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Chris Masse on girls basketball: Curtis Jacobson’s success goes beyond just wins with Loyalsock

Curtis Jacobson grew up a Montoursville Warrior. How ironic then that he is creating quite a coaching legacy as a Loyalsock Lancer.

Jacobson quickly established himself as one of central Pennsylvania’s rising young coaches when he took his first coaching job at Loyalsock in 2016. His resume has grown stronger each year since and Jacobson collected his 100th career win in just his fifth season last Tuesday at Tyrone when Loyalsock won, 52-41.

It has been quite a five-year run. Jacobson has helped Loyalsock go 101-28 and reach the Class AAA state tournament each season. But his success goes beyond the wins. Ask his players about what makes him such an outstanding coach and the wins become secondary.

“He’s in this for more than just basketball. He also is great at always pushing us. He knows exactly when to say something to make us smile if we are having a rough day and exactly when to tell us straight up what’s going on,” four-year starting guard Summer McNulty said. “I think additionally him being a teacher is great for us as well. He is always available in school if we need him, and he keeps us on top of our schoolwork.”

“When the team has felt frustrated and defeated at practice, he has always helped us push through and figure out a way to solve the problem,” senior guard Sophia Gardner said. “That is something that comes so naturally to him that makes him such a great coach.”

Before Jacobson and his assistants — wife Kerri Jacobson (a former standout Loyalsock athlete) and Kirk Bower — arrived Loyalsock had not won a playoff game since 2011. It experienced a four-year playoff drought from 2012-15. Combine that with Loyalsock playing a brutal conference and non-conference schedule and Jacobson’s achievements look even more impressive.

The Lancers have captured a district championship, three straight league titles and topped 20 wins in three consecutive seasons. Loyalsock has won a state playoff game in each of the last three years and enters the regular-season’s final week 15-2.

Jacobson will always shine the light on the players, but his fingerprints are all over this program’s success. A dedicated math teacher as well, Jacobson studies countless hours of film, understands his players well and maximizes their potential.

“He seriously puts in more time and effort than even us players sometimes. He is constantly watching basketball. Whether it be college or high school, he is always looking for new ideas for his coaching style and for our team,” McNulty, who will play at Elizabethtown next season, said. “He also is just a big supporter, even when it comes to different sports. I would see him and his wife at our softball games and just knowing he is always going to support us just makes him a great coach.”

“Coach Jacobson has been both a coach and mentor for me for the past four years, and I would say his selfless dedication to all of his players is what makes him stand out beyond all other coaches,” Gardner said. “He always makes us a priority and is always willing to do anything he can to improve our skills both individually and as a team.”

In his second season, Jacobson faced one of his stiffest challenges. Loyalsock lost both leading scorer Maddie Fox and Cassie Gee to season-ending injuries. Instead of making excuses, Jacobson convinced Loyalsock it could still achieve greatness and it captured the Heartland Conference championship before stunning perennial power Trinity in states.

A year later Loyalsock captured its first district championship since 2010. Last year, there were four new starters, but the Lancers again won 24 games, claimed a league title and reached the second round of states. The success has continued this year with Loyalsock again a district championship contender.

All those are super achievements, but Jacobson’s biggest impact goes beyond that. McNulty thought she would play collegiate softball before reaching high school and now loves basketball. Gardner will run track at Pittsburgh next spring but plays basketball with passion. Both say Jacobson is instrumental in making those dreams reality.

Simply put, he makes his players better on and off the court.

“His coaching style made me absolutely fall in love with playing,” McNulty said. “He has helped me so much on and off the court. He had taught me how versatile of a player I can be by putting in the time with me. He has always been here every step of the way. He also was a huge role model and supporter in my college journey.”

“I always admired how even after getting home from a game hours away, he would immediately send us feedback on our film and how we can improve for our next game,” Gardner said. “He always challenges us at practice to work on our weaknesses but is motivating and positive in the process. Coach Jacobson has really helped me grow as an individual athlete by instilling commitment and perseverance into my daily life.”

Looks like this former Warrior has become a model Lancer.

HEATING UP: Montoursville produced two quality wins just 16 hours apart and showed why it could be a threat in the District 4 Class AAAA playoff field if it qualifies. The Warriors (4-11) rallied to beat Hughesville, 32-28, in double overtime Friday night and showed no fatigue the next afternoon in a 52-41 win against Warrior Run.

The Warriors have been competitive against some of the district’s top teams and started putting four consistent quarters together over the weekend while showing several threats. Freshman Maddie Labatch came up big with a career-high 13 points in the Hughesville win before MacKenzie Weaver, Mackenzie Cohick, Alaina Marchioni and Maddie Adams reached double figures against Warrior Run.

PUTBACKS: Bucktail guard Makenzie Wagner has been one of the year’s breakout players and she scored a career-high 27 points in a 40-39 win against Cowaneque Valley. CV’s Abby Ackley scored 20 points in defeat … Hughesville has really turned up its defense and has held six of its last seven opponents to fewer than 40 points. The Spartans (7-8) opened their week with a 34-24 win at Jersey Shore … Williamsport is full strength for one of the rare times this season and won two of three games last week, including 58-53 at Shikellamy. Kailee Helmrich scored 16 points in that win and Alex Chilson added a career-high 12 …Warrior Run’s Gracy Beachel is enjoying a good senior year and scored a career-high 21 points in that Montoursville loss. She also produced 16 points against Loyalsock … Williamson has made a five-win improvement this year and continued growing with a 34-31 win against Canton as Lateisha Peterson scored 16 points.

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 (15-2): Jacobson also is excellent at making adjustments and it has shown throughout the season with Loyalsock storming out in the second half and building big leads. Against Tyrone and Warrior Run on consecutive nights, Loyalsock outscored them 46-12 in the third quarter. Both Warrior Run games this season were close at halftime and Loyalsock trailed by nine at halftime the first time and still won by 56 combined points. The Lancers continue having quality balance and four starters are averaging at least 7.5 points per game.

2. Central Mountain (11-1): The kind of games Central Mountain lost so often in the past are now ones they consistently win. Central Mountain rallied from fourth-quarter deficits in consecutive wins against DuBois and Lewisburg and outscored the Green Dragons by 13 points in Wednesday’s win. Senior guard Quinlynn McCann has been filling the stat sheet all season and has come alive offensively, scoring a season-high 18 points against Lewisburg. Freshman point guard Ava Renninger had 14 points, seven rebounds, seven steals and six assists in Friday’s 54-15 win at Midd-West. The Wildcats have challenging games against Hollidaysburg, Mount Carmel and Williamsport coming up and that is good preparation for the playoffs.

3. South Williamsport (8-0): It’s not often a team scores 25 points and wins by double digits. It’s also not often a team plays defense as ferociously as South Williamsport does. The Mounties are putting on defensive clinics each time they play and defeated Northwest, 25-15, Wednesday. South allowed just 28 points in two wins over the Rangers, has not let an opponent score more than 25 points and have held four opponents to fewer than 20 points while allowing just 19.5 points per game. Claudia Green scored 12 points in the win and the Mounties remained in first place in the Mid-Penn and District 4 Class AA rankings.

4. Lewisburg (11-5): The Green Dragons are fighting for District 4 Class AAAA’s top seed and helped their cause with an excellent comeback win at Shamokin. Trailing by 11 entering the fourth quarter against a team which defeated it earlier this season, Lewisburg rallied for a 36-34 overtime win. It was the second straight game in which Lewisburg overcame a double-digit second-half deficit on the road. Regan Llanso continues making a big impact on the boards and averaged 11 rebounds in three games last week, including a career-high 14 against Central Mountain. Sophie Kilbride rebounds especially well for a point guard and averaged seven in those three games.

5. Sullivan County (7-4): Bethany Beinlich has provided quite lift after not playing last year and has helped the Griffins win four of their last five games. The senior guard scored 14 points, made eight steals, grabbed five rebounds and dealt three assists in Tuesday’s 54-16 win against Benton. Her sister Kassidy also is having a good season and made five steals in that win. Senior Sophia Springman leads the area in scoring and also is one of the area’s top rebounders, grabbing 78 in her last seven games.

Players of the Week — Ariana Copeland, Muncy and Mia Patterson, Loyalsock

Copeland can do damage off the dribble or from the perimeter and was outstanding in Friday’s 48-19 win against Montgomery. In addition to playing strong defense, Copeland also scored a career-high 21 points. Patterson continued her strong junior season against Warrior Run, scoring a career-high 22 points. A versatile offensive threat who averaged 18 points in two wins, Patterson also plays big in the post and defends well despite often giving up height.

Game of the Week — Sullivan County at South Williamsport

Tonight’s game has huge Mid-Penn championship ramifications. A win there would all but seal South’s first league title since 2010 but standing in the way are the four-time defending champions. Sullivan County is one game behind the Mounties and has a coveted opportunity at forging a tie. This is not a playoff game, but it sure feels like one.

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