Montoursville boys beat Danville in HAC semifinals
SUNBURY — As the last seconds ticked away, Dylan Bower looked toward the Montoursville student section. No words were exchanged, just a confident look.
Nearly everyone at the Shikellamy Field House Thursday night thought defending HAC-I champion Danville would defeat the Warriors in the HAC Tournament semifinals. Montoursville’s players, coaches and fans disagreed. Those students believed in the team and every player coach Mike Mussina used believed in themselves. And that is how Montoursville became giant killers.
Austin Loe scored a game-high 18 points, Bower played a strong all-around game, three sophomores showed no nerves in their first playoff game and Josh Burger hit critical late foul shots as Montoursville defeated the defending champions, 61-57 and advanced to tonight’s championship where it will face rival Loyalsock.
“We knew we had a big test and that nobody thought we could beat them, but I knew we could do it,” Bower said after scoring 11 points, dealing three assists and making two steals. “It’s pretty remarkable. The beginning of the season we started slow but we’re all working together and I’m just trying to take it all in.”
It was not just that Danville (20-3) returned nearly every starter from last year’s state qualifier or that it was undefeated against District 4 opponents. It also was that Montoursville played a poor game Wednesday night in a loss at Lewisburg. It was that Danville had not lost to Montoursville this decade. It was that the Ironmen easily defeated the eventual district champions twice last season.
But Montoursville (17-6) did not think about the past. It was making its HAC Tournament debut and only focused on what could be. The Warriors then erased a seven-point first-quarter deficit, opened a nine-point halftime lead, never trailed again and held off a late, furious Danville rally.
“We have never been in this thing and I don’t think we’ve ever beaten Danville since I was coaching,” Mussina said. “When you’re playing them, they have quality kids and are well-coached and they know how to play the game. You get a game from them, then that’s a big win for any group of kids.”
Montoursville missed its first four shots last night, but made 7 of its next 10 and tied the game 16-16 after one. Loe then opened the second quarter with two 3-pointers and the Warriors started taking control. Peyton Mussina had four first-half assists and contributed to seven straight points and suddenly Montoursville was up 31-20 while hitting 6 of its first 7 second-quarter shots.
“We got the boards and stuck to the play calling,” Bower said. “It was big. It was good to see everyone come through.”
Like Apollo Creed battling a surging Rocky Balboa, Danville tried everything it could to start storming back in the third quarter, but Montoursville held its ground and maintained its nine-point lead into the fourth quarter. The lead grew to as many as 13 when Hunter Shearer (4 rebounds, 3 assists) found Loe inside with 3 minutes, 48 seconds remaining.
Danville, however, did not go away. Even down 11 with 61 seconds left, Danville made things interesting, cutting it to 57-52 with 32 seconds remaining. Burger then calmly sank two foul shots before Peyton Riley made it 59-54 at the 14-second mark. This time, Loe whipped a pass toward Dillon Young (9 points, 3 assists) who found a streaking Bower for the game-clinching layup as Montoursville put the finishing touches on its signature performance thus far in 2019.
“We got some positive stuff at the beginning of the game and we made some shots and the more shots hit you make the better you feel about yourself, so we kind of went on adrenaline there for a while,” Mussina said. “We got it up to 11, stayed there for a while and we made our foul shots at the end and somehow found a way to win the thing.”
Montoursville made at least 50 percent of its shots in each quarter, defended hard and received a boost from Brandon Good who scored five points and made repeated quality, hustle plays. Burger and Jake Simms also were strong off the bench and Burger grabbed a team-high seven rebounds.
And now a night after pulling off a big upset, Montoursville will try for another against Loyalsock.
“It’s special because it’s our first HAC championship appearance and our first time getting to the tournament,” Bower said. “It was a big win and now we’ll just prepare hard for the next one.”
Montoursville 61, Danville 57
Austin Loe 7 1-2 18, Dylan Bower 5 1-2 11, Dillon Young 3 2-4 9, Hunter Shearer 2 0-0 5, Brandon Good 1 3-5 5, Josh Burger 1 5-5 7, Peyton Mussina 2 0-0 6, Jake Simms 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 12-19 61.
Peyton Riley 7 0-0 17, Shane Kozick 5 1-2 11, Dyson Harward 3 2-2 8, Coleman Cush 1 0-0 3, Mavin James 3 0-0 8, KJ Riley 3 0-0 7, Colton Sidler 1 0-0 3. Totals 23 3-4 57.
Montoursville 16 15 13 17–61
Danville 16 6 13 22–57
3-point goals: Montoursville 7 (Loe 3, Mussina 2, Young 1, Shearer 1), Danville 8 (P. Riley 3, James 2, Cush 1, K. Riley 1, Sidler 1).
Records: Montoursville (17-6), Danville (20-3).