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Warrior Run’s Wilkins sparks Defenders in 4th

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Montoursville's Alaina Marchianni (5) tries to drive the baseline against Warrior Run's Gracy Beachel (21) in the third quarter at Montoursville Friday.

Her teammates understand how valuable Alayna Wilkins can be. The hard part has been convincing the sophomore guard.

That is why what happened Friday at Montoursville could provide quite a turning point. Wilkins emerged at the most critical time and made a series of quality plays late. Those teammates who have believed in her all season came up big as well and Warrior Run clinched another District 4 Class AAA playoff berth in impressive fashion.

Wilkins ignited a fourth-quarter rally, having a hand in six points during a three-minute stretch, as Warrior Run erased a four-point fourth-quarter deficit and defeated Montoursville, 54-48. The Defenders (11-5, 6-2 HAC-II) trailed by as many as nine in the second quarter and received a big boost from center Emily McKee who scored 11 of her team-high 16 points in the fourth quarter. Take away Wilkins’ superb effort off the bench, however, and that might not have been enough.

“It was very nervewracking, but I have really solid teammates and we really trust each other,” Wilkins said. “This is a big improvement because I’ve always struggled with my confidence. I knew that when I came in I had to give it my all.”

Wilkins always does. The quick guard plays nearly the entire JV game before becoming one of the team’s top varsity reserves. With guard Jordan Hartman (8 points, 5 rebounds) in foul trouble, Wilkins played almost the entire fourth quarter and showed what a weapon she could soon become.

In addition to handling the ball well and playing outstanding defense on Montoursville leading scorer MacKenzie Weaver, Wilkins also drained a jumper that pulled Warrior Run within 40-38 midway through the fourth quarter. That was part of a game-ending 19-8 run with Hartman putting the Defenders ahead for the first time, and to stay, 45-43 when she connected on two free throws with 3 minutes, 17 seconds remaining.

Wilkins helped make it a one-point game when her excellent pass to McKee resulted in two foul shots and stretched the Defender lead to six when she again found McKee inside with 1:40 left. The boxscore will not reveal how good Wilkins was, but without her, Warrior Run might have lost its second straight game instead of taking a good step forward.

“We’ve really been working to build that confidence,” Warrior Run coach Rachael Herb said. “She’s coming in at tough moments and gaining that confidence and I have to credit the upperclassmen for it because I think them taking her under their wing and giving her that confidence to go in and play with them has really helped.”

Wilkins was one of several players who provided excellent fourth-quarter production. McKee took over in those final eight minutes and her hustling offensive rebound and ensuing putback sealed the win. The Defenders led 51-48 when McKee rebounded a missed Warrior Run foul shot, went up strong and scored inside while being fouled and drained the free throw, capping the scoring.

Different players left their mark at different times with Sydney Hoffman (12 points, 4 rebounds) blocking three of her four shots in the fourth quarter. Hartman and Gracy Beachel both scored eight points, Marissa Pick grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds and Katie Watkins added strong minutes off the bench. Montoursville kept fending off Warrior Run whenever it threatened in the middle quarters and that strong collaborative effort eventually helped the Defenders break through.

“We just never gave up,” Wilkins said. “We came out with the win because we worked hard and came to play in that fourth quarter.”

“Everyone can make big plays, everybody can make big shots and this game was a nice game to see each kid almost take a quarter or take two minutes and really shine and come together as a team,” Herb said. “It was 100 percent a team effort to get a win tonight and it was beautiful.”

Montoursville (4-12, 2-6) showed why it could emerge as a District 4 Class AAAA darkhorse, leading Warrior Run until the final four minutes. The Warriors have given teams like defending Class AAAA champion Mifflinburg and HAC-II leading Central Columbia fits, but a young team which features mostly underclassmen has just delivering that signature win.

Still, last night was another step in the right direction. Sophomore Maddie Adams was outstanding, scoring a career-high 22 points and grabbing eight rebounds. Weaver added 11 points and five rebounds and freshman Alaina Marchioni played one of her most complete games, finishing with 11 points, six rebounds and three steals. Montoursville led 9-1, was up nine early in the second and led by as many as six in the third against a team that it scored just 23 points against last month.

“They played hard. We’re getting better. We played Lewisburg tough the other night, played Central tough, Mifflinburg tough … We’re getting there,” Montoursville coach Jon Weaver said. “It’s just inexperience at times. If we can put it all together we can be pretty tough.”

Toni James played outstanding defense and did a nice job neutralizing McKee through the first three quarters. That defense and an efficient offense had Montoursville holding off Warrior Run rallies throughout the middle quarters after the Defenders tied the game five minutes before halftime.

Warrior Run 54, Montoursville 48

WARRIOR RUN (54)

Emily McKee 5 6-8 16, Sydney Hoffman 3 4-6 12, Gracy Beachel 3 1-1 8, Jordan Hartman 2 2-2 8, Marissa Pick 1 4-8 6, Katie Watkins 1 0-2 2, Alayna Wilkins 1 0-0 2. Totals 16 17-27 54.

MONTOURSVILLE (48)

MacKenzie Weaver 4 2-2 11, Maddie Adams 7 5-10 22, Mackenzie Cohick 1 2-5 4, Alaina Marchioni 4 2-2 11, Toni James 0 0-2 0, Shayanne Klemick 0 0-0 0, Mahlon Yonkin 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 11-21 48.

Warrior Run 5 19 10 20–54

Montoursville 11 17 7 13–48

3-point goals: Warrior Run 5 (Hoffman 2, Hartman 2, Beachel 1), Montoursville 5 (Adams 3, Weaver 1, Marchioni 1).

Records: Warrior Run (11-5, 6-2 HAC-II), Montoursville (4-12, 2-6).

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