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South Williamsport boys are having best season since 2012

South Williamsport is enjoying its best boys’ basketball season since 2012. The Mounties (13-3) have made a dramatic turnaround, already winning six more games than last year.

Entering Wednesday’s showdown at St. John Neumann, all South was missing was a signature win which could announce its presence throughout District 4. So, the Mounties went out and filled that void, winning one of the area’s most exciting games this season.

Neumann rallied from 12 down with four minutes remaining and took a one-point lead in the final seconds before Grant Bachman hit an offensive putback buzzer-beater as South edged the Knights, 64-63. The Mounties have won 13 of 14 games since losing a close early-season contest to Neumann, handed the Knights their first loss, beat them for the first time in nine years and pulled into a first-place tie with them in the Mid-Penn.

Yes, South is definitely back.

“It’s been a long time. The program was down and we’re trying to build it back up. For us to come in here and knock them off and control our own destiny is great,” South coach Rob Houseknecht said. “That’s our No. 1 goal this year to win a conference championship and make playoffs and we’re still focused on that first goal. We have three tough conference games next week that we need to show up and play. We can’t just go through the motions at all.”

South certainly has not done that this season, playing with energy and emotion each game. The Mounties experienced growing pains when they went 7-16 last year but worked their way into the playoffs and gave top-seeded Wyalusing a scare once there.

That gave South a taste and this team has grown hungrier each day since. Dynamic point guard Secoy Roberts moved from Brooklyn and Bachman started playing again after taking last year off. They have fit like a glove with the returning players and all the pieces have started falling into place.

And beating a team like Neumann only helps with the growing process. The Knights feature Towson commit David Hill and Division I recruit Davion Hill and entered Wednesday’s game 29-5 over the last two years. The Hill brothers were sensational in igniting that furious fourth-quarter comeback and Neumann nearly pulled off the improbable comeback. But South persevered and won a game surrounded by a playoff-like atmosphere.

This basically was the playoffs for South. A loss would have all but handed Neumann the conference championship. Instead, the Mounties landed the final blow in this heavyweight battle and now have a shot at winning at least a share of its first league crown since 2010.

“That was a good win because those two brothers are not easy to go against. Every second of the game we had to be going 100%,” Roberts said after scoring 23 points, grabbing nine rebounds and adding three assists. “There was no place for any errors or mistakes because they take advantage of those.”

“That’s exactly what coach was talking about. He said this game gives this a taste of playoffs. This is what the first game of playoffs is probably going to be like,” Bachman said following his 10-point, five-rebound, three-assist performance. “It was a lot of fun. Coming out with a win, it couldn’t be any better.”

Ironically, the same might be said for Neumann. The Knights have quality wins against South, Muncy and Mount Carmel but have routed most opponents and a game like this could provide a powerful benefit moving forward.

Losses sting, but if lessons are taken from them, they can provide powerful motivation and lead to important wins come playoff time. The bottom line is Neumann needed a game like this and will receive similar challenges starting tonight with a game against Lewisburg, then Tuesday at Loyalsock (17-1) and next Saturday against Danville (12-1).

“Our goal was to make it to the postseason. All these games are little tune-ups,” Spencer said. “These games are going to help us. The kids want to win every single game and I get that, but we have to get ready.”

South has a similar mindset and also immediately will be challenged tonight against perennial District 4 Class AAA title contender Wellsboro (10-3) in a potential playoff preview. Earning that win Wednesday sure helps in the process.

This was a big win, but South is hoping more are coming. Some are labeling South’s win an upset but those doing so have not been paying attention. The Mounties are well-rounded, deep, motivated and have been soaring since losing that exciting Round 1 contest against Neumann.

“I have a lot of respect for South,” Spencer said. “I really like Rob. He does a good job. That team is well-coached and they do the right things.”

Both teams want to continue doing those right things as the playoffs rapidly approach. It has been a chaotic season, but Wednesday’s thriller gave South and all who watched the game quite a thrill. Now hope more thrills are coming. And they know what they have to do.

“We’re like a family,” Bachman said. “We cherish the moment.”

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

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