Muncy missed being a Class A team once again by one girl. That meant the Indians entered a loaded Class AA field as the smallest school.
It did not mean their expectations changed. After reaching the Class A state tournament the last two seasons, Muncy was determined to show it could play with the big girls. It did too, finishing third in the district while reaching states once again. Muncy was the only area girls team to reach states and it is no coincidence that it features several headliners in the 2013 Sun-Gazette Gazette Girls Basketball Awards.
Lori Horton, Williamson
Bucktail's Maria Morgan is the Sun-Gazette girls basketball player of the year
The junior center had one of the best seasons in program history and was a dominant NTL-West force. Horton averaged 16.3 points, 16.4 rebounds and six blocks per game while helping Williamson (17-6) capture its first league title in 11 years. The 6-foot-3 center took over many games and had 20 points, 23 rebounds and 10 blocks in a late-season win over North Penn. Horton grabbed a career-high 29 rebounds in her following game against Galeton.
One of the district's most well-rounded players, Jones continued building her legacy at Muncy. The three-year starter has been at the heart of the program's resurgence and had her best season yet. The versatile point guard averaged 13.7 points, 4.6 assists, 4 rebounds and 3.6 steals per game while sparking Muncy on both ends. Just as important, Jones continued serving as a big team leader while making her teammates better. Jones has displayed a knack for playing her best in big games and helped Muncy clinch its state berth with a 22-point, 6-rebound, 4-steal performance against Lewisburg.
Kirsten O'Malley, Montoursville
Like Jones, O'Malley was an offensive and defensive catalyst. She had the best all-around season by a Warrior since Tesa McKibben graduated four years ago. O'Malley moved from center to point guard and made it look easy. The sophomore averaged 15 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists per game while playing smothering defense. She was the engine that powered Montoursville and can wreak havoc with her speed, passing and defense.
Steph Shamburg, Warrior Run
Quickly becoming one of the best players in Warrior Run history, Shamburg again made a huge impact and helped the Defenders reach districts for a fourth straight year. The hard-working forward averaged 16.5 points, 10.7 rebounds and 2.9 rebounds per game while helping Warrior Run (14-9) win nine of its last 13 regular-season games. Shamburg was the focal point of nearly every defense Warrior Run encountered but still consistently produced and also was a tremendous low-post defender. The three-year starter produced double-doubles nearly every time she took the court.
Aisha Evans, Williamsport
It would be fun to see Evans play next year when her young teammates are older and more experienced. That would make for a fantastic team because Evans was a fantastic player despite the team's youth. Displaying outstanding versatility, Evans played like a 7-footer, despite being 5-9 and consistently outperformed bigger post players. The senior did it all, averaging 16.6 points and eight rebounds per game while consistently making steals and coming up big inside. Evans made an impressive statement against Wyoming Valley West, scoring 27 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and making eight steals.
Meghan Trenholm, St. John Neumann
If Trenholm continues on her current pace she might own nearly every significant Neumann record by the time she graduates. The junior guard enjoyed another fantastic season, doing everything Neumann needed her to while leading it to a record fifth straight playoff appearance. The all-state candidate can play all five positions and, despite being 5-7, often has to guard post players and does so well. She averaged a career-high 18.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and 6.2 steals per game while encountering junk defenses on a consistent basis. She has never missed a game in three years and already has scored 1,222 points.
Coach of the Year
Second runner-up-Kevin Kurtz, Montoursville: For a second straight season, Kurtz led Montoursville to one of its best seasons in the past decade. The Warriors went 16-7, recording their most wins since 2002, and led the HAC-II for much of the season. More impressive, Montoursville did so with no senior starters and four sophomores in the starting lineup. The Warriors could be the area's team to beat next preseason.
First runner-up-Aaron Slusser, Milton: Slusser has led Milton to two District 4 Class AAA championships but might have done his best job this season. Milton (12-11) doubled its win total from the previous season and did so after starting 0-4. The Black Panthers jelled as the season progressed, swept Heartland Conference champion and district runner-up Danville and also came within a win of capturing the HAC-I championship.
And the Winner is...Craig Weaver Jr.: Before Weaver took over, Muncy had not had a winning season since 2004. In his three years there, Weaver has led Muncy to 49 wins and three straight state playoff appearances. The Indians had their best season yet during that run, finishing 18-8 while beating NTL-West champion Williamson and Lewisburg in districts. Muncy made a smooth transition to Class AA and Weaver has four starters back next year, so the good times could continue.
Honorable Mention: Steve Sholder, St. John Neumann; Greg Bruce, Jersey Shore; Phil Stamm, Lewisburg; Jon Weaver, Warrior Run, Corey Mosher, Williamson.
Player of the Year
Maria Morgan, Bucktail: It would be surprising if Morgan does not become Bucktail's first all-state basketball player. The sophomore nearly dazzled every opponent Bucktail played and in just two years already is one of the program's all-time greats. Most defenses figured if they stopped Morgan, they stopped Bucktail but nobody could. Morgan scored 623 points, averaging a district-best 28.3 per game while adding 4.9 assists, 4.6 rebounds and four steals per game. As great a scorer as she is, Morgan also has great vision and is an unselfish passer. She had a hand in all 50 points scored against Neumann last January, scoring 25 points and dealing 10 assists. Morgan led Bucktail in scoring, assists, steals, shooting percentage and free throw percentage. In just two years, she has scored 1,159 points in 44 games.
Second Team: Mackenzie Marple, Wellsboro (16.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 3 spg, NTL-West Offensive Player of Year); Maria Kelleher, Lewisburg (16.3 ppg, 1,000-point scorer); Jen Jackson, South Williamsport (16.3 ppg, 9.2 rpg); Brianna McLaughlin, Muncy (14.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.2 spg); Kim Daugherty, Williamson (15.8 ppg, 9 rpg, 2.9 spg); Molly Wood, Mansfield (13 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 3.7 spg)
Third Team: Corrine Shaffer, Montgomery; Emily Baker, Milton; Emily James, Mansfield; Emily Sholder, St. John Neumann; Tay Parker, Warrior Run; Kayla Allen, Jersey Shore
Honorable Mention: Allie Pagana, Loyalsock; Cellina Salvatori, Loyalsock; Mariah Berguson, North Penn; Cheyenne Jones, Williamson; Jackie Hillson, Mansfield; Kierra Croucher, Hughesville; Addie Jordan, Sullivan County; Kaitlyn Garverick, North Penn; Mackenna Miller, Milton; Katie Scarborough, Montgomery; Carly Mill, Montoursville; Crystal Good, Muncy
Allie Pagana, Loyalsock: The Lancers' defensive stopper always drew the toughest assignments and almost always was up to the task. The junior guard hounded opposing guards and was quick enough to stick with any of them. Pagana consistently made steals, clogged passing lanes and jump-started the fast break and helped Loyalsock make some good late-season strides. She had 20 points and 10 steals in a late-season game at Lewisburg.
Lois Lesher, Lewisburg: Maria Kelleher powered the offense, but Lesher helped ignite a stingy defense and always played tough inside. The senior center had four games in which she blocked six or more shots and was there to help out if guards penetrated into the lane. Lesher could exert the same kind of defensive influence as Kelleher did offensively and her last-second block preserved a district quarterfinal win over Wyalusing.
Kirsten O'Malley, Montoursville: A ferocious on the ball defender, O'Malley averaged six steals per game and often turned those into points for herself or her teammates. One of the district's fastest players, O'Malley can stick with any player and also has quick hands, making her especially tough to dribble or pass around.
McKenzie Ruffing, Montoursville: She averaged fewer steals than O'Malley (four per game) but Ruffing might have been Montoursville's most valuable defender. She often drew the opponent's best player and flourished in that role. Ruffing played a big part in Montoursville allowing fewer points than any area team. She played some of her best defense against Kelleher, holding the 1,000-point scorer to 11 points in two Montoursville wins.
Defensive Player of the Year-Brianna McLaughlin, Muncy: She is only a sophomore, but McLaughlin already is the area's premier defender and often puts on a defensive clinic when she plays. McLaughlin made 110 steals, averaging more than four per game, and consistently took the opponent's best player out of the game. Hounding opposing ball-handlers, McLaughlin seems attached to them and makes getting the ball upcourt a challenge. The two-year starter, who averaged 14.4 points per game, forced countless turnovers and was instrumental to Muncy reaching states once again.
(Not underclassman of year, but a player who made great strides and was not first team all-star)
Second runner-up-Cellina Salvatori, Loyalsock: The freshman guard is a relentless defender but also has the potential to become one of Loyalsock's best offensive players the next three years. Salvatori and Pagana together can lock down opposing guards and she showed in flashes the ability to score either by attacking the basket or shooting from outside. Loyalsock has a bright future and Salvatori is at the center of it.
First runner-up-Mariah Berguson, North Penn: The sophomore has quickly developed into one of the NTL-West's premier players and is one of several promising underclassmen that could help North Penn reach districts next year. Berguson averaged 13.5 points and 1.7 steals per game while helping the Panthers make a five-win improvement and stun Class AA quarterfinalist Wellsboro. She also had a career-high 25 points against Liberty and hit five 3-pointers. Along with fellow sophomore Kaitlyn Garverick, Berguson provides North Penn a nice foundation to build upon.
And the Winner is...Jen Jackson, South Williamsport: A gaping void was left after Tierney Pfirman and Jamie Steer, and their more than 3,000 career points, graduated. Jackson helped fill that and emerged as one of the HAC-III's best players while helping a young team make some nice strides. Jackson averaged 16.3 points and 9.2 rebounds per game while also playing good defense and passing the ball well. The junior forward gives up size sometimes inside but nothing else. She is relentless on the boards, good in the open court and a solid leader. Jackson scored a career-high 28 points in a late-season win over St. John Neumann and recorded a double-double in a big comeback win over Montgomery.
Other Underclassmen to Watch in 2014: Aliyah Garnett, St. John Neumann; Baylie Gerrity, St. John Neumann; Meridith Blessard, Bucktail; Kierra Croucher, Hughesville; Megan Shaner, Hughesville; Sarah Danley, Jersey Shore; Emily Conrad, Lewisburg; Kasey Conrad, Lewisburg; Chelsea Repard, Liberty; Kendall Watkins, Loyalsock; Ali Hillson, Mansfield; Mackenna Miller, Milton; Dionna Satteson, Montgomery; Jessica Scampone, Montgomery; Kelsey Stine, Montoursville; Carly Mill, Montoursville; Crystal Good, Muncy; Allison Edwards, Muncy; Kaitlyn Garverick, North Penn; Anna Steer, South Williamsport; Abby Fisher, Warrior Run; Sarah Ingerick, Wellsboro; Jada Jackson, Wellsboro; Chloe Jennings, Williamsport; Lydia Whaley, Williamsport