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Bigelows leading Muncy to success

Practice competition is intense. Aleaha Bigelow and her younger sister Avery Bigelow share the same blood, the same uniform and the same desire.

So the Bigelows might not play together like the best of friends when no score is being kept, but once it is game time, the Muncy sisters work in harmony. They share a unique bond and the power of that bond is helping a young Muncy team put together a strong, and somewhat surprising, season.

Aleaha, a senior, has developed into one of the area’s premier players, averaging 17.2 points, 10.6 rebounds and 5.5 steals per game. Avery, a freshman, has made a sudden impact, stuffing the stat sheet on a consistent basis and averaging 6.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. Together, the Bigelows have helped Muncy (8-4) emerge again as a District 4 Class AA playoff and Mid-Penn title contender. The Indians won five consecutive games before dropping a 46-45 heartbreaker at Sullivan County last Friday.

“In practice it’s them trying to out-do each other and as soon as you do something wrong, they point it out to the other one,” Muncy coach Ed Rogers said following last week’s 62-32 win against Milton. “As soon as they get on the game floor it’s a whole different mindset. It’s a special bond they have.”

This is the first and only time the Bigelows will play basketball together. They are enjoying the experience and making it count. Muncy lost three starters from last year’s district semifinalist and taking a step back seemed a near lock. Instead, Muncy is a basket from being tied for first in the Mid-Penn. This team has made progress each game and the Bigelows have played a major role in Muncy continuing its success.

“She assists me and I assist her. I don’t think that would happen if she wasn’t there,” Aleaha said. “I think I’ve been able to get a lot of my points because she’s been able to assist me on a lot of my shots and I’ve been able to assist her on some of hers. It’s fun. I like it.”

“Since we’re sisters we know when each other is going to go and where each other is going to be,” Avery said. “We have that connection.”

That connection has been evident throughout the season, especially against Milton. Muncy played one of its best games that night and three of Avery’s assists were to Aleaha. Conversely, Aleaha twice found Avery for baskets and the two combined for 38 points, 22 rebounds and eight assists.

Both players are fast, unselfish and, most importantly, hard-working. They do not take plays off and their determination has brought out the best in their teammates who keep improving as well.

“Their effort is contagious,” Rogers said. “The great thing is that it’s spreading.”

Aleaha earned Mid-Penn all-star honors last year even though she did not start playing basketball until her sophomore season. She proved a quick study and has helped Muncy win playoff games in consecutive seasons. A year ago, Aleaha averaged a double-double and she is doing so again this year while topping 20 points in seven consecutive games. The crazy thing is she really has only scratched the surface of her potential.

Aleaha is an outstanding athlete playing basketball. She is the soccer program’s all-time leading scorer and has made good things consistently happen on the court through her speed, size and will. But she also has become a more complete player. She runs the court well, is developing a better shot and is understanding her defensive role better.

“It’s scary because she’s not yet as good as she could be,” Rogers said. “Some college should try and get a hold of her because she could really help them.”

Colleges might look Avery’s way as she continues her high school career in the coming years. Able to play multiple positions, the freshman is getting better every game and her scoring has increased over the last few weeks. From the start, she has provided quality rebounding, passing and defense. As she gains more experience, Avery is becoming a complete basketball player.

In consecutive wins against Bucktail and Milton, Avery scored 33 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, dealt nine assists and made nine steals. Unlike Aleaha, Avery has played basketball through junior high and learned a lot from watching her older sisters Emma (a 2018 graduate) and Aleaha. Both her sisters have made big impacts at Muncy and now it is Avery’s turn, going about her business the same way her sisters have.

“I learned about playing hard and playing with confidence,” Avery said. “It’s definitely different (in high school). Everything is a lot faster.”

“She goes hard and as fast as she can the whole game,” Aleaha said. “She did that for soccer and she does that for basketball.”

Look like an iron will is in the family blood.

GOOD DEAL

Lewisburg took a big hit when all-state point guard Grace Kelleher graduated last June. Kelleher was a 1,000-point scorer, four-year starter and a driving force for three straight state-qualifying teams. The good news, however, is that Lewisburg now features another promising point guard who looks like she could also be an excellent four-year starter.

Sophie Kilbride is making rapid progress and nearly helped Lewisburg erase a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit in Saturday’s 55-49 loss at Warrior Run. Kilbride scored six of her 11 points in the fourth quarter, ran the offense well and hit shots on the perimeter as well as off the dribble. Obviously, Kilbride is still learning and has some growing pains, but she plays with a high motor and offered another glimpse into her potential two weeks ago when she grabbed eight rebounds and dealt four assists in a 48-36 win against Jersey Shore.

“She’s a gamer. She plays on the soccer team so she has a lot of experience from playing that,” Lewisburg coach Brent Sample said. “It’s nice having her out there. We graduate one four-year starter at point guard and bring another one in and go from there.”

PUTACKS

Jersey Shore and Central Mountain played a thriller Saturday with the Bulldogs winning late, 42-41. It was the third time this season that Jersey Shore rallied from a second-half deficit as Aubrey Stetts scored 17 points and Sadie Griswold added 14. Central Mountain (4-5) already has as many wins as it produced in the last four years combined and overcame a 12-point, second-quarter deficit to lead in the fourth. Quinlynn McCann scored 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds with Avery Baker adding 12 points … MacKenzie Weaver scored a career-high 29 points and drained six 3-pointers in Montoursville’s 59-42 win over Midd-West. Maddie Adams scored a career-high 18 points three nights later in a 45-41 loss against HAC-II-leading Central Columbia … North Penn-Mansfield allowed just 30 points in consecutive wins against Williamson and Sayre. Sarah Spohn produced 10 points and nine rebounds against Williamson … Cowanesque Valley (5-6) earned a key win as it pushes for a District 4 Class AA playoff berth when it defeated Canton, 36-31, last Saturday. Abby Ackley scored a career-high 16 points. Molly Ward is enjoying a breakthrough season for Canton (6-5) and grabbed a combined 26 rebounds against CV and Towanda.

Dr. Masse’s Top 5 Girls Basketball Teams

1. Loyalsock (11-0)

Nothing came easy last week, but Loyalsock took the best punches Southern Columbia and North Schuylkill could offer, winning those hard-fought games, 56-52 and 71-57. Sophomore Mia Patterson has played a key role in Loyalsock’s success and scored a career-high 16 points against North Schuylkill. Patterson looks similar to standout three-year starter Summer McNulty when she was younger, able to play inside or outside and able to score in several ways. She has the competitive drive to match as well.

“She is one we talked about at the beginning of the season, saying we see it every day at practice. We saw it all summer, we saw it all fall, we saw it all last year in JV. It was just a matter of when is the varsity game going to slow down for her and it has,” Loyalsock coach Curtis Jacobson said. “She’s very hard on herself and she expects herself to be perfect which is a big strength and a weakness. When you want to be perfect and you don’t make a play it’s easy to beat yourself up, but at the same time it’s that determination of I’m going to continue to work until I am perfect that helps. She’s someone that is going to work until she is all that she can be.”

2. Warrior Run (7-4)

Sydney Hoffman is settling into a new role for Warrior Run after playing shooting guard her first two years. Hoffman is now the team’s starting point guard and she dealt seven assists in Saturday’s win against Lewisburg. Hoffman also scored 11 points and made four steals as Warrior Run rallied from a six-point halftime deficit.

“It’s tough throwing a kid into a point guard position who has only known before that she is the shooter, she is the scorer. Now we’re not only asking her to be a point guard but to also score on top of it,” Warrior Run coach Rachel Herb said. “I think she’s really starting to recognize that her points are valuable, but so are her team’s points and so she’s really doing a great job of finding her teammates and growing into that role with every game.”

3. Sullivan County (9-3)

The Griffins are coming through in pressure-filled situations in key league games. Jessica King helped will Sullivan to Saturday’s 1-point win against Muncy and Samantha Albright clinched that victory with a last-second steal. The Griffins (5-0 Mid-Penn) are tied with Millville, largely based on beating fellow contenders Muncy and Benton by three combined points. Sullivan also is perched atop a crowded field in the District 4 Class A power rankings despite losing three starters from last year’s team.

4. Hughesville (8-5)

It was a rough week for the Spartans who absorbed 20-point home losses against Mount Carmel and Bloomsburg. Things do not get any easier with the Spartans hosting Loyalsock Friday. Then again, Hughesville has surged down the stretch the last few years, reaching two of the last three District 4 Class AAA finals so it is not panicking. Senior guard Jade Cordrey did plenty of damage in the two losses, scoring 34 points.

5. South Williamsport (6-5)

The Mounties also experienced frustration a week ago, losing to Lewisburg and Mount Carmel. South is the lone Class AA team playing in the loaded HAC-III field in which all seven teams have winning records. That tough schedule paid huge dividends when South reached the district final and states two years ago and could help again this season. South is playing tough defense and has not let a team reach 50 points in six straight games.

Players of the Week

Jessica King, Sullivan County

and Cassie Gee, Loyalsock

King was virtually unstoppable against Muncy and the two-time all-stater might have played her best game yet. King scored a career-high 27 points, grabbed an area-high 26 rebounds, made five steals and blocked three shots. The senior forward has 10 double-doubles this season and has 36 rebounds in her last two games. Gee is flourishing as a first-year starter and scored 39 points in wins against Southern and North Schuylkill. She hit big shots at big times in both games, produced 21 points and three assists against North Schuylkill and helped clinch that victory with some clutch late-game foul shooting.

Game of the Week

Loyalsock at Williamsport

The Millionaires are hoping to turn things around after losing some close games throughout the season’s first half and they would love doing so against their backyard rival. Williamsport has that opportunity Thursday as it attempts to snap a three-game losing streak against the Lancers. In the big picture this game does not mean much since both are in different classifications. But one better believe this game means a lot to both teams and each will go at it hard trying to secure local bragging rights.

Masse may be reached at cmasse@sungazette.com. Follow him on Twitter at @docmasse.

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