South Williamsport girls top Montgomery to win share of first Mid-Penn title since 2010
MONTGOMERY–South Williamsport was not even sure what goals it should set this season.
And who could blame it? The Mounties were not even sure they would play. And when they did start practicing, they had just nine players, including only one senior and three first-time starting sophomores.
Now South is a champion.
Using its trademark stifling defense and balanced scoring, South captured a share of the Mid-Penn championship Monday night, defeating Montgomery, 39-19. The Mounties (9-0) also remained undefeated and won at least a share of their first league title since Tierney Pfirman was a sophomore 11 years ago.
South hosts four-time defending Mid-Penn champion Sullivan County tonight. If the Mounties win, they capture the title outright. If Sullivan wins and takes its remaining league games the two teams would share the crown. Either way, considering the obstacles South faced, this is mighty impressive.
“It feels really great and I’m really proud of all of us,” senior center Rachel Stahl said after scoring nine points, grabbing five rebounds, making five steals and blocking four shots. “It’s just exciting to be 9-0. Coach (Justin Marnon) says he’s never coached a team that is 9-0. Being a part of that feels really good.”
“We had no idea how many games we would play, who would we play,” Marnon said. “Regardless of how many games we’ve played, to have an undefeated season and (outright) conference title in our grasp is kind of exciting.”
South has made playing defense exciting and held its ninth straight opponent to fewer than 25 points. The Mounties are allowing just 19.5 points per game and dominated after Montgomery took a brief 9-7 second-quarter lead.
Marnon called timeout after Clara Ulrich’s 3-pointer gave Montgomery that lead and let his team know he was unhappy with its effort. The Mounties listened and turned words into action, playing with energy and tenacity the rest of the way while outscoring Montgomery, 32-10. The Mounties forced 11 second-quarter turnovers and did not allow a point for eight minutes bridging the two middle quarters.
“That’s what we’ve worked on since Day 1. Coach always says defense wins games,” Stahl said. “We weren’t playing well offensively but we worked together defensively and pulled it out.”
“Playing with the numbers we’re playing with we really have to leave it out on the floor every single possession,” Marnon said. “It’s tough. It puts a lot of stress on them but they responded really well.”
South was playing without starter Sofia Casella so it had only eight players last night. Sophomore Zoe Threeton played a huge role off the bench and was critical in changing the game’s complexion. Threeton entered with South trailing 9-7 and was outstanding, along with Piper Minier, at the top of South’s 2-3 zone defense.
Aleigha Rieppel moved from up top of the zone and played underneath for the first time this season. She excelled there, Threeton fit like a glove with the starters, and all the pieces of this defensive machine clicked together.
“I give a lot of credit to Zoe. We put her in there and that’s when we started going on that run,” Marnon said. “She’s been a great role player and has practiced hard all year. I’m really happy that she got the shot tonight to do this. Credit to Aleigha for playing a different spot in the zone and for everyone responding.”
The offense has remained as balanced as the defense has stingy. Claudia Green scored a game-high 11 points, grabbed eight rebounds and made four steals. Minier scored 10 points and made four steals and Stahl and Rieppel each had nine.
South pushed its lead to 18 in the third quarter and Montgomery never pulled closer than 15 in the fourth.
“We’re very good at sharing the ball and making sure everybody gets touches. On offense we set it up to make sure everybody touches the basketball and everybody gets passes,” Stahl said. “We focus on inside-outside. It’s a lot of teamwork and we all just work really hard at practice and in the game.”
Claudia Green 3 5-8 11, Rachel Stahl 1 7-11 9, Piper Minier 3 3-5 10, Aleigha Rieppel 3 2-3 9, Zoe Threeton 0 0-0 0, Grace Miller 0 0-0 0, Mia Breen 0 0-0 0, Lillian Bradley 0 0-0 0. Totals 10 17-27 39.
Faith Persing 0 2-4 2, Shelby McRae 3 0-2 6, Taylor McRae 1 2-2 4, Morgan Tupper 0 2-2 2, Clara Ulrich 1 1-2 4, Falin Reynolds 0 0-0 0, CeCe Beckley 0 0-2 0, Kayanna Walters 0 0-0 0, Natalie St. James 0 1-2 1. Totals 5 8-16 19.
South 7 13 11 9–39
Montgomery 6 3 5 5–19
3-point goals: South 2 (Minier, Rieppel); Montgomery 1 (Ulrich).