Kiess helps Warriors defeat Selinsgrove

SUNBURY — As the only returning starter from a 10-win team that advanced to the district quarterfinals in 2017, Owen Kiess was a little apprehensive about the 2018 season. The only returning starter from that 2017 squad, not much was expected out of the Warriors. But the 14 players, including the five seniors, in that locker room didn’t care. They’ve instilled trust in each other, improved on last year’s record by eight wins and are now a win away from the program’s first district title in 33 years.

Kiess scored a game-high 18 points and Montoursville executed its offense perfectly down the stretch as it defeated Selinsgrove, 52-46, in the District 4 Class AAAA semifinals Tuesday night at Shikellamy High School.

The Warriors (18-6) advance to their first district final since 1995 and will meet Mifflinburg for the title.

“It’s been great to play with these boys. They are family. We don’t want to see it end,” Kiess said, adding five rebounds to his 18 points. “This year we didn’t have a lot of expectations because we lost a bunch. I’m the only returning starter so when we lost Brycen (Mussina) and Ethan (Buirch) and Noah (Fagnano), it’s hard to replace them. Instead of turning over and dying, we owned up to our roles and we’re playing very well right now.”

The Warriors played especially well in the second half when it overcame a seven-point halftime deficit. After forcing just two first-half turnovers, Montoursville came out in a much more aggressive 1-3-1 zone defense, led up front by Luke Warnecke, who made life difficult for Selinsgrove ball handlers with countless deflections and two steals.

“He’s gotten pretty good at it. He has a good feel for where he needs to be and who is the most dangerous guy near him,” Mussina said. “He made some steals and it’s just nice to see this group of kids succeed. We weren’t really sure at the beginning of the season how we were going to get the ball in the basket and we’ve been able to do that pretty well and if we continue to play good defense, we’re going to be able to stay in most games.”

Selinsgrove turned the ball over six times in the third quarter as Montoursville took a seven-point lead into the fourth. The Warriors ended the third quarter on a 13-3 run as Kiess scored 10 points in that final run, while assisting on a John McCarthy (nine points, six rebounds) 3-pointer.

After a sluggish offensive first half, Montoursville played a much sharper final 16 minutes, scoring 35 second-half points. The Warriors played a flawless final three minutes as they scored on their final five possessions. All five players on the court made plays, too. McCarthy’s tough acrobatic layup with 3:36 tied the game at 40 and another tough layup with 2:16 remaining gave the Warriors a 42-40 lead. Tyler Reidy’s layup a possession later again gave Montoursville a two-point lead. Dylan Bower, off a nice pass from Austin Loe, scored a layup with 30 seconds to go for a four-point advantage. McCarthy and Kiess hit the final four free throws to ice the game. In the last two games, Montoursville has hit 28-of-29 free throws.

“The first half we were flat. We didn’t come out with any energy, we weren’t moving around on offense, we were really stagnant. We came into halftime and we were in shock because we weren’t supposed to be down,” Kiess said. “Then in the second half, coach told us we need to start running plays, start executing and that’s what we ended up doing. We came out and started executing and making shots. They didn’t miss a shot in the first half. That was an issue. They made four 3’s. It’s a different game. They started missing shots, we started making shots and the momentum started going our way.”

Selinsgrove (46)

Thomas Kerstetter 5 2-2 12, Kolton Elsayed 3 0-2 9, Ricky Cope 3 2-2 9, Logan Leiby 0 0-0 0, Tony Dressler 6 0-0 16, Bailey Hottenstein 0 0-0 0, Drew Gabrielson 0 0-0 0, Rocco Napoli 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 4-6 46.

Montoursville (52)

John McCarthy 3 2-2 9, Owen Kiess 6 4-4 18, Dylan Bower 5 0-0 10, Luke Warnecke 3 2-2 8, Tyler Reidy 2 1-2 5, Austin Loe 1 0-0 2, Hunter Shearer 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 9-10 52.

Selinsgrove 14 10 8 14 – 46

Montoursville 10 7 19 16 — 52

3-point goals: Selinsgrove 8 (Dressler 4, Elsayed 3, Cope 1); Montoursville 3 (Kiess 2, McCarthy 1)

Records: Selinsgrove (12-12); Montoursville (18-6).