Warriors beat their third District 4 champ this year

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette
Montoursville's Austin Loe (34) slaps the ball away as Lewisburg's Nate Liscum tries to shoot in the second quarter.

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Montoursville's Austin Loe (34) slaps the ball away as Lewisburg's Nate Liscum tries to shoot in the second quarter.

Not only did Montoursville enter the season featuring four new starters, but it also opened it facing three defending District 4 champions.

Challenges keep confronting the Warriors and they keep knocking them down. What started as a buzz about the team’s potential when Montoursville opened the season with a statement win at Hughesville is growing louder each game. And by game’s end Tuesday, the large Warrior student section felt like it was roaring.

Austin Loe scored a career-high 18 points, Luke Warnecke dealt 11 assists and John McCarthy recorded a double-double as Montoursville built a 15-point third-quarter lead, fought off a furious Lewisburg rally and defeated the visiting defending District 4 Class AAAA champions, 67-62. The Warriors beat Lewisburg for the first time in the 2000s, are 3-0 for the first time since the 1990s and have wins against last season’s district AAAA, AAA and A champions.

“It’s incredible. Practice is fun and we come out and work hard and game days are so fun. There’s energy at school and the student section hypes us up,” Loe said after scoring a career-high 18 points, grabbing eight rebounds and blocking five shots. “The word around school is keep winning and we’re doing well so far. We just have to keep it up and keep our heads on straight.”

Montoursville has not only showed its talent, but its mettle and composure during this 3-0 start. The Warriors have won three hard-fought games by 18 combined points and maintained their poise after Lewisburg trimmed a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit to three with 11 seconds remaining. Warnecke clinched the win when he calmly swished two free throws one second later.

Montoursville did not shoot the ball or defend as well as did the first two games. The Warriors encountered their share of adversity as well, with key players in foul trouble, but they still won and gained valuable experience.

“Up to this point we’ve done a lot of nice things. It hasn’t been easy, but the kids are working hard,” Montoursville coach Mike Mussina said. “We just have to play smarter once in a while and not get caught up in the moment, but it’s hard sometimes. We keep learning from situations like this every time and we’ll be ready for the next one because every time we do this we’re learning something.”

The same goes for Lewisburg. The Green Dragons (1-4) have won consecutive district championships but returned just two starters this season. On the brink of being blown out for a second straight game, Lewisburg came storming back and three times in the final seven minutes, made it a four-point game.

Nate Liscum scored a game-high 28 points, Nick Shedleski and Sam Miller played tough inside throughout the second half and four players grabbed at least five rebounds. Lewisburg did not get the result it wanted, but the performance could provide a turning point.

“After they got down 15 we finally heard guys playing with that passion,” Lewisburg coach John Vaji said. “I told the guys, ‘mistakes happened tonight, but can any of you say you didn’t try your hardest out there on the floor?’ They give me every effort I could have asked and this is a game we can get better from.”

Montoursville led from early in the first quarter on, taking a 33-23 halftime lead. Owen Kiess (12 points, 5 assists) and McCarthy scored five quick points to open the third quarter and the Warriors took their biggest lead. Lewisburg made its run and it was a four-point game with 6 minutes, 46 seconds remaining, but Montoursville never buckled.

The Warriors made 25 field goals and 23 featured an assist, a testament to the team’s unselfishness and ball movement. Loe is a growing force inside, showing nice touch around the basket and combining with Tyler Reidy (9 rebounds, 4 blocks) to make scoring in the paint difficult. McCarthy scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half while adding 10 rebounds and Dylan Bower provided some timely baskets. Kiess handled Lewisburg’s intense full-court pressure well and Montoursville continued showing it is not a collection of individuals, but a true team.

“That’s how our team is built. We need all five guys that are out there to work as a team and do some good things,” Mussina said. “Whether it’s a big thing like a blocked shot or a little thing like getting a loose ball or bringing the ball up and not turning it over, all those things add up.”

Warnecke repeatedly dissected Lewisburg’s defense and had a hand in 33 points. The senior guard dealt seven first-half assists and often found Loe for good looks inside. He also blocked three shots and sealed the win with his free throws that 10-second mark.

“His court vision is phenomenal. He does everything,” Loe said. “He sees the floor entirely. No matter where he is, he sees everybody and he’s able to give it to anybody. Sometimes he gets it back and finishes. He’s a great player.”

So is Liscum.

The senior nearly willed Lewisburg to the comeback win, scoring 20 of his 28 points in the second half while adding 10 rebounds and four assists. Montoursville blocked 13 shots, but Liscum showed no fear and repeatedly scored hard-earned points in the paint, especially in the fourth quarter when he scored 15 points and made it 65-62 with a coast-to-coast layup.

“Nate is just such a competitor,” Vaji said. “That’s a tribute to his passion for sports.”

LEWISBURG (62)

Nate Liscum 12 4-8 28, Nick Shedleski 2 5-8 10, Aaron Hoover 1 0-0 3, Coleman Witherite 2 0-1 4, Sam Miller 4 0-0 8, Nate Dreher 1 0-0 2, Romale Brown 0 0-0 0, Peter Lantz 1 0-0 3, Ben Liscum 2 0-0 4. Totals 25 9-18 62.

MONTOURSVILLE (67)

John McCarthy 5 6-8 18, Owen Kiess 4 4-10 12, Luke Warnecke 3 2-2 9, Tyler Reidy 1 0-0 2, Dylan Bower 3 0-1 6, Austin Loe 9 0-0 18, Hunter Shearer 0 2-3 2, Jake Simms 0 0-0 0. Totals 25 14-24 67.

Lewisburg 6 17 16 23–62

Montoursville 12 21 15 19–67

3-pointers: Lewisburg 3 (Shedleski, Hoover, Lantz); Montoursville 3 (McCarthy 2, Warnecke).

Records: Montoursville 3-0, 1-0 HAC-II. Lewisburg 1-4, 0-1

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