Paisley bit of a Renaissance Man for Muncy

Nate Paisley serves as the Muncy class president. The senior is ranked No. 1 in his class and already has taken difficult collegiate courses like Calculus III and macroeconomics.

Oh yeah, he is quite a basketball player as well. Paisley is Muncy’s version of Muncy’s Renaissance Man and is strong in mind and body. He also is becoming one of the area’s premier point guards.

Paisley dazzled last week, putting together marvelous performances against North Penn-Liberty and Warrior Run, while helping Muncy continue its best start of the 2000s. Paisley recorded a triple-double in the first game, scored a game-high 19 points in the second and hit a last-second, game-winning shot that lifted Muncy to a 48-47 win and a 5-0 start. A three-year starter, Paisley has improved each season and is looking stronger than ever while becoming an excellent leader on and off the court.

“That’s the big thing, I want to lead,” Paisley said. “I don’t want to just make the plays myself, but get others involved. Just coming out on top and winning is the most important thing.”

“The awesome thing about Nate is that he is just as happy to score eight points and get 12 assists as long as we come out with the win. (Against Warrior Run) that wasn’t going to be the case, so he found another gear and did what he needed to do,” Muncy coach Jason Gresh said. “He will do whatever it takes. There’s nothing better than you can say about a kid. Whether it’s diving on the floor, rebounding, passing or scoring, he will do whatever it takes.”

That attitude helped Muncy make a late rally a season ago, win its first state tournament game since 2003 and come within a split second of beating District 3 champion Halifax. Now it is helping Muncy emerge as a serious District 4 Class AA title contender despite losing all-state guard Jeff Fry to graduation. Paisley does a bit of everything, averaging a team-best 14.6 points per game while leading the team in assists, becoming a strong rebounder and playing stellar defense.

Paisley put everything together against North Penn-Liberty, recording a triple-double and finishing with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Against Warrior Run, Paisley hit three 3-pointers, grabbed seven rebounds, dealt five assists and added five steals while hitting the game-winning runner against a four-win team. This is a well-rounded team on which three players are averaging in double figures and in which all seven players in the rotation are having solid seasons.

Still, Paisley is this team’s quarterback and he is directing quite a start.

“He is in complete control of the game. That is the best compliment I could ever give a kid,” Gresh said. “He grew up watching (dynamic Muncy point guard) Ammar (Sabonovic) so Nate has been breaking down since he was in fifth grade with us and working all the time. They all respect him. He’s the leader, no doubt about it and they all respect that and that’s sometimes hard to get.”

“We knew that we had a good team. We played well all summer and came together early,” Paisley said. “We’ve been playing well. We just have to fine-tune stuff and we’ll be ready because we still have a long way to go.”

Paisley has come a long way since he started breaking down film as an elementary school student. A good four-sport athlete, Paisley has become stronger, quicker and more explosive. He rarely exits the game and is as dangerous attacking the basket as he is hitting a 3-pointer. Paisley sees the court well and is leading the team in assists for a second straight year. His defense makes Paisley a complete player and his timely steal in the final minute against Warrior Run set up a 3-point play that gave Muncy a one-point lead.

The superb student in the class room has become quite a basketball student as well. And so far, he is receiving fantastic grades on the court.

“He has always been there doing whatever I ask of him and it’s starting to show,” Gresh said. “It’s awesome.”

LIGHTING IT UP

Lewisburg senior guard Nate Liscum shares much in common with Paisley. Liscum is a driven leader who hurts opponents in a variety of ways. A likely Division I soccer player, Liscum is making the most of his last scholastic basketball season and is giving his teammates a lesson in leadership and dedication.

Liscum put together sensational performances against Montoursville and Southern Columbia, scoring 63 points while adding 10 rebounds against Montoursville. Liscum scored a career-high 35 points in a 72-64 win at Southern and nearly willed Lewisburg all the way back from a 15-point third-quarter deficit when he scored 15 of his 28 points in the final quarter of a 67-62 loss at Montoursville.

“Nate is such an unbelievable soccer player, but when he steps on the basketball court it’s all basketball and he wants to try and get this team to win,” Lewisburg coach John Vaji said. “He had that little look in his eye in practice (entering the week) that we’re going to get after it and get some stuff done.”

Liscum is one of only two starters back from last year’s District 4 Class AAAA champion that won the program’s second straight district title. His strong all-around play a year ago helped Lewisburg peak when it mattered most and he has taken his performance to the next level this season. Defenses are geared toward slowing the senior guard, but he still leads the area in scoring at 22.8 points per game and also is hitting the boards hard and passing well.

A year ago, Liscum established himself as one of the area’s best shooters. Against Montoursville, though, he repeatedly beat defenders off the dribble, battled through traffic and scored at will against one of the area’s top-ranked early-season teams.

“He’s very good,” Montoursville coach Mike Mussina said. “He’s been by far the most take over the type game player we’ve seen. He got 20 of his 28 in the second half and he worked hard for them. He earned them.”

Last week could provide a turning point for Lewisburg (2-4). The Dragons started 2-3 a year ago and 1-4 this time. But starting in the third quarter at Montoursville, Lewisburg began playing its best basketball this season. The comeback at Montoursville was impressive and the win at Southern was even better. Lewisburg faces longer odds than a year ago, but with a player like Liscum leading the way, it would be foolish to count this team out as a district title contender.

“He’s gotten a couple of district titles. I don’t know if we’re going to do it this year, but he’s going to try his hardest to get it,” Vaji said. “He’s a great competitor. You love having kids like that on your team.”

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PUTBACKS: Owen J Roberts ended St. John Neumann’s five-year homecourt winning streak, defeating the Knights 64-49 last Saturday. OJR is coached by Kevin Kirby, the nephew of Neumann coach Mike Kirby. Noah Persun is tough inside for the Knights and had 14 points, along with 11 rebounds … Central Mountain junior forward is enjoying a breakout season and was a rebound from opening the season with four straight double-doubles. Jones is averaging 17.4 points and 10 rebounds per game for the defending District 6 AAAAA champions … Hughesville won its first home game in emphatic fashion Friday, downing South Williamsport, 71-26 as Taylor Mason scored 24 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked seven shots. Luke Ergott played his first minutes of the season after returning from a knee injury and that is a huge plus for the Spartans after he came up huge throughout last year’s district championship run … Three nights before the Hughesville game, South guard Dean Seman played a super all-around game, grabbing 10 rebounds and adding six assists. … North Penn-Mansfield (4-2) has won four straight and recorded an impressive comeback victory against 4A Athens, turning a seven-point deficit into a 58-53 win. The Tigers have a nice inside-outside blend and four players are averaging nine or more points per game. Garrett David had 10 points against Athens after recording a double-double two nights earlier in a 63-59 win against Sayre … Sullivan County point guard John Saxe played one of the best games of his decorated high school career Saturday against Troy, scoring 36 points, grabbing eight rebounds, dealing five assists and making four steals in a 77-76 double overtime loss at Troy. Saxe scored his 1,000th career point last season, but also is an excellent passer who has five or more assists in all seven games this season.

DR. MASSE’S TOP FIVE

1. Loyalsock (6-0)

The Lancers showed off their explosiveness all week, averaging 77 points per game and capping it with a 92-49 win at Southern Columbia. Four Lancers are averaging in double figures and Gerald Ross, Anthony Pastore and Connor Watkins all delivered at least 20 points in a game last week. Ross scored a career-high 35 against Southern and Watkins was a force a night earlier, scoring 22 points and grabbing 16 rebounds in a 73-64 win at Mifflinburg. Mitch Klingerman has become a consistent threat and Bam Brima is becoming a defensive force who grabbed 23 rebounds against Mifflinburg and Southern. Loyalsock is one of three District 4 Class AAA undefeated teams and plays powerhouse Germantown Academy in Wednesday’s State College Tournament. That is game that could help the Lancers a lot as the season progresses.

2. WELLSBORO (6-1)

The Green Hornets are at full strength with Dalton Prough back in the lineup and it shows. Since Prough returned from a broken collarbone suffered during football season, Wellsboro has won its four games by a 45-point margin. Prough had 33 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists and 11 steals in convincing wins against Cowanesque Valley and Williamson last week. Junior forward Brandyn Tuttle is averaging a double-double and point guard Quinn Henry is becoming one of the area’s top playmakers. The bench also is coming alive and first-time player Hunter Brown grabbed 17 rebounds in the two wins.

3. MONTOURSVILLE (3-1)

Austin Loe is an emerging force inside and is averaging 16.3 points over his last three games. The 6-foot-5 sophomore scored 18 points, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked five shots against Lewisburg before adding 16 more points against Danville. The Ironmen handed Montoursville its first loss Friday but the Warriors are still off to their best start this decade and have three players averaging in double figures. Developing a good inside-outside game makes Montoursville especially dangerous moving forward and Loe and Tyler Reidy can both be difference-makers inside. Point guard Owen Kiess has reached double figures in all four games and has run the offense well thus far.

4. MUNCY (5-0)

Forward Matt Coyner is averaging a double-double for a second straight season and scored five straight points after Muncy went behind by three late against Warrior Run. Reserves Jordan Yaple and Levi Messenger are providing excellent minutes and contributions and Dylan Wilt grabbed nine rebounds against Warrior Run. This is a well-rounded team that will try to stay undefeated when it plays at the North Penn-Liberty tournament, opening against Canton Wednesday in a rematch of last year’s third-place district playoff game.

5. WILLIAMSPORT (3-3)

The Millionaires closed their week on a two-game winning streak and this young team is starting to make strides. Williamsport might not have a superstar like Stanley Scott this season, but it does have a potentially deep rotation that played strong defense in its last two games and erased a nine-point third-quarter deficit in Saturday’s 62-58 win against Scranton Prep. Williamsport lost four starters and all but three significant contributors from last season’s district champion and is a work in progress. The potential is there, though, to have another strong season.

“That’s what we’ve been preaching, give you best effort and trust that your teammate is going to come in and they’re going to give maximum effort,” Williamsport coach Allen Taylor said. “As long as we have five guys out there who are on the same page, playing with energy and enthusiasm and giving their best effort, there’s no reason we can’t at least have a chance to win the game.”

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: NATE PAISLEY, MUNCY AND NATE LISCUM, LEWISBURG

To save space, simply read above.

GAME OF THE WEEK: WELLSBORO AT ST. JOHN NEUMANN

There are some fun tournaments going on this week, including the Hughesville Tournament which features Sullivan County facing Jersey Shore and Hughesville battling Freedom Village. Still, Wednesday’s showdown at the Catholic Community Center is hard to ignore, featuring two of the district’s premier teams colliding. This is a good game for both teams to play and it should be exciting from start to finish like last year’s was when Neumann held off a big second-half comeback, pulled away in the final minute and won, 61-48.

Masse may be reached at cmasse@sungazette.com. Follow him on Twitter at @docmasse

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