourselves we're going to win a lot of basketball games," Wright said. "Maybe this is the turning point."
McKenzie Ruffing 0 4-5 4, Marissa Hall 1 4-9 6, Lexi Marchioni 2 6-8 10, Kelsey Stine 3 1-2 7, Alexis Weisser 1 0-0 2, Nicole Weisser 2 0-0 4, Gillian Mitchell 0 1-2 1, Marissa Folk 3 1-2 7. Totals 12 17-28 41.
Allie Pagana 3 2-4 8, Kayla Gee 3 5-7 12, Cellina Salvatori 1 1-3 3, Kendall Watkins 5 0-0 12, Angie Cardillo 2 4-6 8, Abby Sullivan 0 0-0 0, Emma Fox 0 0-0 0, Missy Hill 0 2-2 2. Totals 14 14-21 44.
Montoursville9 15 5 12-41
Loyalsock12 13 3 16-44
3-pointers: Loyalsock 2 (Watkins, Gee).
Records: Loyalsock 1-3, 1-0 HAC-II. Montoursville 3-1, 0-1.
JV Score: Montoursville 37-17.