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Baylor comes out smoking and helps Loyalsock reach district semifinals

Loyalsock celebrates their win over Troy at Loyalsock High School Friday night Feb. 25, 2022. Loyalsock won 49-27. DAVE KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

Less than four minutes into Friday’s District 4 Class AAA quarterfinal, Loyalsock essentially had crumpled up its game plan. Less than four minutes into the game, Loyalsock also seized control and blazed its trail into the semifinals.

Grace Baylor made sure of that.

Baylor scored 11 points and drained three 3-pointers in the first 4 minutes, 32 seconds as Loyalsock built a nine-point lead against Troy. That barrage set the tone, the Trojans never threatened and Loyalsock cruised to a 49-27 victory while reaching the semifinals for a sixth straight year. There, the defending champions will play top-seeded Bloomsburg in a rematch of the past two title games which these rivals split. That game will either be played Tuesday or Wednesday at a site and time to be determined.

“It helps a lot when someone comes out and makes a couple 3ás in a row, but it’s the complete opposite of what we talked about in the pregame,” Loyalsock coach Curtis Jacobson said. “We talked about scoring easy early in the game, getting inside touches and we had zero inside touches. We weren’t happy about that, but it makes you a little less unhappy when the shots go in.”

Loyalsock executed that game plan well in the second half and Mia Patterson played a fantastic all-around game, scoring a game-high 19 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and making three steals. Still, Baylor loosened up that inside presence and had Troy immediately playing catch-up, hitting a 3-pointer on the game’s opening possession. For the Trojans (12-9) to pull the upset, they needed to force Loyalsock into an off night and Baylor quickly dashed those hopes.

Julie Ellis of Loyalsock tries to keep the ball from the steal attempt by Ella Vannoy (3) of Troy at Loyalsock High School Friday night Feb. 25, 2022. Loyalsock won 49-27. DAVE KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

Baylor made her first four shots, and consecutive 3-pointers forced Troy to call a timeout after Loyalsock went ahead 14-5. The Trojans never pulled closer than eight again. Baylor scored just two more points from there, finishing with 13, but those quick points meant so much,

“I was just not thinking about it. After you make a couple shots then you start thinking about it and then it’s harder to make them,” Baylor said. “It’s not one of the worst things when you get all your points in the first quarter like that. I’m glad I scored, but when you get all those points in one quarter you want to continue it on.”

The scoring might not have, but Baylor continued doing what she always does and played stifling defense while running the floor well. She often is a player who does all the little things which might get overlooked by many but which are so crucial to winning. A year ago, Baylor shined off the bench during the postseason as Loyalsock reached the state quarterfinals and she is a big reason it has remained a title threat despite losing four starters from that team.

Kennedy and Patterson are among the area’s three leading scorers, but Baylor showed how dangerous she can be during that first quarter. And when Loyalsock is getting contributions like that from Baylor, or anyone else on the roster, it becomes especially potent.

“I always try to put up at least 8-10 points. Whenever I don’t do that I feel like Allyia and Mia have to work so much harder. I just want to make it easier for my team,” Baylor said. “I don’t worry about how many points I get, just trying to make it easier for us to win.”

Mia Patterson of Loyalsock puts up a shot against Troy at Loyalsock High School Friday night Feb. 25, 2022. Loyalsock won 49-27. DAVE KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

“She’s one player that if something early goes well she can get going and get some confidence. You just hope that in playoff time it gets consistent and that’s something she’s been working on,” Jacobson said. “You need more than two people scoring. For us to score the way we did, with other people doing it, and getting contributions from other people it certainly helps.”

Loyalsock led 28-15 at halftime and really started asserting itself inside as the game progressed. Kennedy pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds and Paterson added six second-half boards. The Lancers opened the game with four 3-pointers to build that nine-point lead, but started balancing the post with the perimeter and gradually started pulling away throughout the second half. By the time Kennedy and Patterson exited midway through the fourth quarter, Loyalsock held a 44-23 advantage.

Scoring outside early was nice, but Baylor especially liked the way Loyalsock attacked during those final two quarters.

“We took much better shots in the second half,” Baylor said. So, honestly, I’m happier with the second half because next week we’re going to need the inside shots and touches inside.”

Rylie French scored seven points off the bench for Loyalsock and Rhandie Jessell ran the offense well, in addition to making three steals. Loyalsock played better collective defense as well in the second half, limiting Troy to 12 points, including just five in the third quarter when it started putting the game away.

Allyia Kennedy of Loyalsock and Katie Lackey of Troy reach for a rebound at Loyalsock High School Friday night Feb. 25, 2022. Loyalsock won 49-27. DAVE KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

Freshman Julie Ellis played a critical role in making that happen. Ellis has performed well off the bench throughout the season and often makes an impact whether scoring or not. She made two steals and blocked a shot soon after entering in the first half and continued disrupting the offense during the last two quarters. Ellis did not make any more steals, but repeatedly deflected passes or forced errant ones which helped produce both turnovers and points.

“I said on the bench there in the fourth quarter when she tipped probably her sixth, seventh or eighth pass that she flies around on the defensive end. She does some really good things on the offensive end that in a year she will start finishing,” Jacobson said. “She does a lot of really good things. She’s fearless. For a freshman to be fearless and go out and compete is big. I don’t think the stage is ever too big for her. She’s one we can throw out there and, with the way we want to play, she’s going to do her job.”

TROY (27)

Rachel Kingsley 0 0-0 0, Alyssa Parks 5 0-5 11, Katie Lackey 2 1-2 5, Sydney Taylor 2 0-1 4, Kailyn Sterling 1 1-3 3, Makenna Matthews 1 0-0 3, Kendall Allen 0 1-2 1. Totals 11 3-13 27.

LOYALSOCK (49)

Allyia Kennedy of Loyalsock puts up a shot against Troy at Loyalsock High School Friday night Feb. 25, 2022. Loyalsock won 49-27. DAVE KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

Allyia Kennedy 2 2-3 6, Mia Patterson 7 3-6 19, Grace Baylor 5 0-3 13, Rhandie Jessell 0 0-0 0, Izzy Dadzie 0 2-4 2, Rylie French 2 2-3 7, Julie Ellis 0 0-0 0, Chloe Kennedy 1 0-0 2, Anna Luxenberger 0 0-0 0, Lauren O’Malley 0 0-0 0, Katie Rynder 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 9-19 49.

Troy 7 8 5 7ä27

Loyalsock 15 13 11 10ä49

3-pointers: Troy 2 (Parks, Matthews); Loyalsock 6 (Baylor 3, Patterson 2, French).

Records: Loyalsock 17-6. Troy 12-9.

Izzy Dadzie of Loyalsock pulls in a rebound against Troy at Loyalsock High School Friday night Feb. 25, 2022. Loyalsock won 49-27. DAVE KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

Allyia Kennedy of Loyalsock and Sydney Taylor of Troy fight for a rebound at Loyalsock High School Friday night Feb. 25, 2022. Loyalsock won 49-27. DAVE KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

Izzy Dadzie of Loyalsock puts up a shot against Troy at Loyalsock High School Friday night Feb. 25, 2022. Loyalsock won 49-27. DAVE KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

Mia Patterson of Loyalsock puts up a shot against Troy at Loyalsock High School Friday night Feb. 25, 2022. Loyalsock won 49-27. DAVE KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

Allyia Kennedy of Loyalsock backs down the defense in the paint of Troy at Loyalsock High School Friday night Feb. 25, 2022. Loyalsock won 49-27. DAVE KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

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