Simmons hits game-winner at end for Williamsport boys

Marcus Simmons turned his words into action. After Hollidays­burg opened a seven-point fourth-quarter lead, Simmons told his team they would not lose.

Then he made sure Wil­liamsport won. When the pressure has been highest the past two seasons, Simmons has been at his best and he helped the Millionaires continue their late-game magic in dramatic fashion Wednesday at Williamsport.

Simmons hit the game-winning jumper with 5.5 seconds remaining and Williamsport erased a seven-point deficit over the final four minutes as it won a 47-45 thriller. Simmons scored a career-high 22 points and Williamsport (7-4) won its third game in the final 10 seconds over the last three weeks. This one came just four nights after the Millionaires edged Pottsville on Ethan Williams jumper with 1.3 seconds remaining.

“I just like to be in those types of situations and have the ball in my hand. I feel like I’m a guy who will execute those plays,” Simmons said. “My teammates believe in me and that’s a big thing. They give me a lot of confidence. The end-of-game situations where the score is tight, whether it’s football or basketball, I feel confident that I can execute in that position.”

Simmons repeatedly has proven that. The junior point guard is the lone starter back from last year’s district championship team. His growth and big-game performances were a major reason Williamsport won that district championship and he keeps getting better. After finding Williams for the game-winning shot Saturday, Simmons went into overdrive Wednesday, carrying Williamsport at times and scoring nearly half its points. He also dealt four assists and fed Williams for a game-tying 3-point play with 91 seconds left.

It was after Williamsport fell be­­hind by seven that Simmons issued his declaration. His teammates heard the message loud and clear and Williamsport outscored the Tigers, 12-3 from there.

“It was right after some pushing and shoving and a technical foul and I said this has to give us fuel and win this game,” Simmons said. “They shouldn’t be up seven points to begin with so we have to get going and starting to do what we do.”

“Marcus definitely played his best offensive game. He played with a lot of poise and he was knocking shots down. With the team that we have, we don’t have one shining star like a Stanley Scott, but on any given night one of those five that are out there can lead us in scoring,” Williamsport coach Allen Taylor said. “It’s just they have to be ready to step up and assume that role when it’s their turn and tonight was definitely Marcus’s turn and I was very proud of his leadership down the stretch. He was communicating a lot with the guys and making sure they were in the right positions offensively and defensively. He had that refuse to lose mentality tonight and we definitely needed that.”

Hollidaysburg had a shot to retake its lead following the Williams 3-point play, but Al-Tamar Jason (10 points, 7 rebounds) grabbed the rebound with one minute remaining. Williamsport spread the court and worked the clock until there was 10.7 seconds reaming. Coming out of a timeout, Simmons set a screen to free Darryl Wilson for a jumper. When Wilson was covered, Simmons rolled off a screen in the paint and popped open. He calmly drilled the jumper from the right wing and Williams sealed the win with a steal seconds later.

It was the perfect capper on a night Simmons did little wrong. He scored 17 points in the middle quarters and did not miss a shot in the second half. He converted a 3-point play that cut the deficit to 43-42 late and went 7 for 7 from the field and at the line during the second half.

“I feel like it was night where I had to attack,” Simmons said. “Coach drew up a good play. After the screen I would sit in the paint and come across on the down-screen and I’d be open in the corner. We executed the play very well and I thank my coaches and teammates for that.”

Williamsport has had not shortage of heroes as this young team continues beating good teams in thrilling fashion. Sure, the Millionaires would rather play the entire game the way they have those closing moments in those last-second wins but these spine-tingling outcomes reveal more about them than any stats do.

The Millionaires have won six of their last seven games and the past five have featured second-half comebacks. They are up and down at times, but when there is no more margin for error, Williamsport has played brilliant basketball. A young team keeps growing, learning and most importantly, winning.

“I told the guys the good thing about this is we came out with a win and it gave them an opportunity to show their true character,” Taylor said. “When they were down they still had that never-say-die mentality and they just kept fighting and that’s what gave them an opportunity to win.”

Williamsport scored the game’s first six points in the opening 90 seconds but Hollidaysburg took a one-point lead into the second quarter and no team held a lead bigger than four again until Hollidaysburg went on an 11-2 run to open the fourth and went up 42-35. That lead was still six with 3:07 remaining before Wilson made two free throws and Simmons converted his 3-point play. Wilson had three fourth-quarter steals and Williamsport swarmed defensively to spark the comeback.

Williamsport held Hollidaysburg scoreless over the final 2:20 and Williams coolly hit a floater and the ensuing free throw to tie it. Williams also made six steals and Eric Smith grabbed nine rebounds for a team that is fast becoming this area’s version of the The Comeback Kids.

“It’s easy to coach when you’re up by 20 with 4-5 minutes to go and easier to play. The 3s go down, free throws go down, but when it’s tight that’s when you get to see who your tough players are, the players who live for the moment,” Taylor said. “For the most part, all five guys that were out there stepped up and played well for us.”

HOLLIDAYSBURG (45)

Casey Ottoway 5 0-0 10, Dominic Frucella 1 0-0 3, Michael Day 3 1-1 7, Mason Marks 4 0-0 8, Colin Stevenson 1 2-4 4, Jaden Delerme 6 1-2 13. Totals 20 4-7 45.

WILLIAMSPORT (47)

Darryl Wilson 1 2-2 4, Al-Tamar Jason 5 0-1 10, Ethan Williams 4 1-1 9, Keith Jason 0 0-0 0, Eric Smith 1 0-1 2, Marcus Simmons 8 5-7 22, D’Angelo Strachon 0 0-0 0, Nassir Jones 0 0-0 0, Tyler McCann 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 8-12 47.

Hollidaysburg 13 10 8 14–45

Williamsport 12 11 10 14–47

3-pointers: Hollidaysburg 1 (Frucella); Williamsport 1 (Simmons).

Records: Williamsport 7-4. Hollidaysburg 4-3.

JV Score: Williamsport 71-51. High Scorer: Isaac Ritter, W, 14

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