Mounties can’t quite top Tigers

MILTON — Instead of smiles, there were scowls. Instead of high fives, there were low heads. And instead of gold, there was silver. Despite winning just one game two years ago, South Williamsport wasn’t merely happy to be in the district championship. After staving off elimination the last three weeks, the Mounties were battled-tested and ready for the ultimate test in Southern Columbia.

South Williamsport played hard enough but turnovers hurt it as it fell to Southern Columbia, 46-32, Thursday night at Milton in the District 4 Class AA Championship.

Southern Columbia (17-8) won its first title in 15 years and will advance to the state tournament, as will South Williamsport (11-14), which will play the District 2 Champion next Friday.

“It’s one thing just to be happy to be here, but once the competitive spirit takes over, we were in it to win this game,” said South Williamsport coach Justin Marnon, who has headed this three-season turnaround. “We really thought we had a shot, but that’s a really good team. They’ve gotten us three times this year so congrats to them.”

It didn’t matter that it only had six wins the last two seasons or that it loss to Southern twice by double-digits in the regular season. South Williamsport wanted to put a gold stamp on its resurgent season. Though it didn’t come to fruition, the Mounties battled hard, never gave up and put a scare into the Tigers. Jaela House did a little bit of everything with six points, 11 rebounds, four assists and two steals and made many big plays to keep the game within striking distance. Haley Neidig played tough defense up front while totaling five points, five steals, three rebounds and two assists and Alyssa Johnson (eight points, seven rebounds, two blocks) battled inside with the highly-skilled Abby Hager (15 points, six rebounds).

“I’m super proud of our team for what we went through the last two weeks and four elimination games,” Marnon said. “Tonight was obviously against a very good team and the turnovers got to us.”

They sure did. All 27 of them. They weren’t just dead-ball turnovers, either. Southern had 17 steals, five players had multiple steals and South Williamsport struggled with passing in the half court as the Tigers’ zone defense stretched out to mid court and made life difficult.

“I thought we broke the press well, but once we got into the half court set, we tried to force things and that’s what Southern does to take you out of your offense, to take you out of your rhythm and they were definitely able to do that,” Marnon said. “I didn’t feel like through the entire first quarter, we didn’t run anything and that took us away from good looks.”

The game never got completely out of hand. A made fastbreak layup here and a made open jumper there and South would’ve been within single digits. The Mounties could never mount a run and everytime they got within 11 or 10, Southern would execute and extend its lead back up to 14 or 15.

“They got the early lead and they did a good job of maintaining it and I thought every time we were close to putting something together, the ball just wouldn’t go in,” Marnon added. “Even in transition, transition baskets are what we live and die by and tonight we just weren’t able to capitalize.”

Southern Columbia (46)

Madison Klock 4 1-5 9, Abby Hager 7 1-2 15, Morgan Cole 3 1-2 8, Jill Marks 1 0-0 2, Sarah Rodriguez 1 1-2 3, Morgan Marks 1 0-0 2, Rylin Wislowski 0 0-0 0, Sami Palace 2 0-0 4, Hannah Davis 1 1-1 3, Grace Callahan 0 0-0 0, Faith Callahan 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 5-12 46.

South Williamsport (32)

Haley Neidig 1 2-5 5, Julie Anthony 2 0-0 4, Jaela House 2 2-4 6, Megan Weber 0 4-5 4, Alyssa Johnson 4 0-0 8, Sydney Bachman 0 0-0 0, Amiya Harris 1 0-0 2, Sarah Bennett 1 1-2 3, Nicole Noviello 0 0-0 0. Totals 11 9-16 32.

Southern 16 13 10 7–46

South 8 9 9 6–32

3-point goals: Southern 1 (Cole 1); South 1 (Neidig 1)

Records: Southern Columbia (17-8), South Williamsport (11-14)