Youth is served for Warriors
Moments after his team rallied past Lewisburg and recorded a big win last Wednesday, Montoursville coach Kevin Kurtz pulled aside senior Ally Yocum and thanked her.
Yocum had pointed out some things that could be more effectively done at practice. Kurtz was grateful for input like that from a veteran player. That is especially since he has so few veteran players.
Montoursville starts four sophomores and a junior. Yocum and Kayla Venema, both valuable reserves, are the team’s only seniors. That youth, though, is hardly a detriment. It has become a strength and Montoursville (10-2, 5-0 HAC-II) is off to its best start since Kelly Mazzante played there in 2000. The Warriors took sole possession of first place Saturday, beating previously unbeaten Southern Columbia, 45-33, so as appealing as the future looks, the present looks pretty good, too.
“We’re a young team. We don’t start any seniors so we know we can get it going this year and it makes it more positive for next year, too,” junior guard McKenzie Ruffing said. “We have high expectations but we just have to keep it one game at a time.”
Montoursville may have reached a turning point against Lewisburg. Playing against one of the district’s premier Class AA teams, Montoursville scored just seven first-half points, trailed by 13 in the second quarter and still was down by 11 late in the third. None of it mattered, though, and the Warriors responded in impressive fashion, going on a huge run that bridged the third and fourth quarters while winning, 34-32.
All those young players made a huge impact, too. Sophomores Marissa Hall and Kelsey Stine kept Montoursville in the game, and sophomores Kirsten O’Malley and Carly Mill combined for 14 fourth-quarter points. Yocum and Venema made some big plays and the Warriors struck a nice balance between youth and experience while showing off their playoff credentials.
Whatever the future holds, this is a game Montoursville can always look back and lean on. This was a game where the kids grew up.
“It’s huge. That is a big game to win,” Mill said. “It prepares us for later on.”
“We have a young team and it shows a lot of character,” Kurtz said. “We have two seniors who provide some really good leadership. I’m not going to minimize the youth of the team but we have some seniors that really provide the leadership and help the team.”
That showed against Southern. Instead of suffering a letdown after the dramatic Lewisburg win, Montoursville built on the momentum. It again played sensational defense and again received a balanced effort as it handed the Tigers a 12-point loss three nights after they had beaten two-time defending district champion Mount Carmel.
“It was a well-rounded team win,” Kurtz said. “It was a good week, but a tough week.”
Yocum and Venema will not be around the next two years as this Montoursville team continues growing and moving forward. But they still have a shot at winning league and district championships. The Warriors have several tough games remaining, starting Wednesday against Mount Carmel but they own the district’s best record and have won nine of their last 10 games. They have held nine teams to fewer than 40 points and seem to be getting better and more confident every game.
The talk at Montoursville the last few years was about how bright the future was. Forget that and forget the grades these players are in.
The future is now.
“We are here to play,” Kurtz said. “This program is moving in a good direction.”
St. John Neumann guard Meghan Trenholm became the area’s first player to reach 1,000 career points this year, doing so Saturday against Bloomsburg. The junior is the quickest player in program history to reach that milestone and the first to do so since Meredith Grausam in 2003. Trenholm is one of the area’s hardest workers and is relentless on the court, excelling in all areas.
“We know we can always count on Meghan to make a play,” Neumann coach Steve Sholder said earlier this season. “She has really grown as a leader.”
Trenholm has helped Neumann reach districts the last two years and it is 8-3 this season. She has 1,001 career points, scoring that many in just 58 games while also leading the Knights in rebounding and steals the last two seasons. Trenholm is the area’s second-leading scorer this season, averaging more than 21 per game and she has increased her scoring average in each of the past two seasons.
Wellsboro is surging after a frustrating 3-8 start. The Green Hornets stunned Mansfield, 51-50, on its home court last Tuesday and have won three straight while emerging as a NTL-West title contender again. Wellsboro lost six of its first eight games by seven points or fewer, but a young team is starting to jell and senior Mackenzie Marple has been sensational. She scored a career-high 29 points in the Mansfield win … Allie Pagana had a good week for Loyalsock, playing good defense and averaging 11 points in three games. The Lancers (3-6) won two of those and should not be counted out of the playoff hunt … Bucktail sophomore Maria Morgan had a triple-double in a 52-35 win over CMVT, going for 20 points, 10 assists and 10 steals. The Milton girls are playing as well as anyone in the area and stunned Danville last week before edging Jersey Shore. The Black Panthers (6-5) have won six of their last seven games.
Masse may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @docmasse.