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Loyalsock’s Insinger takes home well-deserved award

His phone started blowing up and congratulatory messages rolled in. Ron Insinger graciously thanked them but had no idea what was going on. He was too embarrassed to ask.

Ultimately, the Loyalsock legend discovered why. And he could not believe it. The highest honor a high school coach can receive was his.

Insinger was named the National Federation of State High School Coaches Boys Basketball Coach of the Year last Tuesday. The long-time coach, who led Loyalsock to last year’s Class AAA state championship, was one of 23 coaches in 10 different sports named as Coach of the Year. Just when the state’s all-time wins leader thought he had earned every honor there was, including 2021 Pennsylvania Coach of the Year, Insinger now truly has reached the summit.

“I’m ecstatic and totally surprised. I never thought in my wildest dreams something like this would happen,” Insinger said. “Out of the thousands and thousands of coaches that coach basketball, to be selected Coach of the Year is the highest honor, in my mind. I’m overwhelmed by what it really means.”

That says a lot because Insinger already has scaled such lofty heights. Last year’s state title was the cherry on top of a brilliant coaching resume which includes 1,077 wins, 24 district championships, 30 league titles and 38 20-win seasons in 47 full years. Insinger’s teams have won 85 percent of their games and he is both a member of the Pennsylvania Basketball and Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fames.

Insinger is closing in on yet another milestone, too. He has 997 career wins as the Loyalsock boys coach and could reach that mark next week.

Insinger was nominated for National Coach of the Year after guiding a team with three new starters to a 25-1 record last season. The Lancers won a third straight district title before beating powerhouse Executive Education and Math, Civics and Science teams with multiple Division I recruits in the first two rounds of states. Loyalsock completed its dream season and became the area’s first state boys champion since 1999 when it routed Brookville in the state final. The 2020 team also went undefeated in the state tournament before the pandemic shut it down in the state quarterfinals, so Insinger’s teams were 11-0 in the playoffs these past two years, 53-2 overall.

After earning Pennsylvania’s Coach of the Year, Insinger was one of eight coaches selected from the Mid-Atlantic Region. From there, Insinger went against nominees from seven other regions and prevailed. Although Insinger’s name is on the award, he instantly thought about all the assistant coaches who have been by his side since 1974. He said this award is as much as theirs as it is his and that Loyalsock would never have achieved this success without those coaches.

“The first thing I thought of was how grateful and how honored I’ve been to have such quality assistant coaches since Day 1. I’m a big John Wooden fan and he said, ‘Surround yourself with quality people and good things happen to you.’ That is a pretty old cliche, but it’s true and I’ve really blessed to have terrific assistant coaches,” Insinger said. “They’re the backbone of the program and I would not have the success I’ve had without them all working diligently. You have to choose people who are going to have the same philosophy as you. You want your team to have proper chemistry and the coaching staff to have great chemistry, too. I’ve been so fortunate to have a staff and players who have had us clicking on cylinders.”

That continues this season despite four starters graduating. The Lancers (11-3) clinched their 22nd straight playoff berth Saturday, have won seven straight games and are undefeated in the HAC-II. Loyalsock also has excellent non-conference wins against Trinity and Notre Dame-Green Pond and has scored at least 79 points in five consecutive contests.

The names have changed but the results have not. Some may have counted Loyalsock out after so many players graduated, but the expectations and goals remain the same.

“Everyone has to be goal-oriented and I tell them that’s the reason for the program’s success. Goals create energy, goals create excitement, goals create direction and if you have those three you’re going to win games,” Insinger said. “I’m a firm believer that champions are goal setters and the good thing is they buy into the process and the system and they know what it takes to get to the next level. Some of them are blessed with more God-given talent but athletic ability can only take one so far. The workmanship is what they have to exhibit day in and day out.”

His players and assistants continue doing that and so does Insinger. After being named National Coach of the Year, Insinger truly has achieved just about everything a coach can. But the awards are not what keeps driving high school’s John Wooden. Insinger still loves coaching, working with young athletes and helping them excel on and off the court.

As Insinger has said many times over the years, “You can’t put a price tag on that.”

“Even at the elementary program I want our coaches to help the players, not just so much the fundamentals, but to develop passion for basketball,” Insinger said. “Once you have the passion everything else falls into place because you can’t get enough of it. It’s no longer work; it’s fun. When you don’t consider practice work, that’s when you get better.”

The fun continues.

FINALLY: Hughesville went nearly two weeks without playing and did not practice for a long stretch either. The Spartans came back strong following the 11-day layoff Saturday and defeated Warrior Run, 68-47. The Spartans have had to deal with a lot, especially since late December, using 10 different starters in the last 3 1/2 weeks. Still, they are 9-3 and nearly full strength again.

Hughesville displayed excellent balance against Warrior Run with five players scoring at least eight points. Dylan Bieber scored a game-high 17, while Nick Trevouledes (12) and Josh Heiney (10) also reached double figures. Cam Fetterman was seeing the court well and dealt a game-best eight assists.

Hughesville has done some of its best work in years past when it has been hit with adversity, the 2017 district championship and 2009 state Final 4 run, coming to mind. Time will tell how this season plays out, but Hughesville is doing its best to turn a negative into a positive.

PUTBACKS: South Williamsport has won four straight games and moved above .500 with a 74-50 win against Millville. Lee Habalar, Sequan Roberts, Ben Manning and Grant Bachman all scored at least 14 points. Habalar went for 21 points, 13 rebounds and five assists while Roberts also had a double-double of 18 points and 11 rebounds. Habalar, Roberts and Bachman all had double-doubles in Saturday’s 68-34 win at CMVT. South hosts Milton tonight. Speaking of the Black Panthers (9-6) they have made a nice turnaround after struggling a year ago. Xzavier Minium and Jace Brandt both are averaging more than 13 points per game and Luke Delong scored 21 points in a victory against Midd-West … Muncy is scoring points in bunches and has produced at least 72 each game during its four-game winning streak. The Indians (9-3) blasted Benton and Sullivan County last week and Michael Fry scored a career-high 21 points in Saturday’s victory in Laporte. Sophomore Noah Confer added 12 points, six rebounds and four assists. Ross and Branson Eyer each topped 20 points against Benton … Montoursville avenged a 13-point defeat against Central Mountain Saturday, winning, 52-49 as John Schneider, Bryce Eberhart and Tanner Menne led a balanced scoring attack. The Warriors (6-7) have just one starter back from last year but are 6-1 at home since an 0-4 start and most of their losses have been close ones … Canton became just the second NTL-II team in two years to defeat North Penn-Liberty, edging the Mounties on their home court, 51-40. Cooper Kitchen, Isaiah Niemczyk and Caiden Williams all scored in double figures to help the Warriors (10-4) stay in the hunt for a league title. NP-Liberty (9-5) bounced back and defeated Williamson, 55-42, giving the Mounties six wins in their last eight games. Noah Shedden scored a season-high 17 points and added eight rebounds.

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

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