Warriors upset WAHS in Magic Dome
Dillon Young has grown up watching Williamsport basketball. He knows as well as anyone the mystique Williamsport’s gym holds and how many special moments have occurred there.
Now he and his hard-working Montoursville teammates have created their own unforgettable moment at the Magic Dome. Playing a strong opponent for a second time in two nights, the Warriors shrugged off adversity and fatigue like a fly. Together, they won a game Thursday night that few outside their locker room thought they could and clinched District 4 Class AAAA’s top seed in the process.
Young scored 21 points, Austin Loe added 15 and Peyton Mussina hit a last-second, game-clinching free throw as Montoursville edged Williamsport, 80-76, in thrilling fashion. All seven players coach Mike Mussina used made big impacts as Montoursville (17-5) built a 13-point fourth-quarter lead before holding off a furious Millionaire rally and recording a win that said as much about its character as its talent.
“I love it. The crowd is awesome and it’s not something you’re going to have forever,” Young said after dealing seven assists, grabbing five rebounds and making three steals. “Growing up as a kid, that’s just what you have to live for.”
Danville defeated Montoursville, 56-45, in Wednesday’s Heartland Conference semifinals and Williamsport had won two straight. But everything that went wrong against Danville went right against Williamsport and the Warriors never flinched against a team playing the most intense man-to-man defense they have seen this season. The lead changed hands 10 times in the second quarter before Hunter Shearer (13 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists) buried three straight 3-pointers and helped Montoursville take a 42-34 halftime lead it never relinquished.
Montoursville worked in harmony, made 54 percent of its shots and had six players score at least six points. The Warriors answered every time Williamsport threatened in the fourth quarter and weathered the storm after it rapidly cut a 13-point deficit to 72-69 with three minutes remaining. The tired legs some might have thought Montoursville would have remained strong all night and the Warriors are soaring into next Friday’s District 4 quarterfinals where they will host No. 8 Midd-West.
“I always tell them that’s not a problem with our guards. As long as we stay out of foul trouble we’ll be all right. We’ve been running our whole lives and that’s what we do,” Peyton Mussina said after scoring 14 points. “You could sense that nobody really thought we’d have a chance and it’s always nice to do that and prove them wrong.”
“As they were pulling it closer it was awesome to see the resilience that we had to get some buckets and get some foul shots,” Mike Mussina said. “As much pressure as they put on you, everyone has to touch the ball and handle it and everyone we put in there handled it well. To come up here to this place and come out with a win is really impressive.”
Ahmir Ellzy scored a game-high 24 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dealt six assists. His rainbow 3-pointer in the corner pulled Williamsport (8-14) within 79-76 with 11 seconds remaining. Peyton Mussina took the ensuing inbounds pass, avoided a defender and was fouled at the 8.6 second mark. The player who set the early tone with two 3-pointers missed the first free throw, but did not let the second chance slip away, swishing the shot and sealing the win.
Williamsport missed a layup with two seconds remaining and Montoursville secured one of its hardest-fought wins this season, celebrating on a court which so many all-staters and Division I players have competed on.
“The first one (free throw) felt good so I wasn’t worried. I just was like ‘OK, take a little bit off it and put it in the middle,'” Peyton Mussina said. “That’s a huge weight off your shoulders. Now you just can’t let them shoot a 3 and you’ll be fine.”
“We were definitely having a better shooting night than (Wednesday) night. We were really working as a team to get some good, open shots,” Young said. “We weren’t getting caught up in the fans and the crowd and their tempo.”
Williamsport had its crowd rocking after it trimmed Montoursville’s 13-point lead to 72-69. James Evans-McQuay was a force in the fourth quarter, scoring 10 points and relentlessly attacking the rim. He scored at will during the four-minute stretch when it felt like Williamsport was taking over and finished with 17 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Montoursville was on the ropes, but fought its away off as Loe hit two free throws, Shearer found Young downcourt for a layup and Josh Burger connected on two foul shots and pushed the lead back to nine.
“He (McQuay) has been playing well the last five games. He’s been playing like we thought he was capable of playing,” Williamsport coach Allen Taylor said. “He still has some things to work on but he’s coming through. He’s attacking the basket the way he’s capable of, but our energy wasn’t there tonight. You can’t play hard for one quarter and expect to win.”
The Millionaires mounted one last rally as Ellzy found Jones inside before scoring on a floater and cutting it 78-73 with 67 seconds left. Mussina, however, grabbed two key rebounds and Loe hit a free throw, keeping it a two-possession game until Ellzy’s late 3-pointer. Williamsport pressured Montoursville hard, but guards and post players skillfully handled it and the Warriors scored at least 14 points in all four quarters.
Montoursville started strong, holding a 17-16 advantage after one quarter. The second was like a ping pong match with the heavy hitters trading leads nearly every possession. Williamsport made its first five third-quarter shots and started gathering momentum, but Montoursville again steadied itself and took a 13-point lead late in the quarter. Brandon Good played a prominent role during that run and shined off the bench, scoring nine points, adding two assists and making 4 of 6 shots.
“They’re as individually talented as anyone we play against and they get to the basket hard. They can score under pressure, they can score in traffic and they do a lot of stuff around the bucket,” Mike Mussina said. “Obviously, I’m tickled with the way we played and the heart we had in it.”
“It’s fun out there,” Peyton Mussina said. “This place gets nuts and you try not to get caught up in the moment, but you want to savor everything.”
Dillon Young 8 4-7 21, Josh Burger 1 4-5 6, Hunter Shearer 5 0-0 13, Peyton Mussina 4 3-6 14, Austin Loe 5 4-5 15, Jake Simms 1 0-0 2, Brandon Good 4 1-2 9. Totals 28 16-25 80.
Nassir Jones 3 4-10 10, Ahmir Ellzy 10 1-3 24, James Evans-McQuay 7 3-7 17, Cole Johnson 6 4-4 16, Tyler Fausnaught 1 0-0 2, Kenon Brown 1 0-0 2, Conner Nyman 1 0-0 3, Marshall Brown 0 0-0 0, Al-Kabeer Jason 1 0-0 2. Totals 30 12-24 76.
Montoursville 17 25 24 14–80
Williamsport 16 18 21 21–76
3-point goals: Montoursville 8 (Shearer 3, Mussina 3, Young 1, Loe 1), Williamsport 4 (Ellzy 2, Nyman 2).
Records: Montoursville (17-5), Williamsport (8-14).