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All 5 starters help Loyalsock boys win

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Loyalsock’s Gerald Ross looks to score during Thursday’s HAC Tournament semifinal at Shikellamy against Mount Carmel.

SUNBURY — All five Loyalsock starters reached double figures Thursday against Mount Carmel. Four doing so was not surprising because those four all average more than 10 points per game.

The fifth was the surprise. And it could make the HAC-II champions especially dangerous as the postseason continues.

Center Bam Brima scored 12 points in the HAC Tournament semifinals and his four quick fourth-quarter points sparked a game-breaking run as Loyalsock pulled away and defeated HAC-III champion Mount Carmel, 85-63, in the HAC semifinals at the Shikellamy Field House. Loyalsock (22-1) reached its third straight final and plays rival Montoursville for the title tonight.

“That’s a huge bonus,” Loyalsock coach Ron Insinger said. “Bam’s presence on the inside and his scoring threat is so important to our perimeter game. He has to get some more touches every time down.”

Brima has been a defensive specialist the past two seasons, but the 6-foot-7 senior who will play football at Pittsburgh next fall has made big offensive strides. That especially showed in the fourth quarter when he opened it with a floater before making a steal and scoring on a drive a few minutes later.

Mount Carmel (18-5) trailed by only six entering the fourth quarter, but Brima opened everything up and the Lancers played a dazzling final eight minutes, scoring 32 points and breaking open a quality win against a fellow District 4 Class AAA title contender.

The Lancers made 13 of 17 fourth-quarter shots, doing damage inside and outside. Gerald Ross scored 22 points and Aiden Gair added 21, going for 11 in the fourth when he made 4 of 5 shots. Gair and Anthony Pastore (13 points, 7 assists) made three fourth-quarter 3-pointers and everything was working at the most vital time.

“When Bam scores, it opens up everything for our outside shooters,” Gair said. “It’s a lot of fun. When we run the offense to perfection, anybody can score at any time. Connor can score, Bam can score, Gerald can score, Anthony can score … everyone can score and shoot.”

That was crucial against the two-time defending HAC-III champions who lost to Loyalsock at the buzzer in last year’s semifinals. Mount Carmel led by as many as five in the first quarter before the Lancers took a 32-28 halftime lead. The Tornadoes twice cut it to two in the third quarter, but Loyalsock kept responding and led 53-47 after three.

The Lancers started delivering the knockout blow midway through the fourth as a Pastore 3-pointer and Gair 3-point play made it, 78-63. Connor Watkins was outstanding inside, scoring 10 points, grabbing 15 rebounds and adding three of his game-high eight assists in the fourth quarter.

Loyalsock struggled at times in the first half, but made 22 of 34 second-half shots. The Lancers drained six 3-pointers and found many ways to keep the offense flowing.

“We had to keep attacking because one time it’s going to fall and once it starts falling, more are going to go,” Gair said. “It was an important game. We knew it was going to be tough competition against a team we hadn’t seen much of this year.”

Loyalsock 85, Mount Carmel 63

MOUNT CARMEL (63)

Donovan James 7 3-5 17, Tommy Reisinger 9 5-6 23, Michael Balichik 7 0-0 17, Michael Hood 0 1-2 1, John Ayres 1 0-0 3, Avery Demko 0 2-2 2. Totals 24 11-15 63.

LOYALSOCK (85)

Gerald Ross 8 1-2 22, Aiden Gair 8 2-2 21, Anthony Pastore 5 2-2 13, Connor Watkins 5 0-0 10, Bam Brima 5 2-3 12, Dane Armson 0 0-0 0, Idris Ali 2 1-1 5, Saraj Ali 0 2-2 2. Totals 33 10-12 85.

Mt. Carmel 15 13 19 16–63

Loyalsock 17 15 21 32–85

3-point goals: Mount Carmel 4 (Balichik 3, Ayres 1); Loyalsock 6 (Gair 3, Ross 2, Pastore 1).

Records: Loyalsock (22-1), Mount Carmel (18-5).

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