Williamsport area fans should remember this past season as long as possible and appreciate what they saw. Williamsport, Loyalsock and St. John Neumann captured district titles in the same year for the first time this century and added a combined four state tourney wins.
Those three teams stole the show at season's end but the entire Sun-Gazette area was well represented and produced one of the best seasons in recent memory. Milton captured an unexpected district championship, Sullivan County continued its stellar run, Wellsboro competed in a district final for the first time in 14 years and Muncy reached states again.
Picking all stars and other award winners was an arduous task. Many years those who missed the cut easily could have won top honors. It was that good.
Williamsport's Jahad Thomas is the player of the year
Kyle Datres, Loyalsock
Good luck finding a weakness in the sophomore point guard's game. Datres is an elite defender and one of the district's best passers. A lockdown defender, Datres faciliated a potent offense, dealing 8.6 assists per game while breaking the program's single-season assists record. He averaged close to 10 points per game but created so many more with his passing. Datres also led the team in minutes played and can beat opponents in a variety of ways.
Travis Conrad, Lewisburg
One of the district's premier guards, Conrad was the engine that powered the state's No. 9-ranked Class AA team. Maybe the district's best pure shooter, Conrad could score from anywhere but also was adept at attacking the basket and setting up teammates for quality looks. Conrad made a huge statement in his final scholastic game, scoring a game-high 29 points as Lewisburg nearly upset state finalist Holy Cross in the state tournament's opening round. Conrad helped Lewisburg win 23 games, their most this century.
Isaiah Washington, Williamsport
The Penn State recruit helped Williamsport have an outstanding season, going 23-3 while repeating as District 2-4 Class AAAA champions. Washington again elevated his performance in Williamsport's biggest games while averaging nearly 16 points per game. The three-year starter was among team leaders in nearly every category and provided lock-down defense at times, especially in the district final against Scranton. Possessing a relentless work ethic and competitive drive, Washington has made a big impact at Williamsport and could save the best for last next season.
St. John Neumann
A strong all-state candidate, Johnson had one of the most dominant seasons in Neumann history. The 6-foot-5 center moved from guard to the post after a growth spurt and became the district's most versatile big man. Johnson averaged 18 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and three steals per game while helping Neumann (24-3) capture its district championship since 2000. A three-year starter, Johnson made double-doubles a constant and had 27 points, 18 rebounds, four assists and six steals in a HAC-III championship-clinching win over Muncy. He also shot 12 for 12 in a state tournament win over Harrisburg Christian.
Roger Wilson, Loyalsock
Another potential all-state player, Wilson provided one of the year's best stories, transforming himself into the consummate player and teammate. The team's lone senior starter provided an excellent example in practice and in games while becoming a force on both ends. Wilson averaged 15 points, 11 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game while hitting 61 percent of his shots. The center could alter games with his shot blocking and was outstanding in Loyalsock's biggest games. He recorded 20 double-doubles, and four fourth-quarter blocks in a 51-48 PIAA?playoff win over Comm Tech.
Cole Renninger, Central Mountain
One of the best players in program history, Renninger nearly led Central Mountain to a District 6 Class AAAA championship after it opened the season 0-4. Renninger did it all and was a superb all-around player who helped the Wildcats go 16-7. He averaged 27.2 points, 8.3 rebounds, 4.7 steals and 4.3 assists per game while being the target of nearly every defense CM played. Renninger topped 40 points in consecutive games and broke the single-game program record with 43 points vs. Bellefonte. Renninger scored more than 1,500 career points and will play next season at Lehigh.
Coach of the year
Second runner-up-Glenn Vaughan, Sullivan County: Despite all-state guard Sharif Welton graduating, Vaughan guided Sullivan to a program-record 23 wins. The Griffins (23-4) finished second in District 4 Class A and won a state tournament game for a second straight year. Vaughan quietly has built Sullivan into a district force that has won 64 games the past three seasons and has built a powerful and classy program that continues thriving as the names change.
First runner-up-Jason Gresh, Muncy: The Indians lost their top two scorers to graduation, but Gresh helped them win two more games than the previous season while finishing 18-8 and reaching states for a second straight year. Gresh inherited a program that had fallen on hard times three years ago and has helped it improve each season while increasing its win total each time. Muncy definitely picked the right man to lead it back to prominence.
And the Winner is...Ron Insinger, Loyalsock: Tying the state record for career boys basketball wins was an exclamation point on the best Loyalsock season in 18 years. Insinger led the Lancers to 26 wins, third-best in program history, a second straight District 4 Class AA championship and within one second of the state's Final 4. Loyalsock started four sophomores but improved throughout the season and peaked at the right time. Insinger has won 801 career games and helped senior Roger Wilson become a force in his final season.
Honorable Mention: Allen Taylor, Williamsport; Todd Outman, Wellsboro; Steve Delong, Milton; Paul Petcavage, St. John Neumann; Lance Larcom, Canton; Scott Baker, Central Mountain; John Vaji, Lewisburg
Player of the year
Player of the Year-Jahad Thomas, Williamsport: One of the best players in Williamsport history was the easy choice as Player of the Year for a second straight season. Thomas should receive all-state honors after having one of the best seasons by any Millionaire ever. Thomas averaged 18 points and more than 10 rebounds per game while being among team leaders in nearly every other category. Whenever Williamsport played elite opponents, Thomas played his best games, including in states against Liberty and Chester and against national power Princeton Day Academy. In those three games, Thomas averaged 24 points and nine rebounds while also scoring 16 second-half points in a come-from-behind district championship win. The 6-2 forward played like a 7-footer, consistently outplaying bigger post players.
Second Team: Jordan Cole, St. John Neumann (15 ppg, 4 apg, 3 spg); Jordan Jackson, Wellsboro (13.8 ppg, 3.2 spg, 4.3 rpg); Taylor Hillson, Mansfield (17.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.7 spg); Ammar Sabanovic, Muncy (11 ppg, 11 apg); Pierce Ranck, Montoursville (15.2 ppg); Conner Wylie, Sullivan County (13.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.6 spg)
Third Team: Omar Little, Loyalsock; Chris Kinley, Williamsport; Emmett Watson, Canton; Tristan Jeffreys, Hughesville; Nick Ring, Muncy; Riley Hengler, South Williamsport; Erich Kline, Lewisburg
Honorable Mention: Richard Allen, St. John Neumann; Tyree Vidal, St. John Neumann; Chuck Probst, Bucktail; Eddie Larcom, Canton; Fred Newhart, Hughesville; Eric Huling, Jersey Shore; Cody Confair, Jersey Shore; Sam Allen, Lewisburg; Mike Driscoll, Lewisburg; Jacob Spring, Liberty; Dan Temons, Loyalsock; Reece Correll, Mansfield; Michael Jacobs, Milton; Chad Diggan, Milton; Colton Harer, Montgomery; Serge Cole, Montgomery; Jalile Best, Montoursville; Dawson Fox, Muncy Billy Kolletzki; Brock Jones, South Williamsport; Derek Wilkins, Sullivan County; Kelby Mullen, Sullivan County; Zack Miller, Warrior Run; Matt Reese, Wellsboro; Dylan Prough, Wellsboro; Hunter Huyett, Williamson; Troy Adriance, Williamson; Achilles Watson, Williamsport
Noah Beiter, St. John Neumann: Almost always giving up size underneath, Beiter consistently rose to the challenge and helped anchor a stingy defense. Beiter was excellent at denying entry passes and was not easy to move when he had to guard on the ball. Beiter averaged two steals per game and held Harrisburg Christian 1,000-point scorer Conner Shroyer (24.7 ppg) to no points when he defended him in the state tournament's first round.
Herb Stelly, Williamsport: Often going against the opponent's best guard, Stelly hounded ball-handlers and helped spark a defense that in turn ignited a potent transition offense. The senior point guard held soon-to-be European pro Aquille Carr in check in the big win over Princeton Day Academy and was adept at creating turnovers.
Lucas Hatton, Sullivan County: The Griffins featured one of the district's best defenses and Hatton was its catalyst. The senior relentlessly swarmed opponents and wreaked havoc with his aggressive, tenacious play. Hatton forced numerous turnovers and often guarded the opponent's best player. The senior guard could guard on the perimeter or down low where he made it difficult to pass inside. Hatton held Vaux's Rasheed Jordan, one of the country's top recruits, to just 11 points in his final game.
Matt Reese, Wellsboro: One of the hardest workers and toughest players to ever compete at Wellsboro, Reese sparked an outstanding defense that consistently stifled opponents. Reese and NTL-West MVP Jordan Jackson could take guards right out of games and Reese shut down many outstanding players. He held East Juniata's Nick Lorenz to 10 points when he was averaging more than 20 per game. Reese averaged more than three steals per game and was instrumental to helping Wellsboro winning 23 games and reaching the district final.
Defensive Player of the Year-Kyle Datres, Loyalsock: The sophomore takes the top spot for a second straight year. Nearly every game, Datres was assigned the team's best player and nearly every time he slowed him or shut him down. Whether defending guards or post players, Datres was relentless and his defense was crucial to Loyalsock's success. In four wins against Lewisburg, Datres held Conrad to nine points or fewer and came up big again in the district final against Wellsboro. Datres averaged 4.4 steals per game and those steals consistently fueled a dangerous fast-break offense.
(Not underclassman of year, but a player who made great strides and was not first team all-star)
Second runner-up-Eric Huling, Jersey Shore: The sophomore point guard built off a solid freshman campaign and helped Jersey Shore make a one-win improvement despite losing the majority of its scoring and rebounding from the previous year. One of several talented underclassmen Jersey Shore (10-12) features, Huling is an excellent shooter who attacks the basket and is good at finding teammates. He is a big reason the Bulldogs could be a district title contender in 2014.
First runner-up-Nick Ring, Muncy: Despite playing sparingly as a sophomore, Ring developed into an inside force and helped Muncy win 18 games and finish third in the district. Ring averaged 15 points and more than 10 rebounds per game while owning the paint in a third-place district game against Lourdes. Deceptively fast, Ring was good at running the court in a fast-paced offense and displayed great touch around the basket. His emergence was critical to Muncy's success.
And the winner is...Sam Allen, Lewisburg: Get used to seeing Allen's name in coming years. The 6-foot-6 freshman has big-time potential and could be one of the area's best players the next few years if he keeps progressing. Allen made a big impact in his first season, getting better as the season went on while averaging 10.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and a block per game. Allen has nice vision for a big man and was one of the area's best post players down the stretch. Despite playing with a hip injury, Allen had 15 points, 12 rebounds and 3 blocks in the district semifinals against Loyalsock. Intelligent and versatile, Allen likely will be the foundation Lewisburg builds itsself upon the next three years.
Other Underclassmen to Watch in 2014: Richard Allen, St. John Neumann; Ryan Reid, St. John Neumann; Chuck Probst, Bucktail; Tim Bassett, Canton; Bryant Painter, Cowanesque Valley; Sean Poust, Hughesville; Trey Smith, Hughesville; Zach Miller, Jersey Shore; Cody Confair, Jersey Shore; Nick Costigliola, Lewisburg; Ben Sosa, Loyalsock; Mike Pastore, Loyalsock; Bo Burleigh, Mansfield; Serge Cole, Montgomery; Quinton Persun, Montoursville; Teddy Clark, Muncy; Cody Crum, North Penn; Brock Jones, South Williamsport; Sean McCormick, South Williamsport; Sean Flannery, Sullivan County; Adam Szklanka, Sullivan County; Kieron Smethers, Wellsboro; Dawson Prough, Wellsboro; Nyric Gosley, Williamsport