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Nassir Jones helps lift Williamsport past Central Mountain in boys basketball, 69-60

TIM WEIGHT/Special to the Sun-Gazette Williamsport's Al-Kabeer Jason dunks against Central Mountain during Tuesday's game in Mill Hall.

MILL HALL — The game’s speed and intensity increased late Tuesday night. Nassir Jones simply moved faster and played harder.

When chaos started to reign and Central Mountain quickly made it a two-point game, the Williamsport senior welcomed the pressure, conquered it and showed everything which makes him such a valuable player during a dazzling, game-clinching, two-minute sequence.

Jones had a hand in six of Williamsport’s final eight points, made four straight foul shots and made two steals over those last two minutes as the Millionaires held off determined Central Mountain and won, 69-60. Jones finished with 17 points, six rebounds, six assists and five steals as Williamsport (7-3) won after not having played or practiced since last Thursday.

“I’ve been here for four years so I kind of know what to do,” Jones said. “I try to keep our side of the ball calm and keep us together.”

Jones was the rock Williamsport needed after Central Mountain scored six straight points and pulled within 59-57 on Aidan Major’s steal and layup. Following an Elijah Frierson block of a potential game-tying basket, Jones was fouled and calmly hit both ends of a 1-and-1 to stop the Wildcat run. Next up, her perfectly read the defense from midcourt, waiting for the trap to come and then finding a cutting Frierson for a layup.

TIM WEIGHT/Special to the Sun-Gazette Central Mountain's Cayde McCloskey looks to score as Williamsport's defenses closes in during Tuesday's game in Mill Hall.

Central Mountain pulled within four again before Kenon Brown drained consecutive free throws. Jones then dropped the hammer, making another steal, drawing a foul and hitting both shots. Jones went 5 or 5 at the line and capped his fantastic performance with another assist to Frierson.

Nothing came easy for Williamsport Tuesday, but Jones made sure everything turned out all right.

“I want that ball in my hands when it’s crunch time,” Jones said. “I feel like I can put the team on my back and make the free throws.”

“That’s pretty much what did it for us in the end. Naz came down with a big rebound, made a defensive stop, made some good decisions on the fast break and he was big at the foul line. That was huge for us,” Williamsport coach Allen Taylor said. “He was starting to step into that role last year as a junior. Guys respect him and they listen to him because he’s been through the grind. We definitely need that senior leadership, particularly down the stretch.”

Jones, a 6-foot-2 forward, always has played in the post since Williamsport has not had much height during his scholastic career, but he has excellent guard skills as well. The all-state defensive end who will play football at Bloomsburg has the strength to cause problems inside but runs and sees the court so well that he cannot be labeled by his position.

Jones did as much damage with his passing as with his scoring and was outstanding in the third quarter when Williamsport turned a two-point deficit into a five-point lead. Jones had seven points, three rebounds and an assist after Central Mountain had taken two leads and he put Williamsport ahead to stay three minutes into the third.

“In practice he’s always making passes to the correct guy. He understands the offense and knows when guys are going to be open. He’s actually telling them they’re going to be open before they’re open,” Taylor said. “He’s almost like that veteran quarterback out there. He’s a point forward. The game has really slowed down for him, so he’s able to see things unfold and develop.”

Jones took over at key times, but also had a lot of help. Al-Kabeer Jason matched a career-high with 16 points and three assists. Frierson (12 points) and Ry’meer Brown (10) also reached double figures and Kenon Brown added four assists.

The Millionaires struggled defensively but executed well at times offensively and made 26 of 44 shots. Williamsport moved the ball especially well in the first three quarters and produced 20 assists. The Millionaires scored 28 points in the paint in the first half and took a 33-31 halftime lead.

Williamsport again received a big lift from its bench. Frierson and the Brown brothers combined for 31 points. Frierson scored eight fourth-quarter points and made eight steals while Ry’meer Brown produced a season-high in points and added two steals.

“It starts at practice. They pay attention at practice and they get the same amount of time as the starters,” Jones said. “The fact that they come off the bench and produce and don’t take their foot off the gas is good for us.”

During its extended layoff, Williamsport held Zoom meetings and players competed at the YMCA. Having not had a practice since last Thursday or a game in eight nights, Taylor expected some offensive struggles.

What disappointed him was the defensive issues. Central Mountain frequently broke down the defense, kicked the ball out to open shooters and made eight 3-pointers. Cayde McCloskey and Trevor Adair each made six 3-pointers and Ashton Probst scored a career-high 17 points while grabbing six rebounds. Point guard Jack Hanna dealt a career-high nine assists and Central Mountain had upset visions until Jones took over.

“I wasn’t sure how things would go, having the layoff, but I thought if we came out here and competed defensively, we would give ourselves a chance,” Taylor said. “For the most part, that’s what happened., but we definitely have to clean things up.”

WILLIAMSPORT (69)

Nassir Jones 6 5-5 17, Al-Kabeer Jason 7 1-2 16, Elijah Frierson 5 2-4 12, Tyler Fausnaught 0 0-0 0, Kenon Brown 2 5-6 9, Xavier Taylor 0 2-2 2, JJ Beagle 1 0-0 2, Nayim Connelly-Ali 0 1-2 1, Ry’meer Brown 5 0-1 10, Jamaire Harden 0 0-0 0. Totals 26 16-22 69.

CENTRAL MOUNTAIN (60)

Jack Hanna 1 1-2 4, Nick Long 2 0-0 4, Trevor Adair 3 1-2 10, Cayde McCloskey 3 2-2 11, Ashton Probst 8 0-0 17, Aidan Major 3 0-0 6, Brett Gerlach 3 2-2 8, Ryan Pentz 0 0-0 0. Totals 23 6-8 60.

Williamsport 16 17 19 17–69

C Mountain 16 15 14 15–60

3-pointers: Williamsport 1 (Jason); Central Mountain 8 (Adair 3, McCloskey 3, Hanna, Probst).

Records: Williamsport (7-3), Central Mountain (4-9).

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