MUNCY - Derek Sellers immediately attacked the Cowanesque Valley defense, scoring early and often. Fellow Muncy guard Leone Ghezzi filled up the stat sheet early and ignited a game-changing second-quarter run.
Sellers and Ghezzi looked like playoff veterans Tuesday night against visiting CV, though they were actually making their playoff debuts. The junior guards shined and Nick Ring recorded a double-double as No. 8 Muncy led from start to finish in the District 4 Class A first-round game and won, 54-43.
Sellers and Ghezzi combined for 21 points, 16 rebounds, six assists and eight steals and Muncy (13-10) earned a quarterfinal game Friday at top-seeded St. John Neumann.
Leone Ghezzi of Muncy is fouled by Cowanesque Valley’s Nate Bonhan Tuesday night to open the District 4 Class A playoffs. View additional photos at cu.sungazette.com
"Derek was really aggressive and made some nice shots and moves in the first quarter. That really helped us," Ghezzi said. "I really want to win for (senior starters) Nick and Teddy (Clark). I take a lot of pride in being able to help them win."
Sellers and Ghezzi have been pivotal to Muncy's success all season. The Indians lost three strong starters from last year's state qualifier and questions surrounded the backcourt. Both have emerged and performed well in different ways. That was evident again last night as Muncy put a damper on No. 9 CV's first playoff appearance since 2009.
Sellers scored all his points in the first quarter, scoring and setting up teammates as Muncy built a 16-6 lead. While Sellers did not score again he did plenty, grabbing 11 rebounds, making three steals and playing solid defense. The 11 rebounds stood out because Sellers was one of the game's smallest players.
"You worry that they didn't have any playoff experience. It's a different atmosphere when it's win or go home," Muncy coach Jason Gresh said. "We stressed attacking coming out Derek did that. They were playing nose to nose and he just went by them and that's what you have to do when they're playing that close."
CV (11-12) trailed by seven early in the second quarter when Ghezzi heated up. The junior guard scored five points during a 10-0 run that gave Muncy a 17-point advantage and his 3-pointer that made it 25-11 sent a large and enthusiastic Muncy student section into near delirium.
Ghezzi is one of the area's best pure shooters and scored a game-high 15 points while grabbing five rebounds and making five steals. Ironically, it was not one of his best shooting performances, revealing how dangerous he is.
"I was pretty nervous. I felt like we had a great student section, though, and that really helped," Ghezzi said. "I felt like the whole school was behind me."
Ghezzi has made a huge impact and averages close to 14 points per game. His evolution has helped take pressure off Ring, a Wilkes University-bound center who has the ability to dominate.
Ring took advantage Tuesday night, scoring 13 points, grabbing 16 rebounds and blocking four shots. The senior was again a physical presence and altered even more shots than he blocked, forcing CV to settle for mostly perimeter.
"Leone is definitely is a weapon. When people double and triple team Nick he helps open it up. He gives them one more thing to think about," Gresh said. "Nick is one of those guys if you don't see him live you don't know how good he is. A double-double is what you expect. They had some big boys and he did a nice job of being physical and grabbing boards and Derek did that too."
After that 10-0 second-quarter run, CV never pulled closer than 13 until the game's final seconds. While Muncy had a few playoff rookies, CV had nothing but playoff novices. The Indians were playing just their second playoff game in 16 seasons and appeared nervous throughout the first three quarters.
CV did play well in the fourth quarter, pulling within 48-35 at the five-minute mark before Ghezzi answered with a 3-pointer. CV started mostly underclassmen all season and has a good nucleus returning so this game might have been a start rather than an ending.
"They're still learning about what it takes to get to this kind of level," CV coach Mike Vargeson said. "The nice thing is it gives these young kids something to work for the next couple of years. Hopefully we can get a spark going up at CV and return every year for a while."
Sophomore Bryant Painter offered a possible sign of things to come as he scored 11 fourth-quarter points. Fellow sophomore Tyler Melko added nine points and 10 rebounds while sophomore Dakota Corwin scored eight points. Senior Josh Nudd concluded a league all-star season with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
The Indians reached the playoffs despite dealing with injuries throughout the season. Leading returning scorer Brandon Whitesell missed most of the season with a broken ankle suffered during Week 9 of the football season before making a gutty return late and Painter missed six games late in the regular season. Still, CV rallied to reach districts and might have revived the program in the process.
"All I ask is 100 percent hustle. Not everyone has the skills but everyone has the ability to hustle and they did that. That got us here," Vargeson said. "We're pretty young and anxious and they want to learn and want to keep playing."
Clark scored 13 points for Muncy which will be playing Neumann for a third time. The Indians gave the Heartland Conference champions one of their toughest games at midseason, losing late 79-70.
"We're very excited especially since they beat Loyalsock," Ghezzi said. "We really want to give them their first loss. It's going to be great. Friday night basketball with a great crowd ... it's going to be fun."
COWANESQUE VALLEY (43)
Josh Nudd 6 0-2 13, Tyler Melko 4 0-0 9, Bryant Painter 5 0-0 11, Brandon Whitesell 1 0-2 2, Dakota Corwin 4 0-0 8, Brandon McLean 0 0-0 0, Nate Bonhan 0 0-0 0; Ryan Freeman 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 0-4 43.
Nick Ring 5 3-7 13, Ted Clark 6 0-0 13, Leone Ghezzi 5 2-2 15, Anthony Barberio 1 0-0 2, Derek Sellers 3 0-2 6, Eli Warnick 1 0-0 2, Jeff Fry 1 1-2 3. Totals 22 6-13 54.
CV9 6 11 17-43
Muncy16 12 14 12-54
3-pointers: CV 3 (Nudd, Melko, Painter); Muncy 4 (Ghezzi 3, Clark).
Records: Muncy 13-10. CV 11-12.