By Jon Gerardi
The Daily Item
It seemed early on Friday that no matter who took the shot for Lewisburg, it just wasn’t going to go in. The senior duo of Maria Kelleher and Lois Lesher struggled against a tough Muncy defense, routinely seeing their shots come up just short or hit off the rim.
Then the Green Dragons started finding some rhythm in the second quarter.
A Lesher layup followed by an Emily Conrad 3-pointer and, despite an ominous start, it was suddenly just a one-point game.
That’s when the Indians responded.
In just a 30-second span, Jordan Jones and Gina Paisley each hit 3-pointers to put Lewisburg down by seven. The Green Dragons couldn’t overcome the deficit as Muncy defeated Lewisburg, 41-31, in the District 4 Class AA third-place game on Friday in “The Jungle” at Milton High School.
The win advances Muncy to the state tournament for the third straight year, while Lewisburg’s season ended at 17-9.
“We came out flat and I’m not sure why,” Lewisburg coach Phil Stamm said. “We got ourselves into a hole we couldn’t get out of.”
Lewisburg didn’t record a single basket from the floor in the first quarter, scoring just three points from the foul line. The Dragons’ first field goal came with 4:37 to play in the half.
Muncy ended the half with a Crystal Good putback with just one tick showing on the scoreboard to make it 19-10. Lewisburg responded with a 13-point third quarter to make it a 26-23 game, but Jones proved to be a tough force to slow down for the Indians. The junior guard scored a game-high 21 points while also recording three steals and four rebounds.
“When we got to the playoffs she (Jones) came up and said, ‘Coach, I want this and I want it bad,’ and her play, you let it speak for herself,” Muncy coach Craig Weaver Jr. said. “Talk’s cheap — you got to do it on the floor. She stepped up and she answered that.”
Kelleher (12 points, four rebounds, two steals) sank a 3-pointer to make it 29-26. That’s when Jones scored seven straight to put the Indians up by eight. Defensively, Muncy kept Lewisburg from getting many open looks.
“We had a few series where we got some stops and we made a couple of shots, but we couldn’t quite get there,” Stamm said. “A big play or two by them and it just extended the lead.”
The Dragons went the final 4:12 without scoring a basket from the floor. Two free throws by Haley Stanko with 2:47 to play made it a 35-31 game before Muncy closed it out with six points from the line to go up 10.
A few unfortunate breaks late in the game hurt the Dragons as well. With 1:21 to play and trailing by just six, Muncy’s Charity Good missed two free throws. Stanko went to grab a rebound, only to have it slip out of her hands as Muncy’s Jones scooped up the loose ball. Jones then went to the line and sank two free throws to put Muncy ahead 39-31 with 1:13 to play.
“We really talked about being able to pressure the ball and then setting in and not allowing any lanes to the basket, and I think the girls did an outstanding job of that,” Weaver Jr. said. “Every time they attacked the basket, we had two or three girls around them. We were a little relaxed on the rebounding in the first half and that’s what we talked about at halftime, but overall, the defense really stepped up and we held them to 31 points, which was the best we’ve done in the last few games.”
The loss ends Lewisburg’s season on a sour note, especially for the seniors.
“We felt like we had a team that was good enough to still be playing next week (in the state tournament). So it’s hard to end it this way,” Stamm said. “Maria’s a four-year starter (and), Lois was big for us the last couple of years (with her) inside presence defensively (and) just a really super hard effort player. We’re definitely going to miss both of them.”
Muncy plays District 2 champion Dunmore in the state tournament Friday at a site and time to be determined.