Arrive early to watch the Montgomery junior varsity basketball team play, and one will see freshman Dionna Satteson playing nearly the entire game and making a big impact.
Stick around to watch the varsity game and fans will see the same thing.
Satteson opened the season as primarily a JV player who dressed, but did not play much varsity. That has changed the last few weeks and the result have been sudden. As Satteson's playing time has increased so have Montgomery's wins. A team that once was 4-7 and in playoff jeopardy suddenly is 8-8 and looks like a dangerous sleeper if it qualifies.
The freshman is not the only reason Montgomery has improved so much, but she is a big reason. Close to 6-feet tall, Satteson is one of the team's tallest players but she also has great speed and instincts that have allowed her to become a rebounding and defensive force.
"She's a ninth grader with all kinds of energy, talent and athleticism," Montgomery coach Craig Weaver Sr. said. "She is just a delight."
Weaver started giving Satteson significant minutes a little more than two weeks ago against Benton and all-state candidate Justine Seeley. Satteson made Seeley, one of the district's highest scorers, earn every basket and helped Montgomery stay within single digits before fouling out in the fourth quarter. That seemed to serve as a launching pad and Satteson has been playing well ever since, helping the Raiders win four of their last five games.
Included in that stretch are wins over St. John Neumann (9-5) and Millville (8-6), a team that handed Muncy its only league loss and that has a dominant post player in Madi Bower. Satteson made runs at double-doubles in both games and helped the Raiders hold them to a 39-point average. Two nights later, Satteson nearly helped Montgomery upset Muncy, scoring four points, grabbing 13 rebounds, blocking two shots and making two steals. Coming off the bench, she had nine rebounds by halftime.
Because she is only a freshman, Satteson still has a lot to work on but the bonus for Weaver is that she wants to work hard and wants to become better. Already a strong rebounder and defender who can run the court like a guard, Satteson is becoming a more dangerous offensive player too. She scored a career-high 14 points in last Thursday's 57-44 win over Bucktail.
What Satteson is doing is especially impressive considering she is sometimes playing eight quarters a night. The more she plays, the better she gets and she has a motor that does not stop. And all Weaver can do is feel fortunate that he has Satteson for three more years.
"Dionna Satteson is the real deal," he said. "The instincts there, her height is a major factor and she works hard. She is going to be very good."
FINDING A WAY: Muncy trailed Montgomery by 13 in that game last Tuesday and made just 2 of its first 25 shots. From an offensive perspective, it might have been Muncy's worst performance, but it still found a way to win. Teams have nights when the shots do not fall, but Muncy showed as much about its resolve as its talent by overcoming that, holding Montgomery to three second-half points and prevailing, 34-28.
"Only a bridge separates us so any time it's a rival like that you have to step up," Muncy coach Craig Weaver Jr. said. "I don't think we really wanted to lose."
Muncy trailed by nine at halftime but put on a defensive clinic in the second half and did not allow a field goal. The offense still struggled but the defense generated points, Charity Good became a force underneath and the Indians matched Montgomery's intensity. Weaver Jr. does not want Muncy repeating that offensive performance but there is something to be said for winning when everything else seems to be working against a team.
As ugly as it might have looked at times, Muncy might be able to use that game as a springboard in a loaded District 4 Class AA field.
"It was pretty big for us," said Good after grabbing 14 rebounds. "The first half tonight was a little rough so the second half was especially crucial. It was a really tough game and everybody was fighting hard and it was a good win."
DIFFERENT LOOK: After losing 43-18 to Montoursville last Wednesday, Loyalsock adjusted its offense Saturday against Lincoln Leadership Academy. And the early returns are impressive. Loyalsock (6-9) played its best game this season and shattered its previous high in points while romping to a 66-21 win. The Lancers (6-9) shot the ball well, moved it well and had a nice inside-outside game while showing the signs of a team that could still find its way into the playoffs.
"We changed the offense a little bit and spread the floor more and the girls did a nice job executing," Loyalsock coach Demarr Wright said. "The girls liked the offense and they played extremely well."
The Lancers exceeded their offensive output against Montoursville by early in the second quarter and received strong performances from starters and reserves. Emily McKernan hit four 3-pointers, Taylor Daskivich recorded a double-double and Cellina Salvatori made four steals off the bench. More impressive, Loyalsock hit 16 of 22 shots at one point while outscoring Lincoln, 37-5 in the second half.
PUTBACKS: This is a big week in the NTL-West. Wellsboro (8-9, 5-1) is tied for first with Williamson and a game ahead of Mansfield (10-4, 4-2). The Green Hornets play both teams and Mansfield meets Williamson and if someone can sweep those games it takes control of the race ... Galeton (11-6) clinched a District 4 Class A playoff berth when it defeated Bucktail, 58-42. The Tigers have had a huge turnaround season after going 3-19 last year ... Mansfield senior Molly Wood is having an outstanding season and highlighted it with a career-high 27-point performance in a 46-38 win over North Penn. Wood also had seven rebounds and seven steals. Montgomery's Corrine Shaffer scored a career-high 24 points in back-to-back wins over Bucktail and Sullivan County.
Dr. Masse's top five in girls basketball
(information and records through Saturday's games)
1. Montoursville (13-3): The Warriors made a huge statement last Wednesday, beating four-time defending District 4 Class A champion Lourdes, 41-36. Lourdes (14-3) is good enough year in and year out to win district titles in any classification and was a night removed from beating perennial power Marian Catholic. Montoursville continues playing outstanding in big moments, rallying in the fourth quarter to beat a strong team for the third time in the past month. Carly Mill has excelled in the fourth quarter of comebacks against Lewisburg and Lourdes while the defense continues to stifle opponents. Montoursville is tied for first in District 4 Class AA and with Mount Carmel in the HAC-II.
2. Lewisburg (11-4): The Green Dragons have won eight of their last 10 games and the two losses are by a combined five points. Lewisburg is undefeated at home and still is in the running for a District 4 Class AA top seed. Senior Lois Lesher is having a nice season and scored 11 points, grabbed seven rebounds and blocked six shots in Saturday's 49-40 win over Bellefonte. Lesher has four games this season in which she has blocked six shots.
3. Warrior Run (9-5): The Defenders are playing as well as anyone in District 4 Class AA right now and have won four straight. They avenged a 17-point loss to Lewisburg last week, beating the Dragons, 51-48 and have been excelling in close games. Warrior Run's last two wins are by five combined points and the Defenders are showing why, despite an 0-5 HAC-II start, they are so dangerous. The Defenders have won three straight league games and are two wins from clinching a fourth straight playoff berth, impressive for a program that had won three games combined in the two seasons prior to this run. Point guard Tay Parker is averaging 16 points in her last three games.
4. Muncy (11-3): The Indians trail Benton by one game in the HAC-III and play them twice in a six-night span starting Saturday on the road. Muncy is seeking its first league title this decade and is playoff-bound for a fourth straight season. After having not had a winning season since 2004, the Indians have won 42 games in Weaver's first three seasons there. Junior guard Jordan Jones can do it all and even on a night when she did not shoot well, she still made a big impact against Montgomery. The three-year starter had 11 points, five assists, five rebounds and five steals.
5. Milton (8-6): The Black Panthers have been outstanding over the past month, winning eight of their last 10 games while emerging as HAC-I and District 4 Class AAA title contenders. Milton is just one game behind Danville in the HAC-I and avenged a previous loss by beating Shikellamy, 47-39 last Tuesday. Senior Emily Baker has been playing terrific and had 17 points and seven rebounds in that win while Katelyn Gensel added 13 points and 11 rebounds off the bench.
Player of the week
Lori Horton, Williamson: The junior is having one of the most dominant seasons in program history and it continued last week as Horton posted two straight triple-doubles. One of the district's tallest players had 20 points, 23 rebounds and 10 blocks in a 64-47 win over North Penn before scoring 20 points, grabbing a career-high 29 rebounds and blocking 10 more shots in a 55-43 win over Galeton. That is 52 rebounds in two games and that is pretty remarkable.
Game of the week
Montoursville at Lewisburg: The Warriors end a tough week that started against Warrior Run Friday in yet another potential playoff preview. Montoursville overcame an 11-point third-quarter deficit to beat Lewisburg, 34-32. Expect another close and hard-fought HAC-II contest this time.