Warrior boys avenge earlier 33-point defeat to Lancers

As the last second ran off the clock, Montoursville point guard Owen Kiess jumped into Josh Dinges’ arms. Simultaneously, students stormed the court, surrounding jubilant Warriors as many other blue-clad fans provided a standing ovation.

It was a scene those players had never witnessed before. It was a scene even the most die-hard Montoursville fans had not experienced throughout the 21st century. Make no mistake, Montoursville has big goals this season and is hoping it can make a postseason run.

But what happened Satur­day was something those players will never forget. And as far as Senior Nights go, this one is hard to top.

A month after losing to rival Loyalsock by 33 points, Montoursville flipped the script and dominated the last three minutes, defeating the Lancers, 42-36, in front of a huge, boisterous crowd. The Warriors (13-5, 5-3 HAC-II) snapped a three-game losing streak against Loyalsock, defeated their third playoff-bound opponent in four nights and made a major statement against a team that routed it just a few weeks earlier.

“The crowd left me dumb-founded. I couldn’t believe it,” Montoursville guard Luke Warnecke said. “Hearing that noise and hearing that crowd gets everything pumping. It was just a great atmosphere to play in. We stayed focused and we weren’t afraid.”

“We’re a good team,” point guard Owen Kiess said. “We were a big underdog and we showed tonight we’re legit and we’re here to contend.”

Montoursville actually already has proven that, beating several playoff teams and four defending district champions. Still, that Loyalsock loss lingered and might have created doubt from outsiders about how good this team is. The Lancers dominated all facets that night, beating Montoursville 82-49. Since then, the Warriors have won nine of their last 11 games and their 13 victories are the most in a regular season by a Montoursville team since the 1990s.

The remaining doubters should be silenced now. Kiess scored a game-high 20 points and drained eight straight free throws in the last 55 seconds. Warnecke dealt four assists and set up Austin Loe (12 points) for a huge last-minute basket as well as the go-ahead free throws. John McCarthy (8 points, 6 rebounds) hit a big last-second free throw and Tyler Reidy played fantastic defense while making a critical last-second block.

Everything seemingly fell apart the first time Montoursville played Loyalsock. Saturday, it all came together.

“The kids felt like they could do it and finished strong and we made a couple shots and that was the big difference,” Montoursville coach Mike Mussina said. “It was a nice win, an emotional win and I’m so proud of the kids and so happy for them, but we still have work to do.”

Montoursville did good work early, building a 19-8 second-quarter lead. Loyalsock (13-5, 6-2) cut it to six by halftime, to three after three quarters and took the lead early in the fourth. After a few lead changes, Loyalsock appeared poised to take over when Brandon Bauman converted a 3-point play and Connor Watkins found Gerald Ross (14 points) underneath to make it 35-31 with three minutes remaining.

Mussina then called a timeout and his message resonated. Montoursville allowed just one more point and that came on a free throw with 10.6 seconds remaining. The Warriors ended the game on an 11-1 run and took control in the final minute when the pressure was highest.

“Coach Mussina said we’re going to win these last three minutes. He believes in us and that’s the most important things,” Kiess said. “As long as he believes and all of us believe that’s all we need.”

Warnecke skillfully handled Loyal­sock’s tenacious defense and found Loe inside to make it 35-33 with 2:25 remaining. Loyalsock held that lead until the 55-second mark when Montoursville gained possession and called timeout. During that timeout, Loyalsock received a technical foul and Kiess hit the game-tying free throws. On the ensuing possession, Warnecke again carved up Loyalsock’s defense and found Loe at the basket. The sophomore forward calmly hit the go-ahead foul shots and Reidy preserved the lead at the 20-second mark when he emphatically blocked a shot.

Kiess went back to the line and hit both ends of a 1-and-1, making it 39-35. Anthony Pastore made it a one-possession game at 10.6 seconds when he connected on a foul shot, but Kiess again owned the moment and helped seal the win with two more foul shots. He finished 11 for 12 at the line and 8 for 8 in the fourth quarter.

“We just hung in there. When they took the lead later in the game we could have really let it get to us and let it get away,” Mussina said. “We were down four and ended on an 11-run. That doesn’t often happen, but if you don’t feel like you can do it, it’s never going to happen. It’s just a really good win.”

Both teams played strong defense, but Montoursville showed dramatic improvement from the last game. Loyalsock scored at will in that game, but this time made just 1 of 10 3-point attempts and finished 13 of 39 from the field. The Lancers pressured Montoursville well, but also played too close at times and drew several fouls that the Warriors repeatedly capitalized on.

Montoursville was in the bonus the entire fourth quarter and went 10 for 11 in those final eight minutes. That first loss stung. Redemption felt pretty sweet.

“We were punched in the stomach and that felt awful so we had to work hard and get our stuff together and we were able to come out on top,” Warnecke said. “It’s one we will remember and now we’re already looking forward to our next game.”

LOYALSOCK (36)

Gerald Ross 6 2-2 14, Anthony Pastore 2 1-2 6, Connor Watkins 2 0-0 4, Mitch Klingerman 2 0-0 4, Brandon Bauman 1 2-3 4, Bam Brima 0 0-2 0, Aiden Gair 0 4-4 4, Collin Graver 0 0-0 0. Totals 13 9-13 36.

MONTOURSVILLE (42)

John McCarthy 2 3-6 8, Owen Kiess 4 11-12 20, Luke Warnecke 0 0-0 0, Dylan Bower 0 0-0 0, Tyler Reidy 1 0-2 2, Austin Loe 5 2-2 12, Jason Good 0 0-0 0. Totals 12 16-22 42.

Loyalsock 8 6 10 12–36

Montoursville 10 10 7 15–42

3-pointers: Loyalsock 1 (Pastore); Montoursville 2 (McCarthy, Kiess).

Records: Montoursville 13-5, 5-3 HAC-II. Loyalsock 13-5, 6-2.

JV Score: Loyalsock 51-49.

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