MUNCY - Wherever she goes on a basketball court, Millville center Madi Bower elicits attention.
Often, it is opponents swarming her. Just as frequent is the abuse she takes from fans. Bower, though, does not hide from that role. She embraces it. She welcomes it.
Bower was the center of attention Saturday, delivering a dominant all-around performance that put Millville in sole possession of first place in the HAC-III. Bower scored 31 points, grabbed 22 rebounds, blocked seven shots and dealt three assists as Millville defeated Muncy, 61-51 in a showdown between league unbeatens.
"It was pretty intense. Every game has been like that," Bower said. "The Bowers are the target people in our area, but that's fun. I love it. It pushes you harder. It motivates you."
Bower is the oldest of three sisters who start for the Quakers (10-0, 6-0). All three played strong yesterday as Millville built off the best start in program history. Maci Bower had 17 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists while freshman Morgan Bower had seven points and 10 rebounds.
Still, it was Madi who was the big difference maker. The senior, who will play soccer at LaSalle next year, helped Millville take a five-point halftime lead that was never relinquished. That lead grew to 14 late in the third quarter and every time Muncy (12-2, 7-1) rallied, Madi answered and never let it pull closer than six.
Madi, who also handled the point at times, was a second-half force in scoring 20 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. In addition to the seven blocks, she also altered many more shots, using all of her 6-foot-1 inches to make Muncy struggle in the paint. Madi also clinched the win when she whizzed a pass through a triple team and found sister Maci for a layup that made it 58-47 with a minute remaining.
"We knew Muncy would be our toughest competition so far this year so this was really big," Madi said. "We're having lots of fun. It's fun to play with these girls. We have a good team this year."
Emily Shnyder's buzzer-beating 3-pointer put Muncy ahead 13-9 after the first quarter but a 2 for 15 shooting performance in the second quarter started changing the game's complexion. Muncy fought back over the game's final nine minutes but the 14-point deficit was too much, especially with Madi controlling the inside so well.
"We're trying to slow her down and we did a good job to start the game and in the first half but then in the second half we kind of lost her and she owned the boards," Muncy coach Craig Weaver Jr. said. "We told them it's not the first shot, it's that second and third shots that she was following up on the boards and she's dangerous when you let her get inside like that."
Muncy lost for the first time at home, but in the big picture the loss is not too costly. The Indians travel to Millville in a few weeks. In that sense, they still control their own destiny and could, at worst, force a playoff for the championship if they win out in the league.
"I can't question heart and I can't question effort. The girls gave everything they had and we just came up on the short end," Weaver said. "I told them, It doesn't affect our playoff run, it doesn't affect anything. We're still in the same spot we were before the game so we just have to get back in the gym and get ready for it."
Jordan Jones scored a team-high 15 points for Muncy while Brianna McLaughlin had 13 points, 9 assists and 4 steals. McLaughlin scored all her 13 points in the second half and had a hand in 32 of Muncy's 51 points.
Shynder played well off the bench, scoring five points and grabbing nine rebounds. Allison Edwards added eight points and early on played some outstanding defense.
Madi Bower 11 9-19 31, Maci Bower 7 2-4 17, Morgan Bower 3 0-2 7, Abbi Belles 0 2-3 2, Nicole Whiteknight 2 1-3 5. Totals 23 14-31 61.
Jordan Jones 6 3-4 15, Brianna McLaughlin 5 2-4 13, Crystal Good 2 0-0 4, Emily Shnyder 1 2-4 5, Allison Edwards 4 0-0 8, Nikki Scott 2 0-0 4, Natalie Lamoreaux 1 0-0 2. Totals 21 7-12 51.
Millville9 18 22 12-61
Muncy13 9 15 14-51
3-pointers: Millville 2 (Maci Bower, Mo. Bower); Muncy 2 (McLaughlin, Shnyder).
Records: Millville 10-0, 6-0 HAC-III. Muncy 12-2, 7-1.
JV Score: Muncy 30-24.