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Indians beat Raiders

DAVE KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette Correspondent Mia Edkin (10) of Muncy and Faith Persing (23) of Montgomery reach for a loose ball Wednesday night at Montgomery.

MONTGOMERY–Ariana Copeland has provided a young Muncy team a big boost this season. She often has done so by producing the valuable things that sometimes go unnoticed.

But Wednesday at Montgomery, Copleland was impossible to miss. She was the one who could not miss throughout the second half. She was the one doing all the scoring, stuffing the stat sheet and helping power her team to another quality win.

Copeland scored a career-high 19 points, scoring all but the team’s final two second-half points, and added eight rebounds as Muncy held off a Montgomery comeback and earned a hard-fought 46-38 victory. Copeland bested her career-high by 10 points and the sophomore showed how dangerous she can be moving forward, answering with a big play nearly every time Montgomery threatened.

“I think that was one of my best games. I kind of channeled all my aggression into winning,” Copeland said. “I really wanted it and I know my team really wanted it.”

Copeland made sure Muncy (9-4, 5-1 Mid-Penn) produced that victory, scoring 16 straight Indian points before Bell Hitesman’s jumper made it 46-36 with 18 seconds remaining. The sophomore is a first-year starter who keeps getting better each game and who has helped Muncy win six of its last seven a year after graduating three good starters. The way Copeland took over in the second half could be a sign of even more impressive things to come, giving Muncy another weapon with whom opponents must be concerned.

Montgomery cut a 13-point second-quarter deficit to six with two minutes remaining, but Copeland quickly answered with a field goal seconds later. It was that way throughout the second half with Montgomery taking a step forward and then Copeland knocking it back. Tenacious, athletic and versatile, Copeland scored 10 fourth-quarter points, made 7 of 9 free throws, made five steals, blocked a shot and added assist.

After Montgomery pulled within 39-32 on Clara Ulrich’s drive, Copeland made a foul shot, scored off a putback when the second shot bounced off the rim and added a steal on Montgomery’s ensuing possession. When her team needed her most, Copeland delivered her best performance yet.

“Thank goodness for Ariana. Her energy was through the roof,” Muncy coach Ed Rogers said. “I tell her that all the time I wish you would score some points and get your name in the newspaper because you deserve it. She gets steals and deflections and rebounds and forces turnovers and I’m happy for her.”

“I feel like I’m more confident than I was going into this game,” Copeland said. “I love games where the crowd is going wild. That makes it fun.”

Aleaha Bigelow had fun throughout the first half, scoring all 18 of her points. The senior forward helped Muncy build a 28-16 halftime lead and finished with 11 rebounds and five steals as well. Hitesman grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds, Avery Bigelow had seven rebounds and four steals and Mia Edkin played a vital role in Muncy building its lead, making four first-quarter steals.

“Our team doesn’t really focus on one person. We just focus on the team in general,” Copeland said. “We all thought we were going to have a hard year this year because we lost so many people but we’re actually having a really good year.”

Montgomery is having a good season as well and showed throughout its comeback why it could be even better throughout the season’s second half. The Raiders (7-5, 3-4) lost talented point guard Faith Persing to a second-quarter injury, but persevered and kept fighting back. It was not the result Montgomery wanted, but battling back against a tough opponent without one of its best players could provide a springboard moving forward.

The Raiders cut a 12-point halftime deficit to eight after three quarters and appeared to be changing the game’s complexion at 39-32 before Copeland restored Muncy order. Montgomery, however, mounted one last charge. Taylor McRae fed Riley Fry inside and Saige Whipple scored in transition as the Raiders pulled within 42-36 with two minutes remaining.

McRae was outstanding and played a major role in igniting Montgomery’s effort. The sophomore scored 10 points, pulled down 11 rebounds and added four steals.

“Taylor was our MVP tonight,” Montgomery coach Glenn Trick said. “She played her heart out.”

Montgomery had several players make big shots or plays at opportune times throughout the second half. Fry recorded a double-double, finishing with 11 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks. Megan Moser had six rebounds and two assists, Nita Imeri added four rebounds and Morgan Tupper’s steal and layup made it an eight-point game in the third quarter.

Montgomery plays Mid-Penn leading Sullivan County Friday and its rival Wednesday will now be its friend with the Indians just one game out of first.

“They fought hard. I gave them credit in the locker room about not quitting,” Trick said. “They came back and made a game of it.”

Muncy 46, Montgomery 38

MUNCY (46)

Aleaha Bigelow 7 4-6 18, Bell Hitesman 1 0-3 2, Avery Bigelow 2 0-0 4, Ariana Copeland 6 7-9 19, Mia Edkin 1 0-0 3, Brandi Hitesman 0 0-2 0, Lauren Harner-Steele 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 11-21 46.

MONTGOMERY (38)

Riley Fry 5 1-1 11, Nita Imeri 1 1-2 3, Faith Persing 1 2-2 4, Morgan Tupper 1 0-0 2, Megan Moser 0 0-0 0, Saige Whipple 1 0-0 2, Clara Ulrich 3 0-0 6, Sarah Pautz 0 0-0 0, Taylor McRae 3 4-7 10. Totals 15 8-13 38.

Muncy 18 10 6 12–46

Montgomery 9 7 10 12–38

3-point goals: Muncy 1 (Edkin 1).

Records: Muncy (9-4, 5-1 Mid-Penn), Montgomery (7-5, 3-4).

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