MUNCY - The gym was packed, the fans boisterous and the game intense. Every play, every shot was fiercely contested. Muncy forward Dawson Fox had the bloody gash above his eye proving it.
In some ways, it was a typical Hughesville-Muncy basketball game. But as Muncy brilliantly executed the four-corner offense and burned away the game's final minute it became apparent that it also was not the typical game. Hughesville owned this series for seven seasons and buried the Indians under a 31-point first-quarter deficit three years ago.
Now Muncy has the upper hand.
First-time starters Nick Ring and Teddy Clark recorded double-doubles while point guard Ammar Sabanovic was outstanding in all facets Monday as Muncy beat Hughesville, 57-48.
"I was in eighth grade and wasn't even playing and it (the 31-0 deficit three years ago) was demoralizing," said Ring, who had 18 points and 16 rebounds. "It definitely feels like a turnaround beating them."
The Indians (9-3) have won the last two against Hughesville and took everything the Spartans could deliver while erasing a one-point fourth-quarter deficit. Muncy trailed by seven early in the second quarter but adjusted to Hughesville's tenacious defense and after turning the ball over seven times in the first 10 minutes, it only had two turnovers the rest of the game.
Sabanovic smoothly ran the offense, scoring 12 points, dealing six assists, grabbing six rebounds and adding three steals. He was the lone starter who started in that blowout three years ago. And now he is a huge reason the Indians hold a two-game winning streak against their biggest rival.
"It was ugly that night and Ammar just took the abuse. It was the same defense, same pressure, but as a freshman he didn't know how to handle it and tonight he did much better," Muncy coach Jason Gresh said. "Their defense is always outstanding and it's a matter of adjusting to that kind of pressure. You have to use that either to your advantage or you buckle under the pressure and tonight we used it."
Clark enjoyed a breakout night and played some of his best basketball of the season in the final quarter. After Tristan Jeffreys put Hughesville (8-6) up 40-39 seven seconds into the fourth quarter, Clark heated up and scored five of his points while dealing two assists. The hustling junior finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds while scoring nine of his points in the second half.
Clark also made four of his last five shots from the field and the line and combined with reserve Jeff Scott to help spark the game's pivotal run. Scott hit a jumper to make it 45-42 before Clark added two free throws and then fed Ring for a basket that made it a five-point game. Clark then hit one of the game's biggest shots, converting a running floater and the ensuing foul shot to make it 55-48.
Scott clinched the win at the foul line before Muncy spread the floor and sent Hughesville defenders on a frantic but futile chase.
"I just went as hard as I could. That's what they wanted me to do and that's what I did," said Clark, who also helped Muncy beat Hughesville in football. "It was intense out there and when things get rough it gets more and more exciting."
"I can't say enough about Jeff," Gresh said. "He just came out and did his job. he rebounded, boxed out and played solid defense."
The game featured plenty of ebbs and flows for both teams with Hughesville taking a seven-point second-quarter lead after erasing an early six-point deficit. By halftime, though, Muncy led 25-22 and increased its lead to five in the third quarter. The Spartans pulled within one by the end of the third as Tristan Jeffreys started dominating.
The talented junior guard is one of the area's most well-rounded players and scored 11 of his team-high 14 points in the third quarter, while willing Hughesville back into the game. He drove in on the fourth-quarter's first possession to give Hughesville its last lead, 40-39, but Fox put on a defensive clinic from there, holding him scoreless the rest of the game. Fred Newhart had nine points and nine rebounds, but the Spartans missed 14 layups and/or shots under the basket and the pendulum of neighborhood power swung back to Muncy.
"It was intense and hard-fought, but they know it's just a basketball game," Clark said. "We're friends off the court, but it's all seriousness on the court and it feels good to beat them."
Tristan Jeffreys 6 2-3 14, Fred Newhart 2 5-5 9, Brandon Fortin 3 0-0 6, Tyler Mitcheltree 1 1-2 3, Ty Stugart 2 2-4 6, Sean Poust 2 2-2 6, Kamaal Burkholder 1 0-0 2, Nate Hans 0 2-2 2, Austin Benedict 0 0-0 0, Jeremiah McCarty 0 0-0 0, Trey Smith 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 14-18 48.
Ammar Sabanovic 2 8-11 12, Nick Ring 8 2-6 18, Dawson Fox 2 0-1 4, Billy Kolletzki 1 2-4 4, Teddy Clark 5 3-4 13, Jeff Scott 1 4-4 6, Mike Fornwalt 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 19-30 57.
Hughesville13 9 16 10-48
Muncy8 17 14 18-57
3-pointers: Hughesville 2 (Fortin 2).
Records: Muncy 9-3. Hughesville 8-6.
JV Score: Hughesville 58-34.
High Scorers: Alex Welch, H, 13; Dalton Smith, M, 15