By Jon Gerardi
The Daily Item
When Abby Fisher sank her two free throws with 3:17 to play in the fourth quarter, all of Warrior Run’s players and coaches probably exhaled a little sigh of relief.
That relief turned into excitement less than 40 seconds later when Steph Shamburg scored on a layup to give the Defenders their first lead all night.
Once Warrior Run went up by two after Shamburg’s basket, Warrior Run had the momentum for good and never relinquished the lead, defeating Montoursville 43-37 in the District 4 Class AA consolation game at Milton’s “Jungle” to advance to the state tournament.
“It took us awhile in this game to feel ourselves out,” Warrior Run coach Jon Weaver said. “Steph stepped up. That’s why she’s our senior we go to. She stepped up and got the job done.”
Early in the game, Montoursville fans started screaming to not allow Shamburg to get the ball inside against the Warriors. Easier said than done.
After being held to a career-low two points in a District 4 Class AA semifinal loss to Central Columbia, Shamburg put on a game to remember for the fans, scoring a game-high 24 points — including being one rebound shy of a double-double — and swiping away six steals for the Defenders (21-6).
“I thought about that all after that game and before this game,” Shamburg said, playing with her third-place medal. “I knew I had two points, but I knew I had to do something to step up because I knew if I didn’t score somehow, or at least do something, we weren’t going to continue with this (tournament).”
Shamburg scored 18 of her 24 points in the second half, including clutch free-throw shooting down the stretch as she went a perfect 10-for-10 from the line.
The Defenders erased a 10-point deficit to Montoursville (15-10), trailing 28-18 midway through the third. They eventually tied the game on Fisher’s free throws with 3:17 to play in the fourth. The Warriors would tie the game at 35-all by sinking both ends of a 1-and-1 by Marissa Hall, but less than 10 seconds later, it was Shamburg who put Warrior Run ahead, 37-35, and held on to prevent a Montoursville comeback.
Fisher ended the night with nine points and a team-high four assists, while both Madi Welliver and Chloe Eisenhuth added four.
“Overall it was a team effort. I told the girls you can come back. We’ve been down by that before and came back,” Weaver said. “I knew we could come back, but we just needed some key stops.”
And part of that defensive effort was from Eisenhuth. The senior guard’s aggressive, scrappy play was more than evident, as she held Montoursville’s best scorer to just two baskets from the floor, one of which was a 3-pointer.
“If she scores, it’s a bonus for us, but we rely on her defense. She stops them and if she fouls, she fouls, but we know she’ll step it up and do the job for us too,” Shamburg said. “Even though no matter how tall someone is, she has the guts to fight with anybody, even if it’s bigger girls.”
O’Malley and Marissa Hall led Montoursville with 11 points a piece, but O’Malley didn’t score a single point from the floor the entire second half. Kelsey Stine added seven points for the Warriors. McKenzie Ruffing had a game-high fie assists and four rebounds in the loss.
The Defenders struggled with turnovers early in the game, committing 15 in the first half alone.
Warrior Run will meet the District 2 champion Friday night at a site and time to be determined.