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Loyalsock opens season with a 75-35 rout over Jersey Shore

Loyalsock went 28-1 last year, reaching the Class AAA state quarterfinals. Then the COVID-19 pandemic ended that superb season before the Lancers could pursue their state championship dreams.

Loyalsock can do nothing about that, but it can try putting together another spectacular season.

It sure started well Friday night.

Featuring a powerful blend of speed, size and balance, Loyalsock broke things open early and cruised to a season-opening 75-35 win against visiting Jersey Shore. Saraj Ali built off last year’s breakthrough performance and was a force inside, scoring a game-high 23 points while adding 10 rebounds.

Ali was one of three Lancers in double figures. His brother Idris produced a dazzling all-around performance, scoring 14 points, dealing five assists, making five steals and adding four rebounds. Dom Jennings added 11 points and Sean Jensen blocked three shots.

“One thing this team has is unselfishness and balance. They practice that way so it comes automatic when we do throw up the ball to play,” Loyalsock coach Ron Insinger said. “I’m really pleased with that. Sometimes that’s tough to coach and for this team it comes naturally.”

“We have some good big men and our guards are quick, Saraj Ali said afterward. “We look to run the court and get everyone involved.”

Loyalsock certainly did that against Jersey Shore (0-2) and turned an early four-point deficit into a 47-21 halftime lead. The Lancers used their traditional running game to cause problems and also efficiently moved the ball, setting up quality shots while establishing a strong inside-outside game.

In addition to topping 20 points in each of the first three quarters, Loyalsock inflicted the mercy rule by halfway through the third quarter and made 19 of 32 shots during the middle quarters. It also went 8 for 11 at the foul line in the first quarter which Loyalsock closed on a 22-4 run after Jersey Shore led early.

Saraj Ali ended any Jersey Shore comeback hopes when he scored nine third-quarter points and pulled down five rebounds. Jennings produced well in all facets in his first start and Julian Wilson added nine points off the bench, making it hard to focus on slowing one or two players.

Early it was Idris Ali causing problems as he attacked the basket. And when Loyalsock went inside to Saraj, Jersey Shore had no answer. Saraj, a 6-foot-4, junior has grown two inches since starting last season and was 10 for 12 from the field. It was the continuation of a breakout sophomore season which included Ali playing his best basketball during the playoffs.

Jennings made a big impact as he moves from being one of the team’s top reserves to starting. The senior guard ran the court well, loosened up the defense with his outside shooting and also made a strong defensive impact as Loyalsock forced 12 first-half turnovers.

“Dom has paid his dues and for most teams he would have started last year. We just had a wealth of talent, but it’s his turn,” Insinger said. He knows that and the thing he provides is a lot of senior leadership and I just love that. A team is only as good as the senior leaders and he has taken the bull by the horns and I’m really pleased how his teammates have responded to his leadership.”

Grayson Watkins provided a spark off the bench in his first high school game, finishing second on the team with six rebounds. Jaiden Ross also had six rebounds. Loyalsock is seeking that kind of well-rounded performance Saturday night when it plays at Danville. The Ironmen were the only team which defeated Loyalsock last year, beating it in the Heartland Conference championship and return three starters.

Owen Bloom scored 10 points off the bench of Jersey Shore and Damian Williams grabbed six rebounds. Tristan Gallick scored seven points, Damian McAllister showed promise inside and Cayden Hess delivered five first-half points along with four rebounds.

“We started out OK there in those first four minutes, but then we started turning the ball over. We haven’t been able to get into a flow offensively and part of the problem is we have some guys that just haven’t had a lot of varsity time,” Jersey Shore coach Scott Munro said. “They won 20 games last year in JV and they definitely have that capability and they show it at practice every day. It just hasn’t clicked yet.”

JERSEY SHORE (35)

Damian Williams 2 0-0 4, Cayden Hess 1 2-2 5, Tristan Gallick 3 0-0 7, Damian McAllister 2 0-2 4, Logan Bailey 0 0-0 0, Branden Wheary 1 0-0 2, Owen Bloom 4 1-2 10, Cam Embick 1 0-0 3. Totals 14 3-6 35.

LOYALSOCK (75)

Idris Ali 4 5-7 14, Saraj Ali 10 3-4 23, Eli Gair 2 1-5 5, Dominic Jennings 5 0-0 11, Julian Wilson 3 1-2 9, Sean Jensen 1 1-2 3, Grayson Watkins 2 0-0 4, Brendan Clark 1 2-2 4, Jaiden Ross 1 0-0 2. Totals 29 13-22 75.

Jersey Shore 10 11 3 11-35

Loyalsock 24 23 20 8-75

3-pointers: Jersey Shore 4 (Hess, Gallick, Embick, Bloom); Loyalsock 4 (Wilson 2, I. Ali, Jennings).

Records: Loyalsock 1-0. Jersey Shore 0-2.

JV Score: Loyalsock 45-42.

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