---- — Jon Weaver chuckled at the thought of his sibling rivalry being played out by teenage girls on a basketball court.
Weaver's Warrior Run team battled brother Craig Jr.'s Muncy squad tooth-and-nail for the Defender Holiday Tournament championship last week.
It was extremely intense for a nonconference game in the middle of winter break, when tournament games can often lean toward exhibitions.
At times the action appeared more suitable for the Octagon than the hardwood: bodies hitting the deck, blood flowing, fans spewing venom.
And it all took place in front of the Weavers' parents, father Craig Sr.'s Montgomery team having played earlier in the tournament consolation game.
Just like when growing up, eh, Jon?
"Yep -- that's exactly how it was. That's just like the old back-yard brawls right there," Weaver said with a laugh, "but I didn't always win in the back yard."
Take away the brother-vs-brother factor and there were the makings of a great game. Muncy, led by dynamic scorer Jordan Jones, was unbeaten. Warrior Run, with its lethal inside-outside duo of Steph Shamburg and Tay Parker, was the three-time defending tournament champion.
Both teams played with the pride those streaks would demand, and then some. Warrior Run ultimately had to erase a seven-point deficit in the fourth quarter -- with six of Shamburg's 19 points and a clutch, go-ahead trey from Parker -- to escape with a 45-42 win.
What made the win so noteworthy is what the Defenders had to do to get it. They wouldn't have won playing straight-up, by-the-book ball. They had to ratchet up the nastiness, be willing to take what wasn't theirs, get on the floor and, yes, bleed a little if need be.
"That was a very physical game," said Weaver. "We had girls bleeding, they had girls bleeding, scratches ... It's nice to see, with the young kids we have. A lot of these kids haven't been in a game like that, against an undefeated team. It was all guts and heart."
Don't mistake these descriptions for criminal assault; there was nothing overtly physical. There was, however, a different attitude about the Defenders compared to previous games and it manifested itself in rugged defense.
"We knew they had quick girls so we had to move our feet much faster than we usually do and just get after it," said junior guard Chloe Eisenhuth, who earned a badge of courage just below her left knee. "We had to give it right back, otherwise they were going to go right by us. We had to make sure we had them on their toes."
While their tournament has been good to the Defenders in recent years, what follows generally hasn't been.
Warrior Run has stormed into the holiday break with terrific momentum, a few times being first in the Valley to qualify for districts based on having enough wins to finish at least .500. Then, invariably, the team has crumbled under the weight of their merciless division (HAC-II) and, in each of the last two years, injuries to an already wafer-thin lineup.
It could be different this season. Though HAC-II is as unforgiving as ever, the Defenders have above-average depth, a diverse scoring punch, and, as you may have heard, a willingness to get down and dirty on defense.
Shamburg is a bona fide star. She has touch around the basket, range on her jump shot, and a feel for when her team needs her to score.
She has excelled despite extra defensive attention, but even the best of them will be bogged down by a bracket plus help like Muncy showed.
That's where the Defenders have shown they can make opponents pay. Shamburg averages 17.4 points, and Parker is a hair below 10. But Laura Bastian (7.7 ppg.), Abby Fisher (6.6) and Eisenhuth (4.3) are carrying some of the load as well.
"Steph has said it's kind of nice this year because she can dish it off. It's not a one-man show," said Weaver. "She doesn't feel the pressure of having to score all our points. Everybody can score."
Also, four Warrior Run starters shoot better than 60 percent from the foul line, led by Shamburg (86.0) and Eisenhuth (76.5), which shows up well when a game turns on defense.
One other factor that may help the Defenders is (even at 5-2) there's much work to be done to qualify for the postseason. Because they haven't lapped the field yet as in some other seasons, they should stay motivated. They certainly won't be fooled into believing the season's second half will be as easy as the first.
"In other years we would be undefeated or have just one loss," said guard Abby Fisher, "but we've been working really hard in practice after our two losses and I think because of that we'll be playing better basketball. It obviously is working. (Muncy) was a really big win for us to prove to us and other schools that we're still in it."
n Scott Dudinskie covers girls basketball for The Daily Item. Email comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.