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Williamsport girls defeat Montoursville in tough game, 47-42, at Magic Dome

RALPH WILSON/Sun-Gazette Correspondent Williamsport’s Kailee Helmrich (14) grabs a rebound away from Montoursville’s MacKenzie Cohick (23) as Alexandria Chilson (4) moves in to assist during a high school girls basketball game on Thursday at Williamsport.

Kailee Helmrich so often impacts a game even if she is not scoring. A quality point guard, stifling defender and team leader, Helmrich consistently stuffs the stat sheet.

She is much more than a scorer. But she can do that, too. And when Williamsport needed a lift Thursday night that is exactly what Helmrich provided.

Helmrich scored five points in 10 seconds with a little more than three minutes remaining against Montoursville, giving Williamsport a nine-point lead. The Warriors fought back and twice pulled within four, but that five-point flurry proved too much as Williamsport won a hard-fought rivalry game, 47-42 at the Magic Dome. Montoursville gave a valiant effort despite head coach Jon Weaver and his entire staff resigning Thursday afternoon.

“It was really crucial that we got a couple more points ahead because once you start scoring it gives your team the momentum,” Helmrich said. “It hypes everyone up and you just want to keep going.”

Williamsport received balanced scoring and gave a strong collective effort, but Helmrich’s five rapid points made the ultimate difference. Montoursville trailed 39-35 before Helmrich grabbed an offensive rebound, drew a foul and hit two free throws.

RALPH WILSON/Sun-Gazette Correspondent Williamsport’s Payton Baney (15) works her way towards the basket past Montoursville’s MacKenzie Weaver (22) and MacKenzie Cohick (23) during a high school girls basketball game on Thursday at Williamsport.

A few seconds later, Helmrich made a steal at midcourt and converted a 3-point play. In a flash, Williamsport was up, 44-35 and had all the points it would need despite Montoursville rallying. That sequence captured what Helmrich consistently gives Williamsport even in a year where she has missed time with an injury and while in COVID-19 quarantine.

Helmrich scored a team-high 14 points Thursday, adding six rebounds, four steals and three assists on Senior Night.

“She’s a top athlete playing multiple sports and she’s a catalyst,” Williamsport coach Terrill Seward-Buxton said. “We tell her sometimes you might not score, but your assists, the second pass that we get out of you penetrating helps us out a lot.”

“We don’t have that many seniors, so we wanted to make this special for them,” Helmrich said. “And with our one that is out (Jessica Robinson in quarantine) we wanted to win for her and show that we still have this and wanted to make her proud from home.”

Williamsport did just that with Seward-Buxton receiving strong efforts from both starters and reserves. Payton Baney was an eraser inside, blocking eight shots, Sarina Beiter scored nine points and A’Niyah Andrews-Handy made some crucial second-half shots.

RALPH WILSON/Sun-Gazette Correspondent Montoursville’s MacKenzie Weaver (22) reaches in to block Williamsport’s Sarina Beiter’s (11) shot as Payton Baney (15) helps clear her path to the rim during a high school girls basketball game on Thursday at Williamsport.

“Everybody did a little bit of everything,” Seward-Buxton said. “All of them did something at different times to help us out.”

Montoursville produced a similar performance despite all the drama that unfolded Thursday. Weaver and his staff resigned Thursday afternoon, so Montoursville athletic director Stephen Alexander coached with recent Montoursville graduate Lydia Albert assisting.

It was a unique situation but one the players handled well. Montoursville was behind nearly the entire game other than for a few seconds in the third quarter, but never let Williamsport pull away. Even after Helmrich’s five-point burst, Mackenzie Cohick and Maddie Adams scored in the paint and twice made it a four-point game. Beiter hit a late free throw and Montoursville came up empty on its final possession but displayed its character throughout this performance.

“The energy they played with the entire game was beyond what I expected. They played hard the entire game and I didn’t tell them a lot of things different than what they have been doing,” Alexander said. “They knew the offense they were running; they did the same exact stuff they’ve been running all year and they played hard the whole game.”

Montoursville trailed by seven in the second quarter before closing within two at halftime and taking a brief 33-32 lead on MacKenzie Weaver’s late third-quarter 3-pointer. Adams scored a game-high 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds while Weaver had 10 points and four rebounds. Cohick played a well-rounded game, producing seven points, four steals, four rebounds and three assists while Alaina Marchioni added six rebounds.

Montoursville (5-13) won three straight games before dropping close contests against Central Columbia and Williamsport. The Warriors currently are the No. 6 seed in the eight-team District 4 Class AAAA field and have shown these last two weeks why they can be a tough out in a tournament which feels like it is up for grabs.

“The only thing they can do is keep trying to win and if they do that, they should be in good position to make an appearance in the playoffs and I know at some points in the season that didn’t seem likely,” Alexander said. “These last two weeks the atmosphere has been a little different. They’ve had a little more pep in their step. They are playing more like a team these last few weeks and they’ve done very well.”

Had it not been for Baney, Montoursville might have made it four wins in five games. The freshman forward showed why she could become one of the area’s premier post players the next few years by creating her own personal block party. Six of Baney’s eight blocks came in the second half and each came at crucial times, often preventing Montoursville from tying the game or taking the lead.

Baney also scored nine points and pulled down eight rebounds. Early in the fourth quarter she found Beiter for a 3-pointer before Beiter reciprocated and hit Baney inside for a layup that put Williamsport 39-35. She also made a critical block with 25 seconds remaining, preventing Montoursville from making it a two-point game.

“I told her she isn’t a freshman anymore. This is the second half of the season and it feels like it’s a second season,” Seward-Buxton said. “She’s learning to get more of a feel what to do and that second half she was big. She stood tall and on offensive end she got some big rebounds and made some good passes.”

“She’s constantly blocking shots. She does that pretty frequently for us,” Helmrich said. “She’s going to be amazing as a senior. She’s already good now but I can’t wait to see what she and all the freshmen are going to be able to do when they get a little bit older.”

MONTOURSVILLE (42)

MacKenzie Weaver 3 2-4 10, Maddie Adams 5 3-5 15, Alaina Marchioni 2 0-1 4, Mackenzie Cohick 2 3-5 7, Maddie Labatch 2 0-0 4, Shianne Klemick 1 0-0 2. Totals 15 8-14 42.

WILLIAMSPORT (47)

Kailee Helmrich 5 4-4 14, Enya Green-Pratt 3 1-2 7, Alex Chilson 2 0-0 4, Sarina Beiter 3 2-4 9, Payton Baney 2 5-6 9, Abby Mahon 0 0-0 0, Sam Soto 0 0-0 0, Ella Wilson 0 0-0 0, Danyse Washington 0 0-0 0, A’Niyah Andrews-Handy 2 0-1 4, Cierra Rainier 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 12-17 47.

Montoursville 12 9 12 9–42

Williamsport 16 7 11 13–47

3-point goals: Montoursville 4 (Weaver 2, Adams 2), Williamsport 1 (Beiter 1).

JV Score: Williamsport, 34-25.

Records: Williamsport (5-10), Montoursville (5-13).

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