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Big man lifts Montoursville with 14 4th-quarter points

The scoreboard stunned Austin Loe when he looked its way. The Montoursville center thought his team was winning big, but upon glancing up early in the fourth quarter he realized the Warriors held only a three-point lead.

Maybe it was the alarm he felt, maybe it was a sense of urgency, maybe it was his guards repeatedly finding him or maybe it was a combination of all three. Whatever it was, Loe dominated the final five minutes and Montoursville produced another quality road win.

Loe scored 14 of his team-high 20 points over the last five minutes, Dylan Bower added 18 points and Montoursville received quality contributions throughout its rotation as it rallied from a six-point third-quarter deficit and edged St. John Neumann, 62-57 Thursday at the Catholic Community Center. Loe ignited his fourth-quarter push with a 3-point play, added another one after Neumann had pulled within one and made all eight shots he attempted from the field and line.

“I looked up at the scoreboard and we were only up three and I thought we were up way more than three. Coach called a good timeout and I told the guys that we have to come together and finish this out,” Loe said. “We spread out and let the guards go to work and they did what they do, drive and attack. We struggled at the beginning, but played like a team and played like Warriors do.”

Last night’s performance was the latest in Loe’s evolution. The 6-foot-5 junior was a valuable reserve who averaged in double figures most of the season a year ago when Montoursville won its first district championship since 1985. Now he is one of the team’s more experienced players and is becoming more lethal inside. Loe has a good jumper, but is especially difficult to stop in the low post and is understanding that more, topping 20 points in each of his last three games and averaging 24 points during that time.

Montoursville (5-2) trailed by one in the fourth quarter before Dillon Young (7 assists) scored off a putback and gave it a lead it did not relinquish. Loe scored off a putback a possession later and added a free throw before scoring off another putback and giving Montoursville a 51-45 lead. Loe scored Montoursville’s next four points as well and then combined with Hunter Shearer to deliver a dagger-like blow. Neumann had cut the deficit to 55-54 and nearly had a steal, but Shearer threaded the defense and found Loe inside for a 3-point play.

A Reid Parrish free throw made it a one-possession game, but Peyton Mussina went over top the defense seconds later, finding Loe for a layup that made it a five-point game. Young then clinched the win, hitting both ends of a 1-and-1 with 14 seconds remaining as Montoursville recorded its third fourth-quarter comeback win.

“His inside game is still a work in progress, but he showed in the last eight minutes how he can play in there. If we can get him the ball, if we can have him inside when we shoot for putbacks that is big for us. He was a big deal today,” Montoursville coach Mike Mussina said. “You know everybody we play their focus is to try and slow him down and they did that for a while and we were able to move the ball well enough and get some entry passes and get some layups and he made some big foul shots. All the little things we need from him, he did.”

Neumann (4-3) is working on refining those little things and lost its second straight. The Knights looked outstanding at times, especially when they turned a 6-point first-quarter deficit into a 33-28 halftime lead. A team that is replacing four starters from last year, however, also lost some costly turnovers and never rediscovered its offensive rhythm in the second half.

David Hill played a strong game, scoring a game-high 23 points, grabbing seven rebounds and adding three assists. Rivers Parrish produced nine points and four assists, Raid Parrish had 12 points and Jaiden Cioffi (8 points) gave Neumann its final lead, 45-44 while playing strong defense.

Montoursville led 11-5 early as all five starters quickly scored. Neumann then heated up, running the court well and efficiently executing in half-court sets. The Knights led 21-17 entering the second quarter, but never made more than 37 percent of their shots in any of the last three quarters. It was an improved performance after Wellsboro had routed Neumann by 26 in its last game so positives can be taken in defeat.

“They competed better tonight so hopefully we’re moving in the right direction,” Kirby said. “It is a process with this group. They know what the issues are, it’s just staying dialed in and being able to play through a little stress.”

Montoursville has done that well, winning four of its last five games. Neumann led by six early in the third quarter, but Bower took over and scored 10 of his 18 points as Montoursville built a 41-40 lead. The senior forward is the lone starter back from last year’s district champion and also had a team-high eight rebounds. Bower did not attempt a shot in the fourth quarter and illustrated the dilemma that is defending Montoursville.

Loe was Neumann’s focus for the first three quarters, but Bower’s play created more inside opportunities in the fourth quarter. Young, Shearer and Josh Burger hit five 3-pointers and Montoursville has had five players score in double figures this season. It is becoming a pick your poison strategy and Montoursville is pouncing on it.

“That’s a big part of it,” Loe said. “We have good balance. We have a bunch of guys who can put the ball in the basket and can shoot and that’s a great thing to have.”

Brandon Good also played a solid game and is becoming a player who does all the little things that do not show up in the stats but that are critical to winning. Good did that again last night, grabbing five rebounds, playing tenacious defense, forcing turnovers and keeping possessions alive with his hustle.

“Everybody played really well,” Mussina said. “We had guys in foul trouble early on and we had guys playing minutes in big spots in a tight game who haven’t been out there in spots like that. When you get contributions from everybody over the course of an entire game it makes everyone better and it’s a big win for us.”

MONTOURSVILLE (62)

Austin Loe 9 2-2 20, Dylan Bower 7 2-4 18, Dillon Young 3 2-2 9, Hunter Shearer 3 0-0 9, Brandon Good 1 0-0 2, Josh Burger 1 1-2 4, Eddie Rodriguez 0 0-0 0, Peyton Mussina 0 0-0 0, Jake Simms 0 0-0 0. Totals 24 7-10 62.

NEUMANN (57)

David Hill 10 3-4 23, Reid Parrish 4 4-6 12, Jaiden Cioffi 4 0-2 8, Malaki Parlante 1 1-4 3, Rivers Parrish 3 2-3 9, Forman Stewart 0 2-2 2, Jakob Bower 0 0-0 0, Keon Burkholder 0 0-0 0. Totals 22 12-21 57.

Montoursville 17 11 13 21–62

Neumann 21 12 7 17–57

3-pointers: Montoursville 7 (Shearer 3, Bower 2, Young, Burger); Neumann 1 (Ri. Parrish).

Records: Montoursville 5-2. Neumann 4-3.

JV Score: Montoursville 52-25.

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