Defenders overcoming serious injuries
So many Warrior Run seniors share more than their grade. Sadly, many also share painful ACL injury stories. Six Defender seniors have suffered season-ending ACL injuries during their scholastic careers, including current starters Madi Welliver and Madi Beyer. Guard Chloe Sees became the latest unfortunate victim, tearing her ACL in the season opener at St. John Neumann. Warrior Run has experienced so much heartbreak and so much adversity. But against the odds, the Defenders continue flourishing. Warrior Run (7-3) has missed the postseason just once since 2009 and looks like a District 4 Class AAA title contender this season, having won four of its last five games. The Defenders cannot help Sees play again this season, but they can honor her through their play and they are doing a nice job of that, cruising to convincing wins last week against Bloomsburg and Williamsport. “Chloe’s injury was heartbreaking to the team, especially the ones who have experienced it and know what she’s going through,” Welliver said after scoring 18 points in Saturday’s 53-30 win at Williamsport. “A big thing this year is team and unity and us all coming together is helping Chloe and helping ourselves on the floor.” The Defenders appear to be hitting their stride and have made nice progress since early in the season. The offense delivered its best performance against Williamsport and is becoming more versatile. Opponents know that Welliver and Megan Zimmerman are two of District 4’s premier post players, but sophomore Avery Bieber is coming on strong and giving defenses someone else to worry about. Add in guards like Maddie Beyer and Taylor Coup, who dealt 10 assists against Williamsport, and Warrior Run is looking like a dangerous team. It would be easy to wonder how good they would be had none of the ACL injuries happened, especially to dynamic guard Emily Webb who suffered two, but Warrior Run keeps plowing ahead. The Defenders have lost their three games by 10 combined points and are a few plays from being 10-0. This is a team which experienced so much pain, so tough losses do not faze it. Warrior Run just goes back to work. “I definitely think we’ve improved a lot from our first game this season but every day is a new game,” Welliver said. “We just have to come out hard and play every team like it’s a last game.” Unfortunately, so many Warrior Run players have learned how each game truly could be their last one. Maybe that is why they play so ferociously. Warrior Run features one of the district’s best defenses and has held five straight teams to 30 points or fewer. The Defenders limited Hughesville (7-2) to 17 points, one-loss Mifflinburg to 29 and Bloomsburg to 13. Some of that is skill and good strategy. A lot of it, however, is sheer will. The Defenders are fierce competitors and many were part of soccer teams that have reached three straight state semifinals. They know how to win and they expect to win. No matter the obstacle, Warrior Run finds ways to keep winning. “They keep working hard,” first-year coach Jason McCormick said. “That’s the neat thing about this team and what coach (Jon Weaver) had going and they continue to keep doing. They’re just hard workers and great competitors.” ON THE RISE Two years after winning just three games, Jersey Shore (7-3) is looking like a District 4 Class AAAA title contender. The Bulldogs won two more games last week and, while losing 59-31 at Montoursville, showed how dangerous they can by outscoring the Warriors, 15-6, in the second quarter. Both Miffilnburg and Sullivan County have just one loss this season and both came against Jersey Shore. The Bulldogs edged Mifflinburg, 31-29 and rallied past Sullivan, 41-38. The Sullivan game was the third time Jersey Shore rallied in the fourth quarter to win. The Bulldogs also overcame an 11-point halftime deficit against 2016 District 4 Class AA finalist Wellsboro and won, 40-38 on a Hannah Kaufman buzzer-beater. Jersey Shore made a big turnaround last year, winning six more games than in 2015 but the close wins often eluded it. That is not the case this season and the Bulldogs look like a team that could win their first playoff game since 2007. “We were playing hard earlier in the year last year, but we weren’t winning games,” Jersey Shore second-year coach Darrin Bischof said. “This year we pulled out three games that came right down to the wire that last year we probably would have lost and that comes with experience. I had that happen with the (Jersey Shore) boys my first year and it turned over and it’s turning over now. They play very hard and they try very hard.” GROWING UP St. John Neumann features one of the area’s youngest teams and starts just one senior. But the Knights (5-5) are tied for second in the Mid-Penn and beat Millville on the road for the first time since 2012, rallying for a 39-36 victory Saturday. Four of Neumann’s five losses are to Class AAAA and AAA title contenders and those games could help the Knights down the stretch. Shayna McNamee leads the area in scoring and delivered 20 points against Millville. Shelly Floyd is having a breakout season and forms a potentially strong inside tandem with sophomore Abby Henderson. Those two grabbed 19 rebounds against Millville and Floyd recorded her second double-double. Lourdes and Sullivan County look like the front-runners in District 4 Class A, but Neumann is looking like a sleeper. And as the Knights gain more experience, they could become a team that few want to face come playoff time. “Ball control has hurt us against good teams. If we can contain the ball a little bit more and not get so nervous with pressure I like our chances,” Neumann coach Junior Parrish said. “Everybody that’s caused us problems is forcing us to turn the ball over and that is what we’re trying to do to everybody else. If we can flip that table at the end of the year I think we’re going to be really dangerous.” PUTBACKS Muncy is one of the area’s youngest teams and starts no seniors. Still, the Indians (5-4) are making tremendous progress and have won five of their last seven games, including three straight. Muncy is only two wins from matching last year’s win total and could be dangerous moving forward as it gains more experience. Makenna Snyder, Sasha McMonigle and Kassidi Lenhart all are averaging in double figures while Emma Bigelow and Kaitlyn Copeland combined for 17 points … Hughesville (7-2) is off to its best start since 2007 and has won four straight. The Spartans romped to blowout wins over South Williamsport and Bloomsburg last week and have allowed only 21 points per game over their last three games. Hughesville has nice balance and all five starters are scoring threat as is top reserve Jayden Leighow who scored 13 points in Saturday’s 45-16 thumping of Bloomsburg … Wellsboro (7-3) has won five straight and is tied for first in the NTL-I. The Green Hornets are receiving good balance and have not allowed more than 30 points during the winning streak. Jessica Grab scored a career-high 20 points in Friday’s 54-29 win over North Penn-Mansfield … Williamson (6-3) is only one game out in the NTL-II and has won four straight. Brittany Boyce is having a strong season and had 18 points along with 13 rebounds in Friday’s 37-30 win against Northeast Bradford … Galeton (7-2) has won three straight and is off to one of the best starts in program history. Cortney Parsell scored a career-high 27 points in a 65-55 win over Cameron County while Olivia Pagano recorded double-doubles in both wins and Makaya Shadle had 21 points against Austin. Masse may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @docmasse.