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Chris Masse on girls basketball: Neumann girls eager to break through shadows

As the boys basketball team won 42 games, two league championships and a district title the last two years, the St. John Neumann girls struggled. The Knights won three games and watched the boys grab the spotlight.

But now the girls are eager to burst through the shadows.

Neumann played an outstanding game in its season opener, defeating Montgomery, 50-30. Yes, it is only one game and it is early, but the victory showed Neumann’s promise a year after winning one game. This is a young team with a quality core which received valuable experience last year, and not it’s added exciting freshman forward Gigi Parlante.

Every successful journey starts somewhere and that place might have been the Catholic Community Center last Saturday.

“One thing we’ve been pushing to them is the boys don’t have to be the only good team here,” first-year Neumann coach Helena Floyd said. “We don’t have any all-star players, but as a team they’re great and the potential always has been there, but it was a lack of confidence. Getting that first win is always great and hopefully it’s a good preview of what’s to come for this season.”

That is why playing so well in the opener was crucial. It’s one thing to talk about being good, but now this team knows it can be good because it saw the fruits of its labor. This was a hard-working, energized team receiving strong contributions throughout the roster while leading from start to finish.

Every varsity player scored and Neumann signaled the times may be changing by building an 11-2 lead just 90 seconds into the game. The Knights are utilizing an up-tempo pace that Floyd was a part of when she played at Williamsport, sharing the basketball and having fun. All those qualities can go a long way.

“We pushed the ball very well and communicated very well. We made some mistakes and there are things we need to work on, but it was a very good effort,” Floyd said. “We have four seniors and we’re hoping to turn it around for them because they’re not used to winning. We’re hoping to have a little more successful season for the seniors and also for the underclassmen so they see the potential they have to be a threat in the district.”

Neumann certainly has a nice foundation to build upon. Sophomore Sheiana Tutler was a force against Montgomery and has a strong all-around skill set. She and Parlante (7 points, 5 rebounds, 4 steals) provide Neumann two reliable inside players who also handle the ball well and run the court like guards.

Lily and Faith Reid combined for 18 points, Zuzu Shanaway grabbed eight rebounds and both Ellie Androvette and Juliana Kriner provided sparks off the bench. It was a performance as solid as it was complete. Armed with confidence and more belief it might just be the start. It won’t be an instant transformation and growing pains may occur at times, but the Knights are headed in the right direction and eager to show that Neumann is not just a boys basketball school, but a basketball school, period.

“It’s been hard because the girls have usually been in the shadow of the boys team,” Floyd said. “I told them they are more than capable of having that same success on the court so we are ready to put the spotlight on the girls and show that Neumann has two good teams.”

SISTER ACT

Montgomery sisters Taylor and Shelby McRae both were strong on the boards against Neumann, combining for 16 rebounds. Taylor had nine and Shelby (9 points) six with both trying to ignite a second-half comeback.

The McRae sisters, also standout softball players, give Montgomery a potentially strong post presence. Both enjoyed breakout seasons a year ago and will be consistent double-double threats this year.

PUTBACKS

Milton started its season on an impressive note, beating Montoursville, 43-31. Leah Walter scored a career-high 18 points and Milton finished strong, closing on a 17-6 run. Maddie Adams scored 18 points for Montoursville … Williamsport has its youngest team of the last 12 years and played six freshmen against perennial District 2 title contender Holy Redeemer. The Millionaires hung in most of the game and Sarina Beiter scored a career-high 15 points in the 53-37 loss … Williamson went winless last year but started its season strong, defeating Cowanesque Valley, 44-34. Three players scored at least 9 points and Lateisha Peterson produced a game-high 14.

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 (0-0): Four starters return from last year’s 24-win team which opened its season last night at Montoursville. The Lancers also have a rivalry game against Hughevsille tomorrow.

2. Warrior Run (0-0): Like Loyalsock, Warrior Run also has four starters back from a strong team. The Defenders were scheduled to host Loyalsock last Saturday but that game was pushed to a later date and they open at rival Milton on Wednesday.

3. Lewisburg (1-0): Several young players received valuable experience throughout last year’s growing season and early indications are that could help a lot in 2021. The Green Dragons held Midd-West to just 14 points through three quarters in their season-opening 52-29 win. There are a lot of scoring threats on this team and four players scored at least eight points. Lewisburg plays at Williamsport on Wednesday.

4. Sullivan County (0-0): The Griffins have the potential to be a District 4 Class A title contender once again but are in a holding pattern. Sullivan County has not practiced yet and is hoping to get the green light this week to start its season.

5. Hughesville (0-0): Four starters return from a team that reached districts for a fifth straight year a season ago and opened its season last night against Montgomery.

Players of the Week — Sheiana Tutler, Neumann and Sophie Kilbride, Lewisburg

Both players started as freshmen last year and appeared poised to take a big step forward. Tutler stuffed the stat sheet against Montgomery, scoring 11 points, grabbing 7 rebounds, blocking 7 shots and making 7 steals while also making some nice passes. Kilbride looks like the next in a line of outstanding Lewisburg point guards and led the way Saturday, scoring 16 points, pulling down 5 rebounds and blocking 4 shots.

Game of the Week — Hughesville at Loyalsock

Wednesday’s game features a matchup of teams which have made six combined state playoff appearances over the last four years. Each also has reached the postseason for five consecutive years and this game could provide a barometer for where both are at early this season.

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