McNulty and Fox lead Lancer girls over Spartans in home win

IOANNIS PASHAKIS/ Sun-Gazette
Kendra Smith (4) of Hughesville defends Maddie Fox (20) of Loyalsock on a pass attempt Saturday at Loyalsock.

IOANNIS PASHAKIS/ Sun-Gazette Kendra Smith (4) of Hughesville defends Maddie Fox (20) of Loyalsock on a pass attempt Saturday at Loyalsock.

Loyalsock freshman Summer McNulty keeps surprising herself. But she has never surprised her coaches and teammates. They understand how good she is.

McNulty keeps showing opponents that as well.

McNulty scored 10 points, grabbed five rebounds and made two steals off the bench Saturday at home as Loyalsock put together a strong performance and defeated rival Hughesville, 51-31, in a showdown between 2017 Class AAA state qualifiers. Maddie Fox scored a game-high 14 points and set the tone early, but McNulty was a big reason Loyalsock (7-2, 2-1 HAC-III) built an 18-point halftime lead that was never seriously threatened. She made all five of her shots, ran the floor well and played stellar defense while continuing to provide her team another weapon.

“She’s so versatile. She can play guard and she can play big. She’s not the tallest girl in the world, but she’s scrappy and she hustles,” Loyalsock coach Curtis Jacobson said. “She’s very coachable and wants to get better every day. The best part is she plays hard all the time. There’s not a play she takes off and that’s someone that’s tough to keep off the floor.”

“Playing from junior high to varsity is a whole different game,” McNulty said. “It’s so much faster and more competitive so I really didn’t expect to do this well. But I put in the work at practice, so it just came.”

That is huge for a team that returned a strong core from last year’s state qualifier, but that suffered a big blow early when Cassie Gee was lost for the season with a torn ACL. Since that third game, McNulty has repeatedly given Loyalsock a nice boost. Someone who can play multiple positions and make things happen on both ends, McNulty has averaged 11 points per game and consistently stuffed the stat sheet.

She did so again last night. Fox erupted for 11 of Loyalsock’s first 20 points and then McNulty started shining off the bench with her scoring, rebounding and determination. By halftime, Loyalsock led 28-10 and that lead ballooned to as many as 22 in the fourth quarter. It was another encouraging performance coming after McNulty shined against Marian Catholic’s 6-foot-1 and 6-foot-2 post players in a big comeback win last week.

“It’s a totally different game but all the girls are welcoming and easy to play with. It’s nice to have supportive teammates who push you, too,” McNulty said. “It’s fun. I’m having a blast.”

“We saw it early. She was dominating JV games and we watched them last year and she was with a great group of girls that also won a lot of games and she’s always been one that’s been able to step up for them and be a leader,” Jacobson said. “She’s a ninth grader, but she doesn’t play like a ninth grader and she’s more physical than a ninth grader. That aspect of it is key. She wants to be in the spot and you can’t coach that part of it.”

McNulty was part of a well-rounded effort Saturday. Loyalsock led 20-5 early in the second quarter and snapped Hughesville’s five-game winning streak. The Lancers made 11 of 22 first-half shots and held a double-digit lead from late in the first quarter on. Fox delivered eight first-quarter points and an NBA-range 3-pointer puncuated her sizzling start.

Sam Stopper continued playing well and had nine points, three assists and two steals. Juliana Cruz sparked the second-half push with two quick assists and Sarah Van Fleet grabbed eight rebounds while making four steals. Add in Rhiallie Jessell, Sophia Gardner and Anna Burdett playing well off the bench and Loyalsock continued showing what it again is a district title contender.

The Lancers also swarmed defensively and never let Hughesville find an offensive rhythm. Loyalsock forced 16 turnovers during the first three quarters and allowed just three first-half field goals. They also reversed their trend of starting games slow and controlled things from the start.

Hughesville (7-3, 2-2) played better in the second half, but never pulled closer than 17 points. It was a frustrating night, but the Spartans know better nights could be coming and that they will have at least one more shot at playing Loyalsock later in the season.

“Hopefully we learn from it and move on,” Hughesville coach Craig Weaver said. “We did things a little different in the second half, but it was one of those nights. We seemed like we were a step slower, but it’s one game and there’s a lot left in the season and we’ll build on this.”

Spartan forward Jayden Leighow played another strong game and was one rebound from recording a third straight double-double. The senior finished with a team-high 12 points and nine rebounds. She played especially well in the second half, scoring eight points and adding seven rebounds.

“She’s got all kinds of athletic ability. She’s a great athlete and she is playing that way,” Weaver said. “She’s in a groove right now and doing a nice job.”

HUGHESVILLE (31)

Jayden Leighow 6 0-4 12, Emily Akers 1 3-4 5, Kendra Smith 1 0-0 2, Alisha McKinley 2 3-4 7, Jade Cordrey 1 1-2 3, Lauren Henry 0 2-2 2. Totals 11 9-16 31.

LOYALSOCK (51)

Maddie Fox 5 1-2 14, Sam Stopper 4 1-2 9, Summer McNulty 5 0-1 10, Sarah Van Fleet 0 2-4 2, Juliana Cruz 0 1-2 1, Charlotte Neylon 1 1-2 3, Anna Burdett 1 1-2 3, Karyn Saar 0 1-2 1, Sophia Gardner 1 2-2 4, Rhiallie Jessell 1 2-2 4. Totals 19 12-22 51.

Hughesville 3 7 8 13–31

Loyalsock 15 13 9 14–51

3-pointers: Loyalsock 3 (Fox 3).

Records: Loyalsock 7-2, 2-1 HAC-III. Hughesville 7-3, 2-2.

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