Lancer girls defeat Bloomsburg in AAA consolation

Sure, Loyalsock wanted a different color Saturday. But after everything this team has endured and the talented player it has lost, bronze looks pretty good.

And a strong foundation added another brick.

Rhiallie Jessell scored a career-high 14 points, all five starters scored by midway through the first quarter and Loyalsock dominated from start to finish Saturday at Montoursville as it thumped Bloomsburg, 54-32, in the District 4 Class AAA third-place game, capturing the district’s final state tournament berth in the process.

The Lancers (21-6), who lost both leading scorer Maddie Fox and Cassie Gee to season-ending injuries early this year reached states for a second straight year and will play District 3 champion Trinity next Saturday at a District 3 site.

“There’s not a group of athletes I’d rather go battle with than them,” Loyalsock coach Curtis Jacobson said. “Getting a couple bronzes is a building block to the future. They’re the foundation for what we’re trying to build. I’m just really fortunate that we have a great group of athletes that we can build that foundation upon.”

Sophia Gardner added a key steal. Jessell scored nine straight second-quarter points, Summer McNulty finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and five steals and Juliana Cruz dealt seven assists.

Fighting on without Fox and Gee, who have remained immensely supportive at practices each day, was not easy, but yesterday’s performance again showed how Loyalsock has done it.

“The color of the medal wasn’t the color we wanted, but the top three teams go to states and we’re happy we’re one of them,” Jessell said. “We were frustrated after the other night, but we took our frustration out on Bloomsburg and did what we had to do.”

Loyalsock attacked from the start and led 18-9 after one. Jessell started dominating in the second quarter as the Lancers built a 32-16 lead. Instead of growing complacent, Loyalsock grew stronger and opened the third quarter with a quick burst, forcing seven turnovers and going up by 25.

Different players made impacts at key times, including Sam Stopper (nine points, four rebounds) and Sarah Van Fleet (six points, five rebounds, three steals). Together, Loyalsock overwhelmed a team that upset top-seeded Wellsboro in the quarterfinals.

“At halftime they responded to our halftime talk of not getting complacent and trying to get better each quarter,” Jacobson said. “I told them when you lose a game like we did Wednesday you learn from it and we did.”

“Coach always talks about being focused on coming out strong and trying to extend our lead every quarter,” Jessell said. “That’s what we did and it feels really good. It means a lot to me because it means a lot to them.”

Jessell is the team’s only senior so things continue looking up for a program that has won 37 games the last two years. A year ago, Loyalsock took powerhouse York Catholic to the final seconds in a heartbreaking first-round loss.

Trinity is equally powerful, but the Lancers played a brutal non-conference schedule in addition to competing in a HAC-III division that produced six district semifinalists.

One better believe this team will not back down.

“I told our girls when you look at the state bracket you always see the Trinity’s and the York Catholic’s and the Dunmore’s because they compete in it every year and I’m hoping we’re going to get to that point and we’re going to give it our best shot.”

Loyalsock (54)

Summer McNulty 4 1-2 10, Sam Stopper 3 2-5 9, Sarah Van Fleet 3 0-0 6, Juliana Cruz 2 1-2 6, Rhiallie Jessell 5 4-5 14, Charlotte Neylon 0 2-2 2, Sophia Gardner 0 0-1 0, Anna Burdett 3 1-2 7. Totals 20 11-19 54.

Bloomsburg (32)

Megan Haines 2 0-0 4, Rylee Klinger 3 1-2 7, Jaryn Bond 2 0-0 5, Kelsey Widom 0 2-2 2, Emily Pitonyak 0 0-0 0, Ellen Hull 1 0-0 2, Haley Widom 3 1-3 7, Trinity Farrare 1 0-0 2, Kailey Zentner 1 0-0 2, Maddy Trivelpiece 0 1-2 1. Totals 13 4-10 32.

Loyalsock 18 14 14 8-54

Bloomsburg 9 7 5 11-32

3-point goals: Loyalsock 3 (McNulty 1, Stopper 1, Cruz 1); Bloomsburg 1 (K. Widom 1).

Records: Loyalsock (21-6), Bloomsburg (8-17)