Coyner’s switch has helped Muncy’s run to PIAA tourney

Matt Coyner always played guard as he climbed the Muncy basketball ladder while growing up.

Circumstance and a growth spurt changed things when Coyner reached high school. As a guard, Coyner suddenly made a mighty good forward. The senior is not the tallest post player, standing at 6-foot-2, but that counts as near giant-size for a relatively small Muncy team.

Coyner’s ability to learn that new position and ultimately master it is a big reason he and Muncy both are standing tall these days. Coyner recorded his 10th double-double last Thursday as Muncy defeated Northeast Bradford, 52-39 and captured the District 4 Class AA championship. Muncy (17-7) plays Northwest in Saturday’s state tournament opener and is a district champion for the first time since 2004.

Take Coyner away and that is not the case.

“All the coaches help us and we just worked really hard all the way up to get here,” Coyner said. “We put some blood, sweat and tears to get this and it feels awesome to be here.”

Coyner scored 11 points and grabbed 11 rebounds against NEB. He is averaging a double-double for a second straight season, putting up 11.8 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. Coyner also grabbed his 500th rebound late in the regular season.

This is a tough basketball player, but he also is well-rounded. That is where his guard experience helps so much. Coyner can bang away against post players, but also smoothly handle the ball, take his game outside and beat defenders off the dribble.

“Matt coming up had to be a guard because of who we had. It’s the way things were,” Muncy coach Jason Gresh said. “Matt and Nate (Paisley) split the guard responsibilities coming up through elementary school. Matt was always a guard so those skills translate now. All those things you want out of your guards he can do, so he’s a tough match-up inside. “

His opponents can vouch for that. Coyner did not play much before his junior year, but has been instrumental in helping Muncy reach its second straight state tournament. He started flourishing as last season progressed and has increased both his scoring and rebounding averages this season. Coyner has played especially well the past two postseasons and has three double-doubles in his last four playoff games, including both this year.

On a team filled with good outside shooters, Coyner is the perfect complement. Paisley and Noah Rymsza are both averaging more than 13 per game and Kolby Moyer is at 10.4. All three have delivered multiple games with 20 or more points. Try and extend the defense to limit the outside shots and Coyner can dominate inside. Collapse inside on Coyner and the guards can light it up.

“Matt accepts his role very well. That’s not an easy double-double he puts up every game. He works hard on the offensive and defensive side and is really good around the rim,” Paisley said after scoring 18 points in the final. “That’s what we’re looking for. We love to put it inside and get the kick-out 3s. Those are great shots in our mind if we can get the ball into the paint. He can attract a couple defenders and he kicks it out and we’re wide open where we can step into them. He sets us up very well.”

That was especially evident during districts. Muncy trailed defending champion North Penn-Mansfield at halftime in the semifinals but Coyner started imposing his will inside during the second half and finished with 15 points and 15 rebounds. Rymsza dominated the third quarter and he and Paisley combined for 44 points. As those two heated up the inside opened up and Coyner scored eight fourth-quarter points in the 69-50 win.

Northeast Bradford was hanging around early in the third quarter of the championship when Coyner scored five straight points. Paisley then hit a 3-pointer and Muncy started pulling away as it won the program’s fifth district championship.

“When you have great teammates every night and everyone makes contributions it makes it easy,” Coyner said. “I give all the thanks to my teammates. They set me up great and get me the ball. It’s all because of them.”

Coyner put together a breakout season last year, but was not satisfied. He attacked the offseason the way he does an opponent. When Coyner was not on the court, he often was found in the weight room working with trainer Ken Hampe. The result was Coyner adding 25 pounds of muscle. The former guard does not just play the role of strong post player now. He looks, it too.

“Those are the things that you ask from kids that go unnoticed and this is the time of year that stuff pays off,” Gresh said. “He just really wants it.”