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Montour girls D4 champs for first time since 2000

Long time coming

Montoursville players celebrate with their District 4 Class AAAA girls basketball championship medals Friday at Milton.

MILTON — As the last second ticked away, Montoursville players stormed the court, hugged each other and bounced high into the air.

It was a scene they’d never had experienced on a basketball court or witnessed. The last time Montoursville won a district championship, most players either were not born or could not yet talk. But the drought is over. Montoursville’s gym has to clear the way for that long elusive banner. The Warriors are champions again. They are District 4’s best Class AAAA team.

Lauren O’Malley scored 15 points, Lexi Marchioni added 11 and Marlene Bassett grabbed 10 rebounds as Montoursville excelled under pressure Friday night and defeated Mifflinburg, 42-35 for the program’s first district championship since 2000. After Mifflinburg tied the game with five minutes remaining, Montoursville closed on an 11-4 run as different players took turns making key plays while carving their own place in program history.

“This is unbelievable,” said Bassett, seconds after cutting down her piece of the championship net. “Everyone is aware of the Kelly Mazzante era so to be able to put ourselves with her as a team coming together and doing this together means a lot. Seventeen years is a long time. That’s the age of a lot of these girls, but this is what we came here to do and we got it done.”

“Everyone talks about Kelly Mazzante and Kelly is such a huge part of our program and Montoursville basketball as a whole but to be able to put a banner up on the wall next to hers is continuing the tradition,” Montoursville coach Travis Heap said. “It took 17 long years to get here but we’re starting a new tradition now.”

The groundwork for that tradition started being laid four years ago when Montoursville (24-2), which plays District 3’s York Suburban in next Friday’s state tournament opener at a District 4 site, won its first playoff game since 2002. A year later, the Warriors reached the district final, but lost to Central Columbia. Marchioni and Bassett both played a lot in that game and were part of a group that would not let history repeat itself last night.

As it did in the semifinals against Jersey Shore when it overcame an 11-point deficit, Montoursville shined when the game was most tense. The Warriors answered Mifflin­burg’s 5-0 run that tied the game with six straight points and the Wildcats (20-6) never pulled closer than three again. Marchioni, Bassett and Rebecca Reeder made clutch shots in those last five minutes and the entire defense prevented Mifflinburg from getting good shots.

Montoursville long ago proved how talented it was. Over those final five minutes, the Warriors showed they are equally as tough.

“I don’t think anyone was stressed out,” Marchioni said. “We just knew we had to keep playing defense and that’s what we were doing the whole game.”

Marchioni ignited the game-ending run by hitting a long 3-pointer and then adding a free throw. She added an assist with 2 1/2 minutes remaining as Bassett put Montoursville ahead, 37-31. Mifflinburg cut the deficit to three with 1:01 remaining, but re­serve Rebecca Reeder than shined in the most pressure-packed moment she has ever experienced in basketball. Reeder hit both ends of a 1-and-1 and made it look easy, giving Mon­toursville a 40-35 lead. Bassett made a key steal and added another re­bound in the last minute and both she and Mar­chioni added free throws as Montoursville sealed the win.

Marchioni faced tenacious Emily Stauffer defense all night but that was nothing compared to the rush of Warriors who stormed her way as the game ended. A long journey was complete and 17 years of frustration was wiped away with pure joy.

“I don’t think people from our school realize this hasn’t been done for 17 years,” Marchioni said. “Now we’ve proven ourselves to everybody.”

“Down the stretch the will to win took over,” Heap said. “They give everything they have. They know I have confidence in them and they have confidence in me as a coach and we work well together. We work hard and a 17-year drought ended.”

Montoursville improved to 3-0 and has handed Mifflinburg half its losses this season. The Wildcats did all they could to prevent another Montoursville defeat and stymied the Warriors throughout the first half. But despite seven turnovers and Marchioni and Bassett being in foul trouble, Montoursville fought to a 15-15 halftime tie.

O’Malley kept Montours­ville going through some tough times and scored 15 points in the middle quarters. The versatile junior was tough to stop inside, played aggressive and was a game-changer on both ends. She scored eight points in the third quarter and helped Montoursville enter the fourth, holding a 28-26 lead.

Marchioni was guarded by one of the district’s top defenders but was brilliant in the second half, scoring all 11 of her points, dealing five assists and making five steals. She also did a fantastic job running the offense over the last five minutes. Bassett was tough inside, scoring eight points and grabbing 10 rebounds, in addition to making some big defensive plays and grabbing key rebounds late.

Shelby Kurtz and Lydia Albert provided solid minutes off the bench and Kurtz scored inside in the fourth quarter, giving Montoursville a 31-26 lead. Everyone did their part and showed why Mon­toursville is not a collection of individuals, but rather an outstanding team.

The program did not experience a winning season for nearly a decade starting in 2003, but this group helped changed everything. And now those players and coaches take a special place alongside other past great Montoursville teams.

“This is an amazing feeling,” Bassett said. “To come out with a team effort and pull away and get a win means so much. It’s pretty special.”

MIFFLINBURG (35)

Riley Griffith 8 1-1 17, Reagan Griffith 1 3-4 5, Emily Stauffer 3 0-1 6, Libby Whitaker 0 1-2 1, Malayna Rowe 0 0-0 0, Mashalyla Valentine 1 0-0 2, Madison Young 2 0-0 4, Angela Reamer 0 0-2 0. Totals 15 5-8 35.

MONTOURSVILLE (42)

Lexi Marchioni 3 3-7 11, Lauren O’Malley 5 5-5 15, Marlene Bassett 3 2-5 8, Gillian Mitchell 1 2-2 4, Ashlynn McQuillen 0 0-0 0, Shelby Kurtz 1 0-0 2, Rebecca Reeder 0 2-2 2, Lydia Albert 0 0-0 0. Totals 13 14-22 42.

Mifflinburg 9 6 11 9–35

Montoursville 6 9 13 14–42

3-pointers: Montoursville 2 (Marchioni 2).

Records: Montoursville 24-2. Mifflinburg 20-6.

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