Brothers’ efforts on defense lift Millionaires in win

KATELYN HIBBARD/Sun-Gazette Williamsport's Al-Tamar Jason, 14, shoots with Scranton Prep's Jimmy Casey, 30, defending Saturday at Williamsport High School.

Brothers Al-Tamar and Keith Jason rarely can es­cape each other. Saturday af­ternoon, Scranton Prep rare­ly could escape the Jason brothers.

Al-Tamar and Keith sparked a swarming Wil­liams­port defense that helped change the game’s complexion. Al-Tamar made a career-high seven steals and Keith hit the game-clinching free throw and added a critical last-second rebound as Williamsport rallied from a nine-point third-quarter deficit to defeat visiting Scranton Prep, 62-58. The Millionaires (3-3) won their second straight, snapped a two-game losing streak vs. Prep and received steady contributions throughout their rotation as they recorded their best win thus far.

Prep nearly came all the way back after trailing by 10 with 1 minute, 30 seconds remaining, but Keith Jason grabbed the rebound on a misfired, game-tying 3-point attempt and made it a two-possession game when he hit a free throw with 6.6 seconds remaining. The senior guard then dropped the hammer on Prep, rebounding his own miss on the second attempt and dribbling out the clock.

“Sometimes I want a break from him (Keith) and can’t get it. It’s school, practice and then home, but it’s fun playing with him,” Al-Tamar said. “It’s fun seeing Keith come out of his shell. He is one of the fastest players on both sides. I don’t think a lot of people notice that. When he’s doing what he does, he can really help.”

So can Al-Tamar. While Keith disrupted Prep’s normally efficient-running of­fense by hounding the guards, Al-Tamar swarmed inside and made getting the ball to 6-foot-8 Division I recruit Leo O’Boyle difficult. While O’Boyle scored 21 points, he never went off for long stretches. Al-Tamar was giving up five inches, but frequently cut off passing lanes and made timely steals when Prep tried establishing itself down low.

The brotherly defense was a big reason Williamsport went on a game-changing 22-4 third-quarter run and led by as many as 12 in the fourth quarter. Nearly every player coach Allen Taylor used contributed strong defense, especially Eric Smith, but the Jason’s especially stood out with their inside-outside mix. They made quite a tag team and ultimately helped knock out the Cavaliers.

“Defensively Al-Tamar was huge for us. He got a lot of steals, a lot of deflections and down the stretch he came up with some huge rebounds for us,” Taylor said. “They call Keith ‘Scrap,’ and that’s exactly what he does when he goes out there, he scraps all the time. Defensively he will get after the opposing team’s best ball-handler.”

“I knew what I was getting. I’ve been playing against (O’Boyle) since summer of 8th grade and it’s nice to finally get a win against him,” Al-Tamar said. “He was kind of stunned by how I played. I’m a defensive player, but a lot of people don’t notice that. When he can’t get the ball he can’t score. When they couldn’t get him the ball that’s when things started getting messed up because they try and run their offense through him.”

Prep led by five at halftime and quickly took a 33-24 third-quarter lead. Instead of reeling, Williamsport came storming back. Darryl Wilson (12 points, 4 assists) sandwiched an assist to Ethan Williams (8 points, 3 assists) between two 3-pointers that tied the game. Williams then fed Smith for his second dunk and both the Millionaires and their fans really came to life. By the time the 22-4 run was over, six Williamsport players had scored, Prep had lost five turnovers that led to transition points and the Millionaires held a nine-point, late third-quarter lead.

Smith played one of his best games and may have been the most valuable Millionaire during that critical run. Smith threw down two dunks during that time and made three of his four steals. The senior forward who drew nine charges in Williamsport’s first two games, scored eight second-half points, went 4 for 4 from the field and played stifling defense against explosive 6-5 forward Wes Simons.

“The second half Eric came through for us in a big way. He had a huge game,” Taylor said. “He came through with two dunks, played stellar defense and came up with some huge rebounds and loose balls for us.”

Taylor used a 10-man rotation Saturday and it worked well. All 10 played during the first half and D’Angelo Strachon scored six second-quarter points while freshman Nassir Jones gave Williamsport a brief second-quarter lead when he converted a 3-point play. Marcus Simmons added eight points and three assists while hitting two clutch free throws in the last two minutes. Ethen Stryker also provided quality minutes off the bench and Williamsport looked especially fresh throughout the second half when it made its charge.

“When the reserves can come in and provide a whole bunch of energy that helps pick up the starters. We know they have our backs,” Al-Tamar Jason said. “We always knew we had it in us to play better against big teams. We just needed to find out how good we are and we can be pretty good.”

When Simmons found Smith for a layup that made it 60-50 with 1:30 remaining, victory seemed all but ensured. Prep, though, had other ideas and, after making it an eight-point game, scored the next four points in five seconds. Michael Greco’s free throws cut it to 60-58 with 35 seconds remaining and Prep nearly tied it seconds later following a steal, but a layup rimmed out. Keith Jason hit a free throw that made it 61-58 and Prep called timeout with 19 seconds left.

O’Boyle brought the ball upcourt and it looked like Prep wanted their top player to take a potential game-tying shot. Al-Tamar Jason, though, forced O’Boyle to give up the ball and the defense stuck like glue to the other Cavaliers before a difficult 3-point attempt was off the mark. Keith Jason came crashing in off the right win and grabbed the rebound before hitting his clutch free throw and grabbing his game-sealing offensive board.

Wins do not come with style points and this was a big one for a young team that returned just one starter and three significant contributors from last year’s district champion. It could end up providing a nice springboard moving forward.

“Today we were down and then had to hold on to a lead and it was nice seeing other guys step up,” Taylor said. “Now they know. Hopefully this will help their confidence and we’ll continue to grow and improve.”

(SCRANTON PREP)

Leo O’Boyle 7 7-7 21, Wes Simons 6 0-0 13, Brian Boland 2 0-0 4, Mario Rotell 2 0-2 4, Greyson Schemerhorn 2 4-4 8, Sam Bednarz 2 0-0 4, Alec D’Elia 1 0-0 2, Michael Greco 0 2-2 2. Totals 22 13-15 58.

(WILLIAMSPORT)

Darryl Wilson 4 1-2 12, Al-Tamar Jason 2 2-6 6, Marcus Simmons 2 4-4 8, Keith Jason 3 3-7 9, Ethan Williams 3 0-0 8, Eric Smith 4 0-0 8, Ethen Stryker 1 0-0 2, Tyler McCann 0 0-0 0, D’Angelo Strachon 3 0-0 6, Nassir Jones 1 1-1 3. Totals 23 11-20 62.

Prep 15 14 10 19–58

Williamsport 15 9 22 16–62

3-pointers: Prep 1 (Simons); Williamsport 5 (Wilson 3, Williams 2).

Records: Williamsport 3-3. Scranton Prep 2-3.

JV Score: Prep 69-61.

High Scorers: Michael Skoff, S, 23; Jones, W, 21.

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