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Chris Masse on girls basketball: Loyalsock’s McNulty continues to get better as a player

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Loyalsock's Summer McNulty (11) drives the ball down court past Montoursville's Alaina Marchioni in the first quarter.

Summer McNulty did not run from going against elite competition last summer. She sought it. The more she could be challenged, the better.

So McNulty joining Team Pennsylvania’s AAU team was a win for both her and the team. The Loyalsock senior earned Class AAA all-state honors last April and was surrounded by similar accomplished teammates.

Together Team PA won a lot of games and a U17 tournament championship. More importantly, McNulty became a better player. That experience provided a springboard and McNulty has resumed her strong scholastic play, helping Loyalsok open its season 3-0 with three blowout wins last week.

“It’s most definitely made me a better player by just the practices. I loved playing in real games, but having that kind of high level competition two to three times a week at a practice is immeasurable,” McNulty said. “They pushed me every second I was there.”

That is exactly what McNulty wants. She does not care how many points she has scored (1,258) or how many games she has helped Loyalsock win (73) over the last four seasons. She only is focused on the next challenge.

When Loyalsock coach Curtis Jacobson challenged McNulty at practice to play better defense during the preseason, she enjoyed it. She does not want to be coddled. She just wants to get better, and whether it is her coaches or teammates demanding that, McNulty enjoys it.

“It’s been a wierd year, but she still was able to put in the time, put in the effort. She went from a post player to point guard and now a point guard/shoting guard,” Jacobson said. “She has that outside shot now. She shoots without hesitation and in previous years there was hesitation. It’s a new aspect of her game that is rushing to surface. As good as she is she has just scratched the surface of everything she can be and she’s going to keep working like she always has.”

McNulty worked on her time management skills as well last summer, getting a taste of what it may be like in college. Twice or three times a week she was heading to Harrisburg and arriving home late at night. Then she would wake up early the next morning and attend Loyalsock’s summer workouts. It was a physical and mental test, but McNulty easily passed it, helping both Team PA excel and the Lancers get ready for the season.

The experience with Team PA also had more college coaches learning what so many throughout District 4 already know. The interest she received increased, but McNulty stuck with the school which was with her all the way. McNulty will join former AAU teammate and Sullivan County graduate Jessica King at Elizabethtown next winter.

“I looked at multiple other schools because I was able to get out and play in some bigger areas and events. It was a good time for me to sit down and figure out what I wanted out of a college,” McNulty said. “All in all, though, my heart led me back to Elizabethtown College which was the first school I ever looked at and I couldn’t be more excited to be a Blue Jay.”

Loyalsock is happy McNulty is still a Lancer. She has played nearly every position throughout her scholastic career, grown better each season and set an example for her teammates. She leads verbally and by example and has made her team better the past four years.

But her quest continues.

“Everything we have asked of her to get better she has done,” Jacobson said. “She has over 1,200 points but she has bought into everything that is about making better. She wants to play as close to a perfect game as she can. That isn’t possible, but she can give a perfect effort and that is what she does.”

PUTBACKS: Sullivan County began practicing for the first time last week and the four-time defending Mid-Penn champions open the season Wednesday at Montgomery … Speaking of Montgomery, it has won two straight games with guards Faith Persing and Clara Ulrich and forward Shelby McRae reaching career-highs in points in those victories. Persing and Ulrich combined for 37 points against CMVT … Muncy started 2-0 and allowed just 16 points in Saturday’s 53-16 win against CMVT as Bell Hitesman and Avery Bigelow combined for 25 points … Canton started 2-1 and Molly Ward (10 points, 14 rebounds) recorded a double-double in Saturday’s win against North Penn-Mansfield. Reagan Kelly added 10 rebounds and Emmie Tymeson had 11 points and four steals … Bailey Monks and Emma Coolidge combined for 19 rebounds in Wellsboro’s 28-22 season-opening loss against defending NTL champion Athens.

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

DR. MASSE’S TOP 5 GIRLS BASKETBALL RANKINGS

1. Loyalsock (3-0): Its first three games were a breeze as Loyalsock pounded its opponents by a 33-point average last week. Things will start getting tougher soon and the Lancers prefer it that way. Starting Saturday, the two-time defending HAC-III champions play Holy Redeemer, defending District 4 Class AAA champin Blomsburg, defending AA champion Mount Carmel and District 2 power Holy Redeemer. The Lancers have not allowed more than 39 points in a game and receiving quality balance. Mia Patterson has scored 25 points in her last two games and Cassie Gee has drained nine 3-pointers.

2. Lewisburg (3-0): A young team last year, Lewisburg learned a lot and that experience is showing. The Green Dragons were at their best under pressure in the fourth quarter last Wednesday at Williamsport, winning 46-36 and have not let a team reach 40 points. Roz Noone is a dual threat who scored 27 points and grabbed 11 rebounds last week while sophomore point guard Sophie Kilbride is averaging 5.3 assists per game. Lauren Gross is having a strong year as well and had 10 points and 13 rebounds in a 45-38 win at Shikellamy.

3. Warrior Run (2-1): Despite going to overtime Friday at Central Columbia and playing for the third time in four nights, Warrior Run had plenty of energy and pulled away from defending District 4 Class AAAA champion Danville for a 52-30 win. Emily McKee has made a strong return after tearing her ACL last February and averaged 14.3 points in those games. Warrior Run has a strong inside-outside game and guards Sydney Hoffman, Gracy Beachel and Jordan Hartman all recorded double-digit performances as well.

4. South Williamsport (2-0): Although it lost three starters and its top reserve, the young Mounties were mighty impressive last week, thumping two opponents by 61 combinted points. That included a 47-13 win against Northwest which was three nights removed from scoring 62 points. Sophomore Aleigha Rieppel enjoyed a fantastic starting debut, scoring 15 points against St. John Neumann with fellow sophmore Piper Minier adding 11. Rachel Stahl was strong inside against Northwest, scoring 12 points as South showed signs of becoming a Mid-Penn title contender.

5. Central Mountain (1-0): A program which was dormant for so long is buzzing with excitement and Central Mountain thumped Penns Valley, 59-22 in Saturday’s season opener. The Wildcats feature a potentially potent starting five, a strong backcourt and a tough rebounder in Kiahna Jones inside. Avery Baker picked up where she left off last year and scored 16 points, while Mia Kopysciansky produced 10 and Quinlynn McCann added five rebounds.

Players of the Week — Ava Renninger, Central Mountain and Claudia Green, South Williamsport

It took Renninger just one high school game to show how dangerous she might become. The freshman guard dazzled in her debut, scoring 21 points, grabbing five rebounds and making five steals. Green has made a strong impact her first two years and the junior forward is now a team leader who averaged 16 points in two wins, going for a career-high 18 against Northwest.

Game of the Week — Lewisburg at Central Mountain

Tuesday’s matchup should be an entertaining one between two good teams with strong cores back from last year. This game could shake up the area rankings and also boost the winner as it tries asserting itself as a possible HAC-I title contender.

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