Millionaires rally and beat Lancers a fourth straight time
Emotions ran high, action was intense and the large crowd boisterous. Oh yeah, Williamsport also trailed by six midway through the fourth quarter.
Other teams might panic. The Millionaires seemingly had Loyalsock right where they wanted it. A team that has made the second-half comebacks its staple this season saved one of its best for its biggest rival. Williamsport took the long and windy road, but all roads again pointed toward victory.
And this one was extra sweet.
Marcus Simmons scored a career-high 24 points, Al-Tamar Jason recorded a double-double and made a last-second block and Williamsport rallied from an 11-point second-quarter deficit as it edged Loyalsock, 71-68 in an overtime thriller Saturday at Lycoming’s Lamade Gymnasium. Williamsport won its fourth straight in the annual rivalry game that was not decided until Aiden Gair’s potential game-tying 3-point attempt bounced off the rim as time expired. This game featured enough twists and turns to make a mystery novelist blush, but Williamsport again found a way when it mattered most.
“It was an intense game,” Jason said. “Coming down to the wire against a big cross-town rival in Loyalsock and people I’ve been playing with for years and our last game playing against each other … to have it come down to something like that was a great experience.”
Williamsport (9-6) has won three games over the past month in overtime and/or in the final 10 seconds. It also has overcome six second-half deficits since starting the season 1-3 and is 4-1 in games decided by four points or fewer during that time. The Millionaires might not make it easy on their fans, but they often having them smiling by game’s end.
“The second half we were clutch,” Williamsport coach Allen Taylor said. “Our guys battled. We overcame a lot.”
“Loyalsock always wants to beat us and from Day 1 they can’t wait to play Williamsport,” Simmons said. “It took us a while to get going, but we played better in the second half. We’re a really confident team when we want to be.”
Williamsport needed to be Saturday as Loyalsock (11-4) played a strong, gutty game and took three 11-point second-quarter leads. Williamsport cut it to six by halftime and took a one-point lead into the fourth quarter, but Loyalsock went up six midway through the fourth. In familiar territory, Williamsport turned it on and scored the next eight points, taking a 58-56 lead. Loyalsock twice tied it on a Bam Brima inside score and two Anthony Pastore free throws, forcing overtime.
Watkins gave Loyalsock its first and only overtime lead, scoring inside. Simmons, though, swished a 3-pointer to put Williamsport up, 63-62 and it never trailed again. Williamsport stretched its lead to 67-63 on two Keith Jason free throws before Pastore (17 points, 6 assists) fed Hunter Webb for a 3-point play. Again, Jason countered with two clutch foul shots, but Pastore went coast-to-coast and made it a one-point game. Eric Smith made a foul shot to put Williamsport up 70-68 with 34 seconds left to play and Webb rebounded a Lancer miss at the 12-second mark.
Coming out of the timeout, Williamsport defended well as Smith and Keith Jason were in Gerald Ross’s face as he attempted a game-tying jumper. Watkins rebounded the miss, but Al-Tamar Jason came up with his biggest block this season, swatting it away with four seconds left.
Following a Nassir Jones foul shot making it 71-68, Mitch Klingerman missed a full-court shot with 0.6 seconds left. It was ruled, however, that Loyalsock called timeout first and two seconds were put on the block and the ball was advanced for the inbounds play. Gair caught the ball on the opposite side of the court and was able to get a quality look, but it just missed the mark as Williamsport collectively exhaled.
“I wasn’t going to foul just to get the rebound following the (Ross) miss,” Al-Tamar Jason said. “I put my trust in my teammates and they came through.”
Simmons shined in a tense situation again. The junior point guard is the lone returning starter from last year’s district champion and has owned pressure moments the past two seasons. He repeatedly did so again Saturday, hitting key shots whenever Williamsport needed one. In addition to scoring a career-high 24 points and adding six assists, Simmons made 9 of 13 shots, including four 3-pointers.
Take away Simmons and Williamsport would have been in big trouble at halftime. He scored nine points in the second quarter, including the last five, to cut that 11-point deficit to six. Simmons was so hot that rarely did his shots hit anything but net. He made eight of his last nine attempts and missed just once after the first quarter.
“I was sitting and staring through the zone and coach was telling me to just attack it. Once they started playing me that’s when I kick out and make the assist pass or the hockey-assist pass,” Simmons said. “I felt like they weren’t picking me up so I kept driving and getting comfortable and shooting pull-up shots. Around the 3-point line I was just catching and shooting. I give my credit to my teammates for getting me the skip-pass or the extra pass for the 3.”
What boosted Williamsport in the second half was everyone heating up at the same time. Al-Tamar Jason started changing the game’s complexion with his all-around play, finishing with 18 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Darryl Wilson scored 10 of his 16 points in the third quarter and gave Williamsport its first lead late in that quarter before draining a last-second 3-pointer that made it 46-42.
Keith Jason came up big in overtime, scoring four points and playing strong defense. Smith overcame foul trouble and pounded the boards late while Tyler McCann made two steals and Jones provided some valuable minutes with three starters in foul trouble.
“I’m trying to get these guys to understand that we don’t have one guy that is going to carry us for 32 minutes. It has to be a collective effort and we have to understand our teammates’ strengths and weaknesses,” Taylor said. “When we get all five guys on the same page, at any given time one of those guys can go on a 6-8-point scoring streak on their own and those are the better teams to have because now you can’t lock in and focus on one individual. I was very happy that everyone who was given an opportunity came through.”
Ross symbolized Loyalsock’s toughness and channeled his inner-Michael Jordan, playing despite battling the flu all week. He scored 14 points, including nine straight for Loyalsock early in the fourth to give it a 56-50 lead. Pastore consistently beat defenders off the dribble and played one of his best games while Klingerman (12 points) and Collin Graver combined for 17 first-half points and helped Loyalsock go 3 for 3 from 3-point range while building a 30-19 late late in the second quarter.
“Hopefully, the experience we had today against a well-coached, fast and strong team will help us with the rest of our schedule,” Loyalsock coach Ron Insinger said. “I told the boys that we won’t see a team of this caliber until playoff time. Although we lost the game, I was pleased with their composure and performance. If we continue to play at this level we will win some games.”
Loyalsock built its first-quarter lead largely at the foul line, taking advantage of nine Williamsport fouls and going 9 for 14 at the line. Three of the top six players in Williamsport’s rotation had two fouls before the quarter ended. The obstacles were many, but Williamsport again overcame them.
“When we’re down that’s when we show our true character. We can fight back,” Al-Tamar Jason said. “That’s when the toughness and all the conditioning and all the reps we’ve been going through at practice comes through.”
Darryl Wilson 5 4-5 16, Al-Tamar Jason 8 2-3 18, Marcus Simmons 9 2-3 24, Ethan Williams 1 0-0 3, Eric Smith 1 3-5 5, Keith Jason 1 2-2 4, D’Angelo Strachon 0 0-0 0, Tyler McCann 0 0-0 0, Nassir Jones 0 1-4 1, Ahmir Ellzy 0 0-0 0. Totals 25 14-22 71.
Anthony Pastore 5 7-11 17, Connor Watkins 3 2-3 9, Mitch Klingerman 4 2-3 12, Hunter Webb 1 2-3 4, Collin Graver 3 0-0 8, Gerald Ross 5 3-3 14, Bam Brima 1 0-2 2, Aiden Gair 0 2-2 2, Brandon Bauman 0 0-0 0. Totals 22 18-27 68.
Williamsport 12 11 23 14 11–71
Loyalsock 19 11 15 15 8–68
3-pointers: Williamsport 7 (Simmons 4, Wilson 2, Williams); Loyalsock 6 (Klingerman 2, Graver 2, Watkins, Ross).
Records: Williamsport 9-6. Loyalsock 11-4.
JV Score: Williamsport 65-29.
High Scorers: Ellzy, W, 16; Rees Watkins, L, 10