Kelly Mazzante has traveled the world playing basketball. The Montoursville legend became the Big 10's all-time leading scorer for men and women at Penn State before winning two WNBA world championships and playing well throughout Europe.
Wherever she has been, Mazzante has never forgotten her home. She has worn uniforms in the WNBA, Slovakia, Russia, Hungary and Italy, but Mazzante always has been, and always will, be a Montoursville girl.
That is why it is so important for Mazzante to announce her retirement at the place it all started. Mazzante, a 2000 Montoursville graduate, will officially announce her retirement Jan. 22 at Montoursville before the Warriors' girls basketball team hosts Loyalsock.
"It means everything to do this at home. I want the chance to thank everyone, my coaches and teammates and fans, and all those who supported me and cheered me on during my career and after," Mazzante said. "I have taken pride in representing Montoursville all throughout the world, and I have always loved coming home. To do this in front of them will mean everything to me."
Mazzante played eight seasons in the WNBA, winning championships with the Phoenix Mercury in 2007 and 2009. Toward the end of her WNBA career, Mazzante's last country she played in was Italy, becoming one of the league's best, and most popular, players. Following the last season in Italy, Mazzante decided it was the right time to retire and move on to the next big challenge.
"I would have to say I am extremely lucky to have decided when it was time for me to retire." Mazzante said. "I felt that I was so fortunate and blessed to have had the length of the career that I had, and I just knew it was time to start a new chapter in my life."
Dr. Masse's Top 5 rankings
1. Warrior Run (7-0)
The Defenders earned the top spot in emphatic fashion, thumping previously undefeated Muncy, 50-34 in Saturday's Warrior Run Tournament championship. Warrior Run stifled a dangerous offense and held Muncy to its lowest point total while also controlling the inside and making a big statement against a 2013 Class AA state qualifier. Senior Steph Shamburg shined in both tournament games and scored her 1,000th career point in a 67-17 semifinal win over Montgomery. Abby Fisher has had an outstanding start this season and had a career-high 24 points in that game.
2. Muncy (7-1)
The Indians had scored at least 50 points in each of their first seven games. Guards Jordan Jones have been outstanding, but some other players will have to emerge as bigger scoring threats to make Muncy especially dangerous come playoff time. Muncy played one of its best games the previous night, routing Milton 60-30 as Jones scored 26 points.
3. Williamsport (4-3)
The Millionaires are only a win away from matching last season's total. Williamsport captured the Wellsboro Tournament last weekend, overwhelming Wellsboro in the second half of a 74-57 semifinal win and beating Montoursville, 52-44 in the final. The returning players are flourishing and Williamsport is becoming a balanced and well-rounded team. Seven players scored at least nine points against Wellsboro and Tournament MVP Amy Southard is having a big breakout year. Jaynelle Robinson and Lydia Whaley are strong inside and guards like Southard, Myeesha Peterson and Chloe Jennings are solid too, giving Williamsport different ways to attack the opponent.
4. St. John Neumann (6-1)
Senior point guard Emily Sholder is off to the best start of her scholastic career and scored 16 points in a hard-fought 45-38 win over South Williamsport Friday. Sholder is averaging 17.6 points per game and has had at least 16 six times. A four-year starter, Sholder is trying to help Neumann reach districts for a fifth straight year, something the program has never before accomplished.
5. Mansfield (5-2)
The Tigers did not play last week but are off to a strong start a year after losing three starters, including three who averaged in double figures. Mansfield has the potential to make a run at a championship in the NTL Small School Division's first season and also is emerging as a District 4 Class A title contender. Sophomore Ali Hillson is averaging 14.7 points per game.
Player of the Week
Steph Shamburg, Warrior Run
The senior forward has been the foundation, Warrior Run has built its basketball renaissance upon the last four years. She was outstanding last weekend, scoring 23 points in both wins while also rebounding and defending well. Warrior Run has improved its win total in each of Shamburg's previous three seasons and has a shot at having its best season yet before she graduates.
Game of the week
Muncy at St. John Neumann
Saturday's game features some of the area's best guards. Muncy's Jordan Jones is a 1,000-point scorer and Brianna McLaughlin might join her some day. Meghan Trenholm is Neumann's 1,000-point scorer and Emily Sholder is not far behind. That alone, makes this game intriguing but the fact that both are HAC-III title contenders makes it even better.
Now, a career that began in the local church league is over. Making the official announcement back at Montoursville brings the career full circle.
And what a ride Mazzante has experienced.
The journey has been remarkable.
"I had the opportunity to play the sport I love professionally, to travel and see the world, all doing something that I love doing," Mazzante said. "Now looking back, I am so grateful for the career that I had, and the support of everyone along the way."
Mazzante began becoming a local legend as a freshman at Montoursville when she averaged more than 20 points per game. She scored seven points in her varsity debut significant because she would never be held under double figures again. By Mazzante's sophomore year, Montoursville was emerging as a state power and she led the Warriors to consecutive Class AAA state final appearances in 1999 and 2000, earning all-state honors both times and winning the state's Player of the Year Award as a senior.
Mazzante scored 3,270 career points, including 1,000 in her senior year. The most remarkable aspect of her career, however, is that she led Montoursville to those state finals. Consider that only one District 4 team in any classfication, Benton in 2009, has advanced to the state's Final 4 since then, and one understands how rare an achievement that was.
What Mazzante meant to the community, especially the young girls, went beyond wins and gaudy stats. Early in Mazzante's freshman year, hordes of local fans were regularly attending Penn State games. They watched the local girl become a Big 10 legend, too, as Mazzante became the Big 10s all-time leading scorer while leading the Lady Lions to a league championship and the Elite 8 her senior year.
It was the way Mazzante interacted and appreciated those fans that seemed to mean so much. The young girls found a role model who proved that being from a small town did not mean one could not achieve big things. Adults found a person who embodied everything they love about the community
Even though Mazzante is no longer playing, that remains the same. She is not just one of the best, but also one of the most popular athletes in area history. She is also one of the most generous, constantly giving back through her Kelly Mazzante Foundation.
All of the proceeds from the Jan. 22 game will go toward that Foundation, and a silent auction will also be held during the game where fans can bid on Mazzante memorabilia.
"The best part has been seeing the world, meeting great people, and just getting to play the sport that I love," Mazzante said. "I hope by my career, young kids can see that anything is possible, and being able to represent this community has meant everything to me."
Expect a big crowd Jan. 22. The Loyalsock at Montoursville rivarly makes the night intriguing enough. Watching Mazzante officially end the finest career by any area female athlete adds big-time sizzle. Community residents can watch girls and women's basketball the next 50 years or so and never see anyone quite like Mazzante. That is how rare what she accomplished is.
Many understand this and will be there to thank Mazzante and appreciate, one last time, everything she did. It's Mazzante, though, who wants to provide even more thanks. That is what this night is all about.
"I have traveled the world and to know that Montoursville is my home, I couldn't be more proud," Mazzante said. "Being able to represent this town and neighboring towns has been a blessing.
"This will always be where I came from."
Hughesville is having a big bounce-back season and captured the North Penn Tournament championship, beating Canton, 45-17, and the host Panthers, 49-40. The Spartans entered the season on a 21-game losing streak and went 1-2 last year. Now they are 4-4 and have won three of their last four games.
Hughesville does not feature an explosive offense but plays outstanding defense and is displaying some nice balance and depth. Kierra Croucher was the tournament MVP while post players Carly Rogers and Allison Russell continue showing nice development. Young players like Kaitlin Peterman, Makenna Budman, Rachel Robenholt, Alivia Braunbeck and and Kayla Stackhouse are emerging too.
The past two seasons, HAC-II teams basically could put a check mark in the win column before even playing Hughesville. Now, those days are over.
Jersey Shore improved to 6-2 and moved within five wins of reaching the postseason for the first time in a non-open format since 2007 as it downed MMI Prep, 41-32. Paige Packer had 10 points, eight assists and five steals ... Montoursville point guard Kirsten O'Malley returned from injury after missing two games and scored 18 points in a 50-41 win over Troy while freshman Lexi Marchioni added 17 ... Wellsboro sophomore Sarah Ingerick has shown rapid development and scored 17 points in a 55-44 win over Troy. She has reached double figures in seven of her team's eight games.
Masse may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @docmasse for more high school basketball information.