Decade’s best No. 10: Jason Gresh helped build an excellent program at Muncy in boys basketball
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the latest in a series looking back at the top 10 boys basketball teams, coaches, games and players from last decade
It went unnoticed by many, but Muncy interim coach Jason Gresh helped the Indians win their final two games after taking over near the 2010 season’s conclusion. It had been a rough season, but those victories provided some welcome joy.
They also indicated some outstanding things to come.
Gresh became the full-time coach a year later and Muncy quickly took off. Gresh still flies under the radar at times, but he has built an excellent program and made Muncy a perennial winner last decade. Gresh helped Muncy win 123 games in his nine seasons last decade, a stretch that included four state tournament appearances and a 2018 District 4 Class AA championship. He was the right man for the job when Muncy went looking for someone to restore the program’s luster and the future remains bright under his watch as Gresh returns a strong core moving into 2021.
Gresh’s first team made a six-win improvement in 2011 and reached districts for the first time in three years. The Indians made a huge step forward a year later, winning 16 games, finishing third in District 4 Class A and reaching the state tournament for the first time since 2004. Muncy lost its two leading scorers from that team and some thought it would take a step back in 2013.
Instead Muncy kept raising the bar. The Indians improved for a third straight season, going 18-8 and again finishing third in the district. The 18 wins were Muncy’s most in nine years and the Indians returned to states after eliminating perennial title contender Lourdes or a second straight year in the third-place game.
“They work real hard and I think this was unexpected,” Gresh said following that 51-46 victory. “We flew under the radar for most of the season, so it was nice to make states a second year in a row.”
A coach who relates well to his players and consistently gets the most production he can from them, Gresh helped Muncy continue winning the next two seasons as it produced 28 victories. The Indians moved to Class AA in 2015 and nearly upset eventual finalist Wellsboro, dropping a 37-35 heartbreaker on the road.
A young team went 9-13 and missed the playoffs for the first time in Gresh’s tenure the following season, but Muncy started another climb upward in 2017. All-state guard Jeff Fry had a sensational season and Gresh had his younger teammates meshing well around him as the year progressed. Muncy again was playing its best at the most opportune time and reached states after winning two district tournament games and taking third place.
“I’m really pleased with how we’ve progressed,” Gresh said after Muncy avenged a regular-season loss and defeated Canton in the third-place game. “From where we started to where we are now is unbelievable growth.”
Muncy ended a 13-year drought and won its first state tournament game since 2004, rallying past Northern Bedford in the opening round. The Indians were less than a second from stunning District 3 champion Halifax in the next round, but a buzzer-beater forced overtime and Halifax won, 47-42.
That run created momentum for 2018 and the Indians attacked the offseason hard. Fry graduated, though, which left a gaping void. Gresh knew one player could not replace Fry and adopted the motto “All in, all together.” Muncy embraced that slogan and lived it throughout the season. The Indians then left their mark on program history and captured their first district championship since 2003. Muncy first dethroned defending champion North Penn-Mansfield before downing Northeast Bradford in the final. After so many years of knocking on that district championship door, Muncy finally kicked it down.
“It’s definitely a tribute to them. These are my kids. I’m not going to get the move-ins and the transfers. This is what I have and we’re going to work together and stay together,” Gresh said following the final. “That’s who we are. We are all in and we are all together. That’s how it has to be. We have to fit those pieces together and fit some kids into what they need to be. Every piece fits.
This might have been Gresh’s finest coaching performance. That group had struggled at the youth levels, but Gresh molded them into high school champions. His team featured a strong inside-outside game, played unselfish basketball and made dramatic progress. They were like a lot of Gresh’s teams in that way but this one really set itself apart.
“When we look back there’s going to be a lot of pride and a lot of good feelings. They’ll be looking back at this for a long time,” Gresh said. “When that banner goes up, whenever they walk into that gym they’re going to know that they were part of it.”
So was Gresh. And having Gresh a part of Muncy has created quite a partnership.