After Loyalsock finished beating Lewisburg and Williamsport in a 24-hour span last weekend, coach Ron Insinger advised rest the following day. The gym should be off limits he said.
But there was Omar Little Sunday afternoon, shooting, dribbling and working on all facets of his game. Little dazzled Friday at Montoursville, scoring a career-high 35 points while leading Loyalsock to a 64-48 Heartland Conference semifinal win over HAC-I champion Shamokin. This is what the public saw. That is the finished product.
What the public does not see is Little constantly putting in all the extra time. That is where the strong performances are born.
"Omar was in the gym at 6:30 this morning," Loyalsock coach Ron Insinger said. "People can say he is blessed with natural ability, but what they don't understand is all the time he puts in day in and day out. That is why he is able to do what he does."
Little did a lot Friday. The junior guard scored at will, hitting 11 of 18 shots from the field and 12 of 17 at the foul line. He had 20 points by halftime and scored eight of Loyalsock's first 10 in the fourth quarter as the Lancers (22-1) broke open a game that was tied after three quarters.
A player who has excelled in the postseason the last two years was at it again and helped Loyalsock earn a spot in tonight's final at Williamsport against backyard rival St. John Neumann.
"People don't get to see it but me and my teammates are always working hard on our games," Little said. "We all worked hard over the summer and we do everything together. Tonight, my teammates kept me in the game and got me the shots and I was able to finish."
Loyalsock outscored Shamokin 24-8 in the fourth quarter while hitting 6 of 9 shots and stifling the Indians (20-3) with its pressure defense. All-state point guard Kyle Datres was instrumental to the win, dealing 11 assists while igniting the defense. Ben Sosa added 14 points, 8 rebounds and 5 blocks while continuing his stellar late-season play.
"We just stepped up and played Loyalsock basketball," Little said. "We stepped it up on defense and played together and got it done."
Loyalsock never trailed after early in the first quarter but Shamokin (20-3) erased a nine-point second-quarter deficit and ended the third quarter on an 8-0 run to tie the game, 40-40. Little, however, scored the fourth quarter's first six points and a steal by freshman Marcus Williams ignited an 8-0 run that put Loyalsock ahead by 11 with just 2:36 remaining.
While Little shined in the fourth quarter, Datres continued acting as a calming influence and settled the team after Shamokin had seized momentum. He efficiently ran the offense, helped execute the spread offense to perfection late in the game and continued setting teammates up for excellent shots. A player who can go scoreless and still have a huge impact on the game, Datres also played outstanding defense and held leading scorer Zach Moyer to two points.
"This means a lot," Datres said. "We love playing at the Magic Dome. My dad coached there and there's a lot of history there so it's always cool to get the chance to play there."
Sosa helped clinch the win, blocking three shots inside in the last two minutes. The junior forward continues giving up size but nothing else. He hit 6 of 7 shots from the field and blocked two straight shots when it appeared Shamokin would pull within seven at the 2-minute mark.
"Ben played his normal great defense," Insinger said. "At 6-2, he still doesn't get intimidated. He plays outstanding defense and he takes a lot of pride in that."
Early, it was the Little and Datres show as the two guards helped put Loyalsock up 19-10 early in the second quarter. Little scored 14 of the team's first 19 points and Datres had six assists at that point while also having a hand in 14 of the team's points.
Datres split two defenders and scored on a drive at the two-minute mark in the third quarter, putting Loyalsock ahead 40-32. Little was held to two third-quarter points but scored 13 in the fourth and 13 in the second.
"When Omar is playing the way he was we just try and keep getting him the ball," Datres said. "We try and get him the ball and let him do his thing."
The Indians tied the game by the end of the third quarter, but were held to three fourth-quarter field goals and went 0 for 13 from 3-point range.
Zach Moyer 0 2-2 2, Ryan Sebasovich 2 3-4 7, Josh Pappas 4 3-3 11, Dan Delbaugh 1 2-2 4, Isaiah Reiprich 4 0-0 8, Jakob Weaver 6 2-3 14, Feliph Taylor 1 0-0 2. Totals 19 10-14 48.
Omar Little 11 12-17 35, Kyle Datres 2 2-4 6, Ben Sosa 6 2-7 14, Mike Pastore 1 0-0 2, Tommy Baggett 2 3-6 7, Brennan Casale 0 0-0 0, Wes Lapoint 0 0-0 0, Saabir Gibson 0 0-0 0. Totals 23 19-34 64.
Shamokin8 17 15 8-48
Loyalsock12 15 13 24-64
3-pointers: Loyalsock 1 (Little).
Records: Loyalsock 22-1. Shamokin 20-3.