Her uncle is one of Lycoming County's all-time best athletes, playing Major League Baseball before becoming a Japanese Baseball legend.
So yes, Montoursville's Kirsten O'Malley has good genes and is well-rounded just like her uncle, Tom O'Malley, was. The sophomore is proving it this season, making the difficult transition of going from center to point guard.
And she is making it look easy.
O'Malley has been the engine powering Montoursville early this season and is a big reason it is off to its best start since the 1999-2000 season when Kelly Mazzante was a senior. The versatile sophomore is averaging 17 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and six steals per game. The Warriors (7-1) captured last week's Montoursville Tournament championship for the first time since 2006 and have won six consecutive games.
The two-year starter displayed her whole arsenal at the tournament, capturing MVP honors and scoring 41 points in the two wins, including 53-42 over two-time defending champion Williamsport.
"I like it (point guard) a lot, but wherever they need me to play, I'll play," O'Malley said. "It's definitely exciting and it's a change of pace."
Dr. Masse's Top 5
1. Montoursville (7-1)
As well as Montoursville is playing, it has only scratched the surface of what it can do. Even though there is experience on this team, it still features mostly underclassmen and every girl in the rotation is capable of having a big game. Starters and reserves played well at the tournament and this is a group that is accustomed to winning at all levels in different sports. The defense might be the area's best and the offense has a lot of potential so this team's upside is even better than its record indicates.
2. Lewisburg (3-2)
The Green Dragons have had a long layoff and will play for the first time in 11 nights when they meet Mifflinburg Thursday. While standout point guard Maria Kelleher and forward Lois Lesher are seniors this team mirrors Montoursville in many of the above ways. This could be quite a rivalry over the next few years.
3. Warrior Run (5-2)
It speaks volumes about how far Warrior Run has come during Jon Weaver's tenure that when he took over the Defenders were coming off a winless season. Five years later, they are now three-time defending Warrior Run Christmas Tournament champions. Warrior Run won a 45-42 thriller and handed Muncy its first loss Friday in what could be a district playoff preview. Steph Shamburg was the tournament MVP but Laura Bastian returning from injury is a big storyline. A well-rounded athlete who has played in three state championships in soccer and softball, Bastian scored 18 points in two of her first three games back and adds depth to a team that is starting to click.
4. Muncy (6-1)
Despite Friday's loss the Indians are still off to their best start in more than a decade and are tied for first with Benton in the HAC-III. Junior guard Jordan Jones is one of the area's best and scored 31 points at the Warrior Run tournament, including a season-high 19 in a 54-26 win over Montgomery. Sophomore guard Brianna McLaughlin is just as dangerous on both ends and is averaging 15 points per game.
5. Mansfield (5-2)
The Tigers had their holiday tournament wiped out by inclement weather so will be coming off a big layoff when they open their NTL-West season at Liberty Thursday. Mansfield is a few plays from being 7-0, has not lost to a Class A team and looks like the team to beat as it tries winning its first league title in five years.
Player of the Week
Kirsten O'Malley, Montoursville
To highlight how much progress O'Malley is making consider that she has scored at least 13 points in every game a year after averaging fewer than nine per game while continuing to play outstanding defense.
Game of the Week
Muncy at St. John Neumann
Saturday's game could be a big one in the HAC-III between teams who are a combined 11-2. The Knights are seeking their first win over Muncy three years while the Indians will be trying to show that the road to a league championship goes through it.
O'Malley has good height for a guard and her size was the main reason she played underneath last year since Montoursville lacked that. But coach Kevin Kurtz knows how dangerous O'Malley can be in the backcourt and at the front of a swarming press, so he made the switch. He, O'Malley and the entire team have been happy with the results.
In addition to being a good outside shooter, O'Malley is usually one of the fastest players on the court. She also is a good passer and has good vision. Basically, she has all the tools a quality point guard needs. What has to be especially encouraging for Montoursville is that O'Malley still has the rest of this season and two more years to keep growing into that role and flourishing at it.
"We had Kirsten at the five-spot but thought she would be tougher to cover at the point," Kurtz said. "As Kirsten goes, we go and she's been doing a really good job."
O'Malley scored 19 points, made nine steals and dealt six assists in a 56-19 win over Troy last Thursday. A tenacious defender, O'Malley creates offense with her defense. Even in half-court sets, though, she is dangerous, draining outside shots, attacking the basket and setting up teammates for good shots.
A year ago, O'Malley showed glimpses of what she could become. She was playing a new position but was one of the team's leading rebounders and defenders. She still is, but she is so much more this year. O'Malley is building on a family tradition and is making her coach look pretty smart these days.
"I like point guard better," O'Malley said. "It's more fun. It's exciting."
So is O'Malley.
Williamsport coach Derek Slaughter started for the 1999 Williamsport state champions so he knows what a good point guard looks like. He also knows he has a potential standout in freshman point guard Chloe Jennings. She is a work in progress, but is making strides and has shown in flashes the skills that could make her one of the area's premier players the next few years.
Williamsport (2-5) took second at the Montoursville Tournament and Jennings was key in its 42-40 first-round win over Wellsboro. When the Millionaires went on a pivotal fourth-quarter run it was Jennings igniting it with two straight baskets, including a 3-pointer. In their other win, Jennings made six steals, grabbed six rebounds and scored a season-high 15 points as the Millionaires rallied from 11 down to beat Westinghouse in overtime.
It is not a coincidence that when Williamsport has won, Jennings has been at her best. She also handled Montoursville's swarming full-court press well and helped Williamsport rally after a slow start.
The freshman is still learning and Williamsport's schedule is downright brutal the next few weeks, so growing pains may result, but Jennings looks like a keeper. And the Millionaires should be in good hands the next three seasons.
"We're expecting a lot from her but have to remember that she is a freshman. She plays well at times and as she gains more experience she's just going to get better and better," Slaughter said. "She is still a freshman so it's a lot to handle right now but she's doing everything we ask of her and is coming through."
Wednesday's Bucktail at St. John Neumann game should be an entertaining one featuring the area's two leading scorers. Bucktail sophomore Maria Morgan is averaging 32.8 points per game and Neumann junior Meghan Trenholm is averaging 23.2 ... Galeton (6-3) took second at the Port Allegany Tournament and has already doubled its win total from last season ... Milton is starting to make some progress and took third at the Warrior Run Tournament, beating Montgomery, 43-32, in the consolation game. Three players have scored in double figures the last three games, a boost for what had been a struggling offense ... Wellsboro (3-7) has lost four games by five points or fewer. Senior Mackenzie Marple is having a terrific season and the Green Hornets are loaded with young talent. Do not be surprised if Wellsboro is in the NTL-West title picture all season.
Masse may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.