Muncy used two big runs Saturday. One changed the game's complexion and the other sealed a big win against St. John Neumann.
And Nikki Scott sparked both. That fact could serve as a turning point too. The Indians already are a strong team. But if Scott, a tall and athletic forward, builds of last night's performance, they could become one of the district's best.
Scott was outstanding, scoring eight second-quarter points, grabbing a game-high 13 rebounds, blocking five shots and adding three assists as Muncy pulled away for a 52-35 win in a showdown of one-loss teams at the Catholic Community Center. Scott dominated during a 13-0 second-quarter run that erased a seven-point Neumann lead. She also ignited a game-breaking 12-0 fourth-quarter run as Muncy (8-1, 4-0 HAC-III) handed Neumann (7-2, 2-2) its first home loss.
Neumann's Meghan Trenholm dribbles as Brianna McLaughlin of Muncy defends Saturday at the Catholic Community Center.
"I was just ready to go," Scott said. "I was just ready to win."
Without Scott, Muncy might not have. She was the tallest player on the court and made a huge impact off the bench. The sophomore scored eight straight second-quarter points during a 13-0 run as Muncy built a six-point lead and withstood Neumann's early punch. Scott scored off putbacks, kept possessions alive and became a defensive enforcer swatting away what started out as open shots.
Neumann pulled as close as two on three occasions in the third quarter and was down 36-33 when Scott again became assertive. She hustled after a loose ball and found an open Crystal Good who hit a jumper that pushed the lead to five and triggered a 12-0 run that clinched the win. Scott grabbed five rebounds, dealt two assists and blocked two more shots during that spurt.
Scott has flashed signs of potential the last two seasons. Saturday, she did it all night and provided Muncy a huge weapon, literally and figuratively.
"This is the kind of game we knew Nikki could have all year and I'm hoping that this starts something," Muncy coach Craig Weaver Jr. said. "Nikki played a whole game and you could see the look in her face changed. She realized I can do this and that's what we've been begging for for a long time and here it is. The confidence she had tonight, I think it's going to keep her growing as a player."
Good was brilliant and guards Jordan Jones (16 points) and Brianna McLaughlin (12 points, 5 rebounds, 5 steals) also had solid games. Most teams know all about those three and usually focus on trying to slow the Jones and McLaughlin backcourt tandem. Scott emerging inside gives opponents another aspect to try and defend. Considering Muncy already is 8-1, that could be something that pushes it to another level.
It proved that way last night. Neumann had to focus more attention inside which opened up Jones and McLaughlin who combined for 17 fourth-quarter points when Muncy outscored the Knights, 22-9.
"I'm just ready to go," Scott said. "I think we can be pretty dangerous. I think this helps us a lot."
"People that scout us know our guards are decent, but tonight Nikki gave us that inside game we've been looking for because not a lot of girls and are going to be able to get up with her," Weaver said. "That's what we talked about, we need that inside presence to go along with our guards."
Neumann started strong, making 6 of 11 first-quarter shots while building a 12-5 lead. It survived Scott's scoring barrage too and kept coming back. Muncy, though, answered all three times the Knights pulled within two in the third quarter. Megan Helminiak scored four straight points as the Knights cut a seven-point deficit to 36-33 with four minutes remaining, but Scott's assist to Good came a possession later.
Meghan Trenholm scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds but most encouraging for Neumann might have been the play of sophomores Helminiak and Baylie Gerrity. Both are first-time starters but both continue getting better. Their emergence takes pressure off Trenholm and fellow four-year starter Emily Sholder and makes Neumann a more dangerous team.
"A game like tonight has to have their confidence go up a step because they saw what they can do," Neumann coach Steve Sholder said. "If we get that all the time and Emily and Meghan get what they usually get we'll be in good shape. We're not deep but we seem to be able to work our way through."
Good shined for Muncy and was a big reason Neumann could not come all the way back in the second half. She scored 10 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and made two steals. Her biggest contribution came defensively as she held Sholder, averaging 16 points per game, to a season-low four.
"If it wasn't playing defense on Sholder it was getting a rebound, getting a loose ball, it was scrapping and Crystal does that for us every game," Weaver said. "She is so valuable to our team. Words can't express how I feel about her."
Jones scored her 1,000th point a few weeks ago but was held to three in the first three quarters Saturday. As she often does, though, Jones elevated her performance in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 points and making all nine of her shots from the field and the floor. That reflected Muncy's overall performance as it made 8 of 13 shots from the field.
Helminiak made four of six shots for Neumann which forced Muncy into one of its worst quarters of the season in the opening eight minutes. That could give the Knights some confidence entering the rematch at Muncy in a few weeks.
"We took that blow and came out in the third quarter, and did well," said Sholder. "But in fourth quarter I don't know if ran out of gas or they amped it up a bit but we'll get a shot at them again and I'm pretty satisfied with this team so far.
Jordan Jones 5 6-6 16, Brianna McLaughlin 6 0-0 12, Crystal Good 3 4-6 10, Emily Shnyder 1 0-0 2, Allison Edwards 1 0-0 2, Nikki Scott 4 0-0 8, Natalie Lamoreaux 0 2-6 2. Totals 20 12-18 52.
Meghan Trenholm 5 3-6 13, Emily Sholder 2 0-3 4, Megan Helminiak 4 1-2 9, Rachel Danneker 0 0-0 0, Baylie Gerrity 3 3-3 9, Stephanie Fernandez 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 7-14 35.
Muncy5 15 10 22-52
Neumann12 4 10 9-35
Records: Muncy 8-1, 4-0 HAC-III. Neumann 7-2, 2-2.