DANVILLE — Loyalsock took some time to start clicking on offense, but once it did Danville rarely stopped the Lancers from scoring at will.
Saraj Ali scored a game-high 25 points for Loyalsock, and the Ironmen fell to the defending District 4 Class 3A champ, 69-50, on Saturday.
Danville (1-1, 1-0 PHAC-I) jumped out to a 17-13 lead after the first quarter, operating a half-court offense efficiently, and creating a few buckets on backdoor cuts to the rim.
However, the Lancers (2-0) started to overpower Danville on the offensive glass in the second period, converting on a slew of second-chance looks inside.
Loyalsock also scored several buckets in transition, with Ali converting more often than not.
“That’s our bread-and-butter,” Loyalsock coach Ron Insinger said of his squad’s fast-break game. “We call it ‘Lancer Lightning.’ When we don’t have Lancer Lightning, we struggle. We knew we needed our spark and more enthusiasm at the start of the second quarter, and we picked it up after that. If you can’t get excited to play Danville, shame on you.”
“They love that high screen-and-roll,” Danville coach Gary Grozier said. “We didn’t allow (Ali) too many looks out of set plays, but he got a lot of offensive rebounds on us and made some putbacks. I thought he also looked good in transition off of turnovers. He hustles back down and he’s able to be there for those outlet passes. He’s just a really good all-around player.”
Not only did Ali score a game-high 25, but the junior forward also added 22 rebounds to complete the strong double-double.
“We count on (Saraj) a lot,” Insinger said. “This was a battle of two heavyweights. Danville is going to have a fantastic season, and I’m hoping we do too. The only thing is we don’t have a lot of depth. So the boys that we have on the court have to come to play every night, and they did tonight.”
Dante Harward was Danville’s leader with 15 points on 5-of-14 shooting. He converted three shots from beyond the arc after hammering home six treys the night before when he put up a career-high 36 points at Shikellamy.
However, Danville struggled with its shooting throughout, especially in the second quarter when it made just one of 11 shots from the field.
“We just didn’t execute offensively,” Grozier said. “It’s a make-or-miss game, and tonight we missed and (Loyalsock) made. That’s part of it. When you go cold, it’s tough to get it back, and we didn’t get it back. There were stretches in the third quarter where I thought we had it, but then we went on a dry spell again. When that happens, it’s tough. We scored just six in the second and 11 in the third, and, at the same time, we’re giving up 14 and 20, which is just too many.
“Loyalsock is a very good defensive team, but we did have some open looks that we missed. Our bad execution led to easy shots for them, and that makes it difficult.”
The victory was extra special for the Lancers since it came against the only team that defeated them during the 2019-20 season. They avenged their 10-point loss in last season’s Heartland Athletic Conference tournament championship game. In fact, Loyalsock has won 58 of its last 61 games dating back to the end of the 2017-18 campaign. Two of those three losses were at the hands of Danville.
“We talked about that a lot this week; we said we owed the Ironmen a favor,” Insinger said. “I’m proud of our kids for how they bounced back because Danville controlled the first portion of the game. We didn’t do a whole lot right in the first quarter, but our kids didn’t give up and throw in the towel.”
LOYALSOCK 69, DANVILLE 50
Eli Gair 3 1-4 8, Saraj Ali 10 5-6 25, Idris Ali 3 0-0 7, Dom Jennings 9 0-0 21, Julian Wilson 4 0-1 8. Totals 29 6-11 69.
3-point goals: Jennings 3, Gair, I. Ali.
Did not score: Sean Jensen.
Jagger Dressler 4 0-0 8, Zach Gordon 2 0-0 4, Connor Kozick 2 0-0 6, Dante Harward 5 2-2 15, Aiden Wiktor 4 1-2 9, KJ Riley 2 2-4 6, Brady Hall 1 0-2 2. Totals 20 5-10 50.
3-poin goals: Harward 3, Kozick 2.
Did not score: None.
Score by quarters
Loyalsock 13 14 20 22 — 69
Danville 17 6 11 16 — 50