Neumann’s 90-game streak is snapped by Montoursville
As the chant started, point guard Owen Kiess dribbled toward the Montoursville student section. Together they watched the final seconds tick away. Kiess jumped high into the air and the students soon engulfed both he and his teammates.
Nearly five years ago, such a scene unfolding at Montoursville seemed far-fetched, if not dream-like. The Warriors were mired in a losing-season stretch that extended into the 1990s. Simultaneously, St. John Neumann was starting one of the most impressive winning streaks in area history. But this was no fairy tale, no dream. A program that struggled for so long has returned to prominence the last three seasons and threw down an emphatic stake at its home gym Tuesday, proving it.
John McCarthy scored 23 points, Austin Loe added 15, Owen Kiess skillfully ran an efficient offense and every player coach Mike Mussina played made a strong impact as Montoursville brought down the curtain on Neumann’s 90-game regular-season winning streak and defeated the five-time defending District 4 Class A champions, 68-61. Playing in front of a large, boisterous crowd in a playoff-like atmosphere, Montoursville became the first team to beat Neumann (1-1) in a regular-season game since Bloomsburg in February, 2013. Every current Montoursville player was attending junior high when that streak started. As the last 10 seconds ran off the clock, Montoursville students chanted “Streak is over!”
“It’s definitely a different atmosphere going out there and having a crowd like that and I’m hoping we keep it up as we go on and the program stays like that because it hasn’t been like that in years,” Luke Warnecke said after making several big plays late. “To play like this and getting a big win like that is humbling.”
“We haven’t had a scene like that in years,” McCarthy said. “We knew we could play as a team and if we play together we can beat anyone.”
Neumann produced current Division I standouts Alize Johnson and Kevin Anderson during this remarkable five-year run while winning 22 playoff games. Anderson graduated, but the Knights remain dangerous and Jaiden Lynch dazzled, scoring 21 points, grabbing eight rebounds, dealing six assists and adding four steals.
Every time Neumann threatened to break things open early or come back late, Montoursville kept responding. Like a prize fighter, Montoursville kept fighting off the ropes and landing haymakers. The Knights led by eight midway through the second quarter, but Montoursville tied it by halftime. Neumann scored the third-quarter’s first five points, but Montoursville answered with an 11-0 run while taking a lead it never relinquished. And when Neumann cut a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit to two with 2 minutes, 20 seconds remaining, Montoursville elevated its performance and ended the game on a 10-5 run.
This is a team that returned just one starter from last season’s playoff team, but it is playing with big-time composure at key moments. Four nights after defeating defending District 4 Class AAA champion Hughesville on the road, Montoursville now has taken down two reigning champions in two games.
“Neumann took it to us last year and they’ve had some talented players and they really deserve all their success, but we just have a good group of kids who play hard and play unselfish,” Mussina said. “There were all these situations where it could have gotten away from us and it could have been over, but we went on pretty big runs. We played with poise when we really had to.”
Montoursville does not overwhelm opponents with just one player. This is a true team and it delivered a true team performance. The Warriors played relentless basketball on both ends, hit the boards hard and extended possessions with either offensive rebounds or by fighting for loose balls. Look at the boxscore and one will find every player leaving a significant mark on the game at some point.
This is a team that does not care about anything except winning. Players consistently set each other up for good shots and Montoursville made 23 field goals, including eight 3-pointers. It speaks volumes, that 19 of those 23 field goals came via assist.
“We love to pass the ball. We look to pass before we shoot,” McCarthy said. “As long as we’re winning we don’t care who’s scoring.”
Although Neumann had a few close calls during its 90-game win streak, most were blowouts. When the Knights jumped on opponents, they often overwhelmed them and put the game away. They threatened to do that in the second quarter as David Hill (9 points) scored seven quick points and Andrew Fish (9 points, 3 steals) hit a 3-pointer that gave Neumann a 23-15 lead.
This time Montoursville flipped the script. This time, Montoursville wrote its own impressive story.
A season after being blown out at Neumann, Montoursville thundered back as late Hunter Shearer and McCarthy 3-pointers tied it at halftime. Lynch scored 16 of his 21 points in the second half and quickly gave Neumann a 31-26 third-quarter lead. Montoursville then started raining 3-pointers as Kiess (11 points) hit two, McCarthy added the tie-breaking trey and Shearer capped a big run with an NBA-range 3-pointer. When the outside shots were cut off, Montoursville smoothly worked it inside and Austin Loe scored eight of his career-high 15 points in the third quarter as the Warriors took a 7-point lead into the fourth.
“It was nothing we can’t come back from,” McCarthy said. “We just had to stay calm, keep our composure and we knew we could come back and win it.”
Montoursville twice built its lead to 12 in the fourth quarter, but Neumann was not giving up this win streak without a fight. The Knights did not play a bad game and did not lose this one. Montoursville simply won it. It did so while fighting off a furious Neumann rally sparked by Lynch who had a hand 15 of 17 Neumann points at one point bridging the third and fourth quarters.
Fish hit two clutch 3-pointers and a Lynch jumper pulled Neumann within 58-56. Instead of wilting, Montoursville again rallied. McCarthy hit the first of Montoursville’s seven straight free throws and then hit a difficult leaner that made it 62-56. Fish answered with a 3-pointer that made it a 3-point game with 1:17 remaining, but Warnecke calmly swished two foul shots and then beat the defense upcourt and fed Loe for a layup that made it 66-61.
“We had to keep our heads on our shoulders and keep it slow because they were definitely trying to speed the game up and pressure us and we just had to keep our composure,” Warnecke said after finishing with eight points, five rebounds and four assists. “Coming out of the timeout I said, ‘this is fun.'”
Following a turnover, Kiess was fouled and calmly swished both ends of a 1-and-1, making Montoursville 4 for 4 in those situations. That clinched the game and seconds later, Montoursville’s gym was rocking like it has not for so long. Keep playing like they did last night and the Warriors, who have another tough game against Northwest tonight, may experience many more fun times.
“You win a game and now we have a student section. We won twice and they (the students) were a big deal,” Mussina said. “They were in the game the whole time. Even when we got down, we’d make a bucket and they were right back in it. Having the kids here supporting us is a big deal and hopefully we keep playing well when we get the chance for them.”
These players have waited a long time for their opportunity. They sure are pouncing on it, too.
Jaiden Lynch 9 1-2 21, David Hill 4 0-0 9, Noah Persun 4 1-2 9, Jaiden Cioffi 2 2-4 6, Andrew Fish 3 0-0 9, Anthony Marrazzo 0 0-0 0, Dalton Gough 2 1-2 5, Reid Parrish 0 2-2 2. Totals 24 7-12 61.
Owen Kiess 3 2-2 11, John McCarthy 8 4-6 23, Luke Warnecke 2 4-4 8, Tyler Riedy 1 3-3 5, Austin Loe 7 1-2 15, Dylan Bower 0 0-0, Hunter Shearer 2 0-0 6. Totals 23 14-17 68.
Neumann 12 14 15 20–61
Montoursville 10 16 22 20–68
3-pointers: Neumann 6 (Fish 3, Lynch 2, Hill); Montoursville 8 (Kiess 3, McCarthy 3, Shearer 2).
Records: Montoursville (2-0), Neumann (1-1).