As time expired, South Williamsport point guard Roxie Keller looked like she wanted to jump up and down while celebrating. Instead, she just flashed a big smile and walked toward the hand-shake line.
While the celebration was subdued, chances are Keller and her Mountie teammates always will smile when reflecting upon Monday's dramatic win. This latest installment of the intense Loyalsock-South rivalry was as good as it gets. And South winning will give those Mountie players a moment they can always savor.
Jen Jackson and Anna Steer nearly recorded double-doubles and Keller made a beautiful pass to Kalynn Wheeland that put her team ahead to stay as South overcame a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit and stunned visiting Loyalsock, 53-48 in overtime. The Mounties (4-8) trailed by as many as 10 late in the third quarter but never buckled and delivered their season's signature win.
Lizz Cummings (50) of South Williamsport watches the ball go out of bounds as Loyalsock’s Emma Fox (20) stands in front of Kelsey Gantz of South Monday night at South Williamsport. View additional photos at cu.sungazette.com.
"It's amazing. The rivalry games are always so intense and so much fun to play in," said Keller, who had six assists. "Any win is great, but rivalry wins are the ones you want the most in your high school career."
"The Loyalsock-South rivalry has been big forever and that confidence seemed to build as the game went on," South coach Mike Allison said. "They believed in themselves that they could get it done, coming back in regulation and taking care of business in overtime."
South dealt a serious blow to Loyalsock's (3-7) playoff hopes and played some of its best basketball when it mattered most. It outscored the Lancers, 24-10 over the final 10 minutes and dominated the overtime. It was a huge win and potential spring board for a team that had lost a series of close games to good teams but that would not be denied again.
It was not one or two players doing all the heavy lifting either. This was all the Mounties coming together and making big plays when there was little room for error. Kelsey Gantz ignited the comeback with a fourth-quarter scoring flurry while players like Megan Allison and Lizz Cummings chipped in too, scoring on a pretty 1-handed putback and grabbing some huge rebounds, respectively.
"This group gets along well on and off the court and it was nice to see young ladies sitting on the bench out there yelling at the girls and instructing them what to do. It was a total team effort," Mike Allison said. "They methodically got back in the game one basket at a time and got some defensive stops."
Loyalsock led 38-29 with six minutes remaining when Gantz drained a 3-pointer. Everything started changing from there as she followed by threading an assist to Steer before Allison's putback made it a one-point game. Every previous time South had rallied in the second half, Loyalsock answered. Some might have thought it would happen again.
South never did.
"It was one of those things where you just have to keep going," said Jackson, who had 14 points, eight rebounds, four assists and four steals. "You don't know what's going to happen, you don't know what the game is going to bring but you just have to keep pushing through."
Jackson fed Gantz for a layup to cut a four-point deficit in half before taking a pass from Keller on the right wing and swishing a long jumper, tying the game at 43. Two Kayla Gee free throws put Loyalsock ahead again, but Steer (13 points, 8 rebounds) calmly sank two free throws with 27 seconds remaining, forcing overtime after South made an impressive last-second defensive stand.
At that point, South had Loyalsock right where it wanted it and controlled the overtime, outscoring its rival 8-3.
"I feel like we're going to get this. If I push myself that much I don't want to let my team lose because of a mistake I made," Jackson said. "It was a team effort to get to overtime and it was definitely a team effort to win in overtime."
Keller's passing and ball-handling were huge in the fourth quarter and overtime and she delivered her best pass when she found Wheeland for a backdoor layup that put South ahead to stay, 49-47 with 1:51 remaining. Jackson and Steer then hit foul shots before Gee hit another free throw to make it 51-48.
Keller was fouled with 5.9 seconds left. The senior likely was playing Loyalsock for the last time in basketball and made this last appearance a memorable one, draining both foul shots to clinch the win.
"We just had to stick to the game plan and stay calm and play as a team," Keller said. "We all wanted this one bad."
Allie Pagana did her best to prevent South from getting that win. The senior was all over the court, scoring 14 points, making nine steals and grabbing eight rebounds. Pagana's defense started changing the game's complexion in the third quarter as she had seven points, three rebounds and three steals while extending Loyalsock's 2-point lead to 10.
Angie Cardillo added 10 points and eight rebounds, but Loyalsock made just three field goals in the game's final 12 minutes. The Lancers trailed 8-5 after the first quarter but led by three at the half and appeared on the verge of breaking things open after Pagana heated up.
"It's tough. That's the story of our season. We can't get everyone going at the same time," Loyalsock coach Demarr Wright said. "Hat's off to South Williamsport. They competed hard all 36 minutes. Everything goes to them."
Kayla Gee 2 5-6 10, Allie Pagana 5 4-9 14, Angie Cardillo 4 2-8 10, Cellina Salvatori 2 0-0 4, Abby Sullivan 1 0-2 2, Emma Fox 3 0-1 6, Missy Hill 0 0-0 0, Lauren Rude 1 0-0 2. Totals 18 11-26 48.
Jen Jackson 5 4-6 14, Anna Steer 5 3-4 13, Kalynn Wheeland 3 0-1 6, Roxie Keller 1 2-2 4, Kelsey Gantz 3 1-2 8, Megan Allison 3 0-1 6, Alana Stugart 0 0-0 0, Lizz Cummings 0 2-2 2, Bettina Peluso 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 12-18 53.
Loyalsock5 13 15 12 3-48
South8 7 10 20 8-53
3-pointers: Loyalsock 1 (Gee); South 1 (Gantz).
Records: South 4-7, Loyalsock 3-7.
JV Score: Loyalsock 45-31.