Lewisburg point guard Maria Kelleher scored 25 points Wednesday at Loyalsock. Center Lois Lesher might have taken away just as many.
Lesher blocked six shots and altered many more, making Loyalsock players think twice about coming into the lane. Kelleher's scoring and Lesher's scoring denials were an unbeatable combination as Lewisburg romped to a 45-30 win. The Green Dragons (9-3, 4-2 HAC-II) have won six of their last seven games and Lesher is a big reason why.
"I'm a defensive-minded player and I really like helping my team out there. We have a lot of players that are really good offensively so I do what I can on defense," said Lesher, who added six rebounds. "We have a lot of girls that can block shots and I try to use my height to my advantage as best as I can."
Lewisburg's Emily Lesher drives to the basket on Wednesday night at Loyalsock.
She uses it quite well. The senior center blocked three shots in the game's first five minutes and set a defensive tone as Lewisburg rode Kelleher's hot shooting and built a 14-4 lead that was never seriously threatened. Loyalsock (5-7, 1-5) made just 5 of 37 shots through three quarters and Lesher consistently altered the shots that she did not block.
Lesher might not be one of the team's premier scorers, but what she does defensively is just as valuable. The younger sister of former Lewisburg standout Emily, Lesher is carrying on the family tradition, blocking 12 shots in her last two games. Four times this season, she has blocked at least six shots.
"I stress defense as much as anything. You play good defense you can keep yourself in the game and Lois does a great job inside of blocking shots, changing shots and getting rebounds and that's definitely a big part," Lewisburg coach Phil Stamm said. "I think that's huge because if you can get in the lane you can't draw up any better offensive play than beating somebody off the dribble and if they get in there and think they can't finish then they're hesitant to attack the basket and that makes it a lot tougher to score."
While Lesher anchored the defense, Kelleher controlled the offense. The Mansfield University-recruit scored a season-high 25 points, outscored Loyalsock by herself for much of the game and added three rebounds along with three steals. Kelleher drove the lane well, earning 12 foul shots, and also hit two 3-pointers while making eight straight shots from the line and field between the first and second quarters.
By the time Lewisburg took a 23-9 lead early in the second quarter, Kelleher already had 15 points.
"Warming up before the game really helps so I was on and ready to go," Kelleher said. "I knew I was going to make those."
Kelleher ran the offense well and displayed good leadership as did Lesher. They are the team's senior leaders and are surrounded in the starting lineup by three sophomores. Those five are starting to jell and show how dangerous they can be. Their only loss during the last seven games is a two-point heart-breaker at HAC-II leader Montoursville.
Lewisburg continued playing well as a team last night and led 34-13 midway through the third quarter. Emily Conrad displayed her versatility, scoring eight points, grabbing seven rebounds and dealing four assists while twin sister Kasey played excellent defense and Lenore Doyle made three steals.
"The younger girls like the Conrad twins and Haley Stanko and Lenore, they have improved so much from the beginning of the year," Kelleher said. "From the end of last year we have grown as a team and really work hard and play really good defense together."
"We're all kind of getting into our personal games," Lesher said. "We're using that to play as a team and we're all trying to capitalize on our strengths to help as a team."
Katy Burdett was outstanding in the fourth quarter, igniting a Loyalsock run. The senior guard scored eight points and made 4 of 5 shots during that time and her steal and layup made it 43-30 with 1:05 remaining.
Burdett's fourth-quarter performance was just the jolt Loyalsock needed and could provide a boost heading into Saturday's game at Warrior Run.
"Katy played extremely well in the fourth quarter," Loyalsock coach Demarr Wright said. "I told her I need her to play one through four, though, not just the fourth quarter, but she did do a really good job."
Burdett added three steals and Sam Pagana added six rebounds for Loyalsock which has to win six of its last 10 games to reach districts.
Maria Kelleher 6 10-12 25, Emily Conrad 2 3-4 8, Kasey Conrad 0 0-0 0, Lois Lesher 2 0-2 4, Haley Stanko 2 0-0 4, Lenore Doyle 1 0-0 2, Emily Aukerman 1 0-0 2, Kirsten Blakeslee 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 13-18 45.
Allie Pagana 1 0-1 2, Sam Pagana 1 1-4 3, Taylor Daskivich 1 2-2 4, Katy Burdett 4 0-1 8, Megan McKernan 0 0-0 0, Cellina Salvatori 0 3-4 3, Gianna Ginobile 0 0-0 0, Kendall Watkins 2 1-2 6, Abby Sullivan 1 0-0 2, Angie Cardillo 0 0-0 0, Emma Fox 1 0-0 2. Totals 10 7-14 30.
Lewisburg14 10 10 11-45
Loyalsock4 8 5 13-30
3-pointers: Lewisburg 4 (Kelleher 3, E. Conrad); Loyalsock 1 (Watkins).
Records: Lewisburg 9-3, 4-2 HAC-II. Loyalsock 5-7, 1-5.
JV Score: Loyalsock 31-26.