One will not find Sean McCormick among the South Williamsport scoring leaders. One will find him playing relentless defense, passing the ball well, diving all over and doing all the little things successful teams need.
That was evident again Monday night. McCormick had three assists early in the game, sparked a stingy early defense and set the tone for a 68-49 South home win over rival Montoursville on Senior Night. Riley Hengler (21), Cody Nelson (14) and Billy Rummings (12) scored in double figures, but McCormick again also was instrumental to victory despite not scoring.
"Defense is definitely my thing. It's been that way since I was 5," McCormick said. "It's always important to have a good game on Senior Night. We have a lot of local rivalry with Montoursville too it's so always nice to have a good game against them. It's always a fun game."
Riley Hengler of South Williamsport blocks a shot by Montoursville’s Jim McMahon Monday night at South Williamsport. View additional photos at cu.sungazette.com.
South (14-4) is having a lot of fun these days, winning seven of its last eight. McCormick is one of seven key contributors back from last year's six-win team and has helped create a turnaround similar to the one he has been a part of in football the last two years.
McCormick finished with five assists, added two steals and handled the ball well. A top-flight reserve all season, he started on Senior Night and his hustle helped the Mounties take a 19-8 lead it never relinquished.
"Sean is a kid that does the things that don't show up in the box score for us and has embraced a little different role this year as a guy coming off the bench," South coach Matt Fisher said. "Our bench has been key to us all year long and it's because of guys like Sean that embrace that mentality. He's stepped into any role we've asked him to and he brings the level of intensity and spark that we didn't have last year."
That all-out mentality has been embraced by the entire team and helped South take a 35-16 halftime lead. Hengler was outstanding, scoring 21 points, grabbing eight rebounds and making two steals. He nearly had a double-double by halftime and continued not only playing well, but helping his teammates play better too.
"Just winning makes it five times more fun than last year. We're just better as a team obviously, but better as a team too with camaraderie," McCormick said. "We're less about individual play and more about team work this season."
Cody Nelson is coming on strong and gave South a nice inside presence, scoring 14 points and grabbing six rebounds while Billy Rummings had 12 points and six assists. Nelson, Tyler Schonewolf and Brock Jones all have been good inside and that trio combined for 17 rebounds as South controlled the boards.
Montoursville (1-17) never surrendered against South and made things interesting in the second half. The Warriors, who lost all five starters from last year's team, used a 9-0 run that bridged the third and fourth quarters to pull within 48-33 with seven minutes remaining.
Even after the Mounties countered with an 8-0 game-breaking run, Montoursville kept fighting back. Curtis Miller hit consecutive 3-pointers and made it a 16-point game with 2:12 remaining. The senior guard finished with 14 points and four assists.
"I don't ever complain about the effort. At this point of the season I can't complain about the attitude either," Montoursville coach Mike Mussina said. "In our situation you could be in a bad frame of mind quite often so I can't complain. The kids have been great and they keep going out and playing as hard as they can even when we're down 20."
Quinten Persun had five assists and four steals for Montoursville while Wyatt Entz grabbed a team-high eight rebounds and Weston Bushyeager had seven points and five rebounds. Freshmen Brycen Mussina and Noah Fagnano showed why the future could be bright as well, combining for 11 points and hitting three 3-pointers.
Fagnano scored the last five points in the third quarter to ignite the run that put Montoursville back into the game. The Warriors also hit a season-high seven 3-pointers. It is moments and performances like those that give Montoursville hope that this season is a stepping stone.
"We don't mail it in and that's commendable for the kids," Mussina said. "We're still throwing in some shots and trying to play defense and you have to give them credit for that."
Riley Thomas sparked the 8-0 run that helped South put the game out of reach. The junior guard played a solid all-around game, scoring nine points, dealing four assists and making four steals. Rummings added six assists and South continued displaying the unselfish play that has made it so successful this season. South finished with 19 assists and continued building momentum for a tough late-season push that includes tough road games at Bloomsburg, Southern Columbia and Millville in addition to Saturday's huge home showdown against St. John Neumann.
"It's a fun group of guys to coach," Fisher said. "We were missing those things (the unselfish play) last year. Guys are having fun going up and down the floor hard."
Quinten Persun 3 0-0 7, Weston Bushyeager 3 1-1 7, Jim McMahon 1 0-0 2, Curtis Miller 4 3-4 14, Wyatt Entz 2 3-5 7, Nick Christ 0 0-0 0, Brycen Mussina 2 0-0 6, Nate Ripley 0 1-2 1, Noah Fagnano 2 0-0 5, Zach Bair 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 8-12 49.
Riley Hengler 8 4-4 21, Billy Rummings 5 0-0 12, Brock Jones 3 0-0 6, Riley Thomas 4 0-0 9, Cody Nelson 7 0-0 14, Eric English 2 0-0 4, Tyler Schonewolf 1 0-0 2, Sean McCormick 0 0-0 0. Totals 29 4-4 68.
Montoursville8 8 13 20-49
South19 16 13 20-68
3-pointers: Montoursville 7 (Miller 3, Mussina 2, Persun, Fagnano); South 4 (Rummings 2, Hengler, Thomas).
Records: South 14-4. Montoursville 1-17.
JV Score: Montoursville won.