Morgan brings some recognition to Bucktail

Ask many outside District 4 to find Renovo on a map and they cannot do it. Heck, ask many in District 4 and that remains true.

While many do not know where Bucktail High School is located, they are learning more and more about Bucktail. The small town north of Lock Haven can thank Maria Morgan for that.

Morgan became the first Bucktail girls player to earn all-state honors, doing so as a sophomore last year. Now, whenever and wherever Bucktail plays, opponents know plenty about it. Morgan is creating some Bucktail exposure.

“I think she has brought recognition to the school,” Bucktail coach Carl Gentzyel said. “When we start jelling together it’s going to be even more.”

Morgan already is the program’s all-time leading scorer. She has topped 1,400 career points and again leads District 4 in scoring, averaging more than 25 points per game. She is only 5-foot-6, but Morgan is whirlwind and usually is one of the quickest players on the court, dazzling with her ball-handling, vision and shooting.

Last Wednesday at St. John Neumann, Morgan showed off her whole arsenal, scoring 23 points, grabbing 10 rebounds, dealing six assists and making six steals in a 68-54 loss. Against five-time defending District 4 Class A champion Lourdes three days later, she scored 23 points and dealt 10 assists in a 57-45 loss. She plays for one of the state’s smallest schools but Morgan is the best player in a huge geographic District 4.

“I don’t think there’s any question she’s the best we’ve played,” Neumann coach Steve Sholder said. “She’s a real nice player and a good kid.”

Morgan has a shot at reaching 2,000 points before she graduates if she stays healthy. Still, the points come in a team setting. She is a fantastic passer and sees the court as well as any player around. If a teammates is open, Morgan will find her.

That makes Bucktail especially dangerous moving forward. The Bucks (5-7) are a young team that start only one senior. They have some nice height in the post and are starting to jell. Hannah Shearer had a double-double against Neumann while Tiffany Werts almost added another.

So many teams focus on Morgan, double and triple teaming her. If those other Bucks continue playing well, Morgan will make them play.

“We have all these kids coming back so it’s a good learning experience,” Gentzyel said. “We’ll take some lumps here and there and we’re going to give a few but we have everyone coming back other than Hannah so we’re playing hard and also preparing for the next few years.”

Bucktail is still fighting for a playoff berth but Wednesday might have been the last time it met Neumann in an intriguing matchup that featured Morgan going against fellow all-state Meghan Trenholm and four-year starter Emily Sholder. Those six games the teams played the last three seasons have been entertaining ones and rare too, considering Morgan and Trenholm are the only all-state players in their respective program’s histories.

When Morgan has come to Williamsport the last three years, some high school fans have attended just to watch Morgan. They might not know precisely where Bucktail is, but they know who Morgan is and know all about her team.

“It’s been a lot of fun. She’s a great player to go against,” Sholder said. “We always know it’s going to be a good game when you play them, especially with Maria. She’s a great competitor.”

BALANCING OUT: Neumann is looking is looking like a more dangerous playoff team because it is becoming more balanced. Against Bucktail four players scored at least nine points and Stephanie Fernandez added six points, along with four assists. The last two years opponents have ganged up to stop Trenholm and Sholder.

As Wednesday’s performance revealed, that strategy might be starting to backfire. And it could mean some postseason success for a team that clinched its program-record seventh straight playoff berth when it beat Montgomery, 56-39 Saturday.

“We’ve said all along if we get other people other than Emily and Meghan involved in the game, particularly on the offensive end, we’re going to be hard to beat,” Neumann coach Steve Sholder said.

That was especially true early against Bucktail. Fernandez and Baylie Gerrity ignited an early 13-0 run that broke things open and scored 11 of the team’s first 17 points. Helminiak took over at times in the second half, scoring 12 of her 16 points during that time.

Helminiak has scored 16 points three times this season and is averaging 10 points per game, providing another reliable scoring option. Gerrity has been making big strides in her sophomore year too and Fernandez is a strong defender who can make things happen in transition and with her passing. Put it together and the Knights could be much more than a two-person show come late February.

“It takes a lot of pressure off of us and makes it harder for other teams,” Emily Sholder said. “They might think they just have to worry about me and Meghan but they have to worry about other players too and that makes it harder for them to play defense against us.”

PUTBACKS: Sullivan County won its first game Saturday, thumping Benton, 43-27. The Griffins also showed that the future could be bright as freshman Ashley Faus scored 15 points and sophomore Torie Shultz added 13 … Galeton’s Latascia Shadle is having an outstanding season and is helping Galeton (7-6) make a run toward a second straight playoff berth. She is the area’s second-leading scorer and scored a career-high 30 points in a 45-38 win over Austin … Milton freshman Maggie Wetzel could be one of the area’s best players in the next few years. She had 15 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks in a 49-37 win over Selinsgrove … Montgomery sophomore Dionna Satteson has been one of the area’s breakthrough players. The tall and athletic sophomore scored a career-high 26 points and grabbed 21 rebounds in a 66-48 win over Bucktail … North Penn overcame a 19-point halftime deficit, scored 54 second-half points and stunned Wellsboro, 63-59 last Wednesday as Britta Berguson scored a career-high 20 points.

1. Warrior Run (11-2): The Defenders are playoff-bound for a sixth straight season. That is quite impressive considering, the program had produced three wins in three seasons before this run began. Warrior Run looks like a team that can make a run in districts as well with a nice blend of experienced players and potential young stars like freshman Madi Welliver who scored 21 points in wins over Hughesville and Loyalsock. Even when struggling offensively, Warrior Run almost always gives itself a shot to win because it plays outstanding defense. It held Loyalsock to 27 points in Saturday’s win and has not allowed more than 47 points in a game.

2. Montoursville (9-4): A heart-breaking one-point loss at Central Columbia Saturday dampened what was a breakthrough week. The Warriors rallied in the fourth quarter to beat three-time defending District 4 Class AA champion Mount Carmel last Wednesday and snapped the Tornadoes’ 17-game league winning streak. Montoursville has overcome fourth-quarter deficits in road wins there and at last year’s other district finalist Southern Columbia. Junior forward Kelsey Stine is coming on strong and that is a huge boost for Montoursville going forward. A good rebounder, Stine scored a career-high 20 points against Mount Carmel and added 15 against Central.

3. Mansfield (11-2): The Tigers are playoff-bound a year after losing more than 60 percent of their scoring and rebounding. And Mansfield looks like a serious District 4 Class A title contender too, winning six straight games while exacting revenge on Sayre and Wellsboro after losing to those teams last year. The scoring is balanced, the chemistry excellent and the defense strong. Simone Lichty is one of the team’s premier defenders but turned offensive in a 68-14 over Canton, scoring a career-high 18 points. Junior Kaitlyn Garverick is having a nice season too and had 20 points and 12 rebounds while making all 10 foul shots in a 48-40 win over Wellsboro.

4. Muncy (12-2): The Indians still have a shot at capturing their first HAC-III championship despite losing to undefeated Millville Saturday. If Muncy wins its remaining six league games it would at least for a playoff for the crown. The Indians, though, have a tough game Friday against surging Bloomsburg which also has just one league loss. Allison Edwards and Nikki Scott are promising sophomores who could make a big difference down the stretch. Scott had 14 rebounds in a 58-31 win over Benton and combines good size with nice touch around the basket. Edwards plays solid defense and showed nice touch against Millville, scoring eight points and making 4 of 6 shots.

5. Williamsport (7-6): Sophomore center Jaynell Robinson continues developing and is becoming a force inside. Robinson has averaged 20 points in her last five games and had 17 in a 58-51 win over Shikellamy last week. Guards Amy Southard and Chloe Jennings combined for 23 points in that game, revealing the potentially strong inside-outside game Williamsport possesses. The Millionaires will be tested tonight at home against a determined Southern Columbia team that is seeking its second straight state tournament appearance.

Player of the week

Emily Sholder, St. John Neumann: The senior point guard is having her best season and came up big in both wins last week. Sholder scored 21 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dealt six assists against Bucktail. She then scored a career-high 25 points in the comeback win at Montgomery.

Game of the week

Loyalsock at Montoursville: Montoursville legend Kelly Mazzante will announce her retirement prior to this entertaining cross-creek rivalry game Wednesday. All proceeds from this game go to the Kelly Mazzante foundation and a silent auction will be held where fans can bid on Mazzante memorabilia. The current Warriors and Lancers will then have a chance to show their stuff in front of the Big Ten’s all-time leading scorer as they meet for the first time since Kayla Gee’s last-second 3-pointer gave Loyalsock a 44-41 win last month.