Alison Tagliaferri coaches like she played. She is passionate, she puts everything into it and she works relentlessly.
And that is a big reason Lewisburg point guard Maria Kelleher knew Tagliaferri was the right college coach for her. She knew that was why Mansfield University was where she should be. Really in Tagliaferri, Kelleher saw a lot of herself.
Tagliaferri, arguably the greatest player in Mansfield and Jersey Shore history, is now Mansfield's head coach and landed a big recruit last fall when Kelleher signed. Kelleher was deciding between Catholic University and Mansfield but after getting to know Tagliaferri her mind was made up.
"It was really hard to pick but then I knew Mansfield was the one. The program is so good and I love the coach and I'm really looking forward to playing there next year," Kelleher said. "I fell in love with the school when I went there. She (Tagliaferri) is great. She's a younger coach and she has a lot of experience on and off the court on a personal level and that's why I love her as a coach."
Tagliaferri is hoping to build a winner at Mansfield and she has a good future piece in Kelleher. The four-year starter can do it all, leading Lewisburg in scoring and assists the last two years and helping it reach the playoffs the past three seasons. This season, the Dragons are (10-3) and look like a serious District 4 Class AA title contender after winning seven of their last eight games and downing HAC-II heavyweight Southern Columbia, 45-39 Saturday.
Kelleher is a big reason why. She is the team's most experienced player, is an excellent shooter, is adept at getting to the basket, passes well and plays solid defense. She is averaging 18 points and that whole package was on display last Wednesday when she scored 25 points in a 45-30 win at Loyalsock.
"Maria is a great player and we all value her a lot," senior center Lois Lesher said.
"She is the best guard we've seen because she can do it all," Loyalsock coach Demarr Wright said. "She can shoot the 3-pointer, she can get to the basket, she's a great foul shooter and she handles the basketball really well."
Just as important, Kelleher has grown into a leader. That is huge since Lewisburg is a young team that starts three sophomores. As a freshman, Kelleher was the new face on an experienced team three years ago but she has grown into this role the last few years. She has the experience, she has the smarts and now she is becoming a leader on and off the floor.
Whether helping organize "Applebee's Nights," or simply getting to know her younger teammates on a personal level away from basketball, Kelleher has gone the extra mile to help this team maximize its potential. The results thus far speak for themselves.
"I feel like some of the girls look up to me and I'm trying to help them understand the game more and trying to be a leader to the underclassmen as well," Kelleher said.
"Maria has been playing really well lately, knocking down the shots when she has the opportunity and becoming more cognizant of trying not to do too much," Lewisburg coach Phil Stamm said. "She's really grown just in this season a lot."
Expect that growth to continue at Mansfield. Tagliaferri likes players who share the competitive fire that made her so good. Kelleher has that.
Kelleher's scholastic career is coming to an end. It looks like the growth is just starting, however. And the best years could be ahead.
FINDING A WAY: Warrior Run made just 22 percent of its shots Saturday and missed 15 of 16 in the fourth quarter. And it still won, 32-30. The Defenders endured their worst shooting performance this season but still beat a team desperate for a win and that is encouraging moving forward. Warrior Run (8-5) has won three straight and winning when things are not going well is something all good teams must do at some point.
"We talk about playing tough like that all the time," Warrior Run coach Jon Weaver said. "We just struggled to get anything going offensively but Chloe (Eisenhuth) and Tay (Parker) made some huge steals down the stretch and Abby Fisher owned the boards down the stretch and that was the difference. It might have been ugly, but it's a win and all that is all that matters."
PUTBACKS: Montgomery (6-7) had a big week downing Millville and St. John Neumann while putting itself back into the District 4 Class A playoff picture. The Red Raiders beat Millville three nights before it stunned Muncy and stifled a dangerous Neumann offense. Corrine Shaffer is running the offense well, Katie Scarborough is coming on strong and freshman Dionna Satteson has made a big difference since getting increased playing time ... North Penn has made some nice strides this season, already increasing its win total by two from last season and handing Wellsboro its only league loss. Sophomore Mariah Berguson is having a breakout year and had 17 points along with eight steals in a 48-30 win over Troy. Kaitlyn Garverick also is playing well and had 18 rebounds in that win ... Mansfield is a game out of first in the NTL-West but has not yet lost to a Class A team. Its four losses are to larger schools by a combined 12 points. Three players are averaging in double figures and Madison York is coming on strong, scoring 12 points in consecutive wins.
Dr. Masse's top five in girls basketball
1. Montoursville (11-3): The Warriors are proving as tough and resilient as they are talented. Three nights after scoring only nine points over the final three quarters in a loss to Mount Carmel, Montoursville erased a nine-point deficit at Central Columbia and won a 56-53 overtime thriller. The Warriors overcame a 13-point deficit the previous week against Lewisburg and are playoff-bound for a second straight year. Montoursville is tied for first in the HAC-II and seniors Kayla Venema and Ally Yocum provided a nice lift off the bench in the Central win.
2. Lewisburg (10-3): That Montoursville dramatic comeback is the only thing preventing Lewisburg from having an eight-game winning streak. The Dragons made a nice statement against Southern and are just one out in both the HAC-II and the fight for a District 4 Class AA top seed. Sophomore Emily Conrad has a nice all-around game and scored 15 points against Southern Columbia. Senior Lois Lesher is a strong rebounder and had a double-double against Southern after blocking six shots against Loyalsock.
3. Warrior Run (8-5): Fisher is providing the Defenders with another weapon. Most defenses focus on trying to stop Parker and Steph Shamburg, but Fisher is coming on strong and averaged 10 points in three victories last week. Fisher played a dominant game against Williamson in districts last year and is a hard worker who rebounds well, plays good defense and can take her game inside or outside.
4. Muncy (10-3): The Indians, who played Benton last night in a huge HAC-III game, are in the midst of a difficult stretch. Muncy also plays Montgomery tomorrow and that will be the third time in four days it has played while not being able to practice in between. The Indians did not play well against Millville, but also were hurt by Millville shooting 35 free throws compared to their nine. Despite that loss, Muncy still has a shot at earning one of the top seeds in District 4 Class AA and has three players averaging more than nine points per game. Gina Paisley also is a threat and hit three 3-pointers against Millville.
5. Wellsboro (7-8): The record might not be impressive, but the Green Hornets have won four straight and have beaten Mansfield (9-4) and Williamson (9-4) to take control of the NTL-West. Wellsboro stymied Williamson, 41-26 last week and several young players are starting to complement standout Mackenzie Marple while Kim Acorn has been flourishing. This is a dangerous team that lost five of its eight games by five points or fewer and it seems to be jelling at a good time.
Player of the week
Corrine Shaffer, Montgomery: The junior point guard is having a strong season and scored 35 points in wins over Millville and Neumann. She scored a career-high 23 points against Millville and does a nice job running the offense while also passing the ball well and playing solid defense.
Game of the week
Warrior Run at Montoursville: Two potential district title contenders meet again Friday in a rematch of an exciting game played three weeks ago. Montoursville rallied on the road in the fourth quarter and won that game, 50-45. Both teams are dangerous, play strong defense and play as hard as any teams around. This should be a fun one.