Lancers advance on Insinger’s 800th win
Little Ronnie Insinger jumped and tried stealing the game ball as both immediate and Loyalsock family surrounded his grandfather Ron Insinger. Ronnie did not care that history had been made. He just wanted to play.
His grandfather just wants to coach. And what a coach he has become.
Insinger joined an elite fraternity Saturday at Williamsport and achieved something that might never happen again. Omar Little scored 19 points, Ben Sosa added 14 and Mike Pastore made two huge late steals as Loyalsock defeated Mid Valley, 63-54 in the Class AA state tournament’s first round while delivering Insinger his 800th career win.
A man who took over in 1974, thinking it was an excellent opportunity, has remained there ever since. The wins have piled up but so too have the lives he has influenced and many former players were there to celebrate Saturday as Insinger became only the second Pennsylvania boys basketball coach to win 800 games.
Good luck, trying to steal that game ball now, Ronnie.
“It doesn’t get much better than that. When we say 1-2-3 in the huddle a lot it’s ‘family.’ This is a big part of it, it really is,” Insinger said. “I couldn’t be happier. I’m pretty much speechless because this is stuff you daydream about don’t think will ever be reality.”
Insinger has reached 800 wins in 38 seasons and needs just one more to tie former North Catholic coach Don Graham for the state’s all-time record. That opportunity comes in Wednesday’s second round against District 12 champion Communications Tech.
Insinger is a fierce competitor and that has driven his teams to 17 district championships. Still, he has never made Loyalsock basketball about him. It always has been about the players and that is why players looked as thrilled as if winning a state title as the final seconds ticked away.
Little dribbled out the final seconds, threw the ball in the air, yelled for joy while smiling at Insinger before locking him in a bear hug. Soon the entire team surrounded Insinger, giving him hugs one by one as Loyalsock fans throughout the cavernous gym stood and applauded.
“We love him. He’s a great guy,” Pastore said. “He gives all the credit to us and he should get the most of the credit, but he still gives it to us. He has our backs every day and it’s great to do this for him.”
“It was very exciting. I like seeing my coach happy and I like seeing my team happy,” Little said. “We just like winning. He and that are a part of Loyalsock basketball.”
All week Insinger kept the focus off himself and No. 800. He kept it on Mid Valley (23-6) and his players. The milestone would be nice, but Insinger wanted his team to secure its first state tournament win since 2009 much more.
It happened as Little’s buzzer-beating first-quarter 3-pointer put Loyalsock (25-3) ahead to stay. Loyalsock built a 12-point second-quarter lead, and while Mid Valley stayed within striking distance most of the game, Loyalsock never lost control. The Lancers exorcized some demons in the process and erased the painful memories of last year when a double-digit second-half lead turned into a first-round loss against Riverside.
“It motivated us a lot because we didn’t want to have to go back in the locker room and have to deal with that hard feeling again,” forward Ben Sosa said. “We just wanted to get the win and move on.”
Sosa helped make it happen, scoring 14 points. He was one of three players in double figures, joining Little and Kyle Datres (13 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists). Pastore added nine points and five assists while center Roger Wilson grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds and blocked three shots.
Little dominated the game at different points, scoring nine first-quarter points and then scoring nine more in the fourth quarter, mostly after Mid Valley had pulled within eight. He made four of his last five shots and had a hand in 10 points down the stretch as Loyalsock pulled away.
Pastore officially clinched the win when he made two steals in a five-second span. Mid Valley students taunted the sophomore guard about his height early on but were silenced after watching him play. Pastore (5 assists, 4 rebounds) fed Little and Sosa for layups, giving Loyalsock a 63-48 lead with 40 seconds remaining.
“I was just in the right place at the right time,” Pastore said. “It’s huge to be a part of this. CI (Coach Insinger) has been working us every day at practice and he’s motivating us.”
After Sosa turned Pastore’s second steal into points, Insinger raised both arms in triumph and smiled wider than he had all game. The student section roared behind him and maroon-clad fans everywhere rose to their feet.
They knew history belonged to Insinger. They knew a huge win belonged to the players. And the dream of a young coach is now reality.
“That was icing on the cake. The guys never say die and that in itself speaks volumes for their integrity,” Insinger said. “They just keep plugging away and making the best of what we have.”
They have become the perfect reflection of their coach.
MID VALLEY (54)
Ronny Tomasetti 7 3-8 19, Matt Tanner 6 1-2 15, Alex Prislupsky 5 2-2 13, Martin Walsh 1 0-0 2, Tyler Collins 1 0-2 2, A.J. Gangemi 1 1-2 3. Totals 21 7-16 54.
Roger Wilson 3 0-1 6, Kyle Datres 5 2-4 13, Omar Little 8 2-4 19, Ben Sosa 7 0-1 14, Mike Pastore 3 1-3 9, Ryan Bogaczyk 0 0-0 0, Tommy Baggett 0 0-0 0, Jimmy Webb 1 0-0 2, Luke Glavin 0 0-0 0. Totals 27 5-13 63.
Mid Valley15 10 10 19-54
Loyalsock16 17 9 21-63
3-pointers: Mid Valley 5 (Tomasetti 2, Tanner 2, Prislupsky); Loyalsock 4 (Pastore 2, Datres, Little).
Records: Loyalsock 25-3. Mid Valley 23-6.