MUNCY–Isaiah Fenner felt different throughout the school day Friday. Something felt right and that feeling blossomed during pregame warm-ups.
The Montoursville point guard knew something special was coming. He all but guaranteed it.
And then he delivered in emphatic fashion.
Fenner played the game of his life Friday and ignited a fabulous team performance as Montoursville put everything together and continued surging. Fenner scored a career-high 23 points, including seven straight during a critical third-quarter spurt, and Montoursville made 60 percent of its shots as it defeated Muncy, 73-57 and won for the eighth time in 11 games. John Schneider (16 points, 13 rebounds) produced a double-double, Noah Shaffer (11 points) shined off the bench and every player coach Mark Mussina used made a positive impact as Montoursville (8-7) won its first road game and moved above .500 for the first time.
“I know people from here and I was just kind of feeling it today. It was like a tingly feeling, like today was going to be good,” Fenner said. “I started shooting and was like, ‘I really like these rims. I like everything about this place.’ They (his teammates) said hopefully it translates to the game. I looked at them and was like, ‘It will.’”
Fenner was not kidding. Everyone played well, but Fenner was the engine powering the machine Friday against a Muncy team which had won five straight games.
Fenner shattered his career-high in points, relentlessly attacked the basket and either finished or set up his teammates for easy baskets. The senior leader went into Steph Curry-mode and made seven straight first-half shots, scoring 16 points and helping Montoursville produce, arguably, its best quarter this season. The Warriors broke open a close game in the second quarter when they made 10 of their first 11 shots, turning a tenuous four-point lead into a comfortable 44-25 halftime advantage.
That points piled up quickly and Fenner went into ridiculous territory midway through the quarter when he drained a step-back 3-pointer before finding Shaffer for a 3-pointer and then making a steal and layup. Just like that, Montoursville led 40-21.
“He was unbelievable. I was going to say that’s probably as well as he can play, but that’s probably better than he can play,” Mussina said. “Whatever he did last night he should keep doing.”
Fenner delivered a repeat performance at the perfect time in the third quarter. Ross Eyer (26 points, 11 rebounds) caught fire, scoring 13 points that quarter and pulling Muncy within 51-41 on a deep 3-pointer. Quickly, the Indians (11-4) had cut the deficit nearly in half, but even quicker, Fenner had it them starting an Everest-like climb.
First, Fenner drove inside the lane and converted a runner. Next, he made a steal, missed the shot but grabbed the offensive rebound and scored off a putback. Fenner put an exclamation point on that spurt when he swished another 3-pointer, giving him seven points in 50 seconds. That quick, Montoursville was up 58-41 and Muncy, coming off an emotional, dramatic comeback win at Northwest Friday, could not make another run.
“It kind of translates from football where I was a leader. You have freshmen and sophomores and juniors that haven’t been in a lot of these situations,” Fenner said. “When I was a junior and sophomore I needed someone to look at me and be like, ‘Calm down, everything is going to be good,’ and that’s what I’ve tried to do.”
Fenner has done it quite well and a team with just one starter and two players with significant varsity experience continues its upward climb after starting the season 0-4. How Montoursville has turned it around was evident last night. The Warriors compete hard, play together, are deep and often possess excellent balance. All was true against Muncy with nine players scoring, three reaching double figures and both starters and reserves performing well when their numbers were called.
Muncy raced out to a 7-2 lead but Montoursville scored the next 12 points and never trailed again. Schneider was a force inside and had a double-double by halftime, while Shaffer continues excelling as a reserve and scored nine of his 11 points in the first half. Shaffer was outstanding at getting to the basket and, like Fenner, set up his teammates well, adding three assists.
So effective was Montoursville that it never made less than 50 percent of its shots in any quarter and closed a 44-point first half shooting, 62 percent. Quinn Ranck was a weapon off the bench, hitting two dagger-like 3-pointers and making four steals. A lot of players have taken turns producing big performances this season and that is what has Montoursville looking like a dangerous team in a crowded District 4 Class AAAA field.
“Our effort has been consistently good. Our play hasn’t always been consistently good, but our effort has been and we have had different guys step up each night,” Mussina said. “Schneider has kind of been there game in and game out. Beyond that, tonight it was Fenner and Shaffer that really got us going and tomorrow we’re at Jersey Shore and I really don’t know who it’s going to be. One of the blessings for us is that we have enough guys who can do it. Itás almost like a batting order. We have a bunch of guys who can hit and we don’t know who’s going to hit tonight, but we usually get enough guys to hit.”
Eyer continues producing big hits and collected his 14th straight double-double. The junior guard can go inside and outside and capped a huge week with another strong performance. Eyer scored 17 second-half points and added eight rebounds as he tried sparking a comeback like he did Wednesday at Northwest when he scored 11 straight points and helped the Indians rally from 12 down with four minutes left to win, 53-50.
Eyer hit some deep 3-pointers that felt like they came from Hughesville and finished with five. He also was effective inside and added three assists.
“You can definitely see the growth from last year to step up this year. Even as the year progresses he’s growing each game,” Muncy coach Jason Gresh said. “He did some nice things inside tonight and if we can develop that aspect of his game he’s going to be really tough. He put us on his back at Northwest.”
That Northwest game was an intense battle against a fellow District 4 Class AA title contender. It was the same way Monday against 2021 AA runner-up East Juniata. Both games were fiercely fought and it appeared the fight from those contests impacted Muncy as the game progressed. The legs were not there in the fourth quarter and try as it did, Muncy could not hit much, especially from outside, as Montoursville went up by as many as 22.
Still, this was a successful week with Muncy ascending to the top of the crowded District 4 AA power rankings. Two of its four losses have come against 4A Mifflinburg and Montoursville and the the other two against St. John Neumann and 3A Southern Columbia. Muncy would like to win every game, but the end game is what it has in sight right now and all these experiences can help it get where it wants to go.
“You have to be cognizant of who you are playing. This is why we jacked up the schedule and this week was a gauntlet,” Gresh said. “I told them last week we have five games coming up and we have to find three wins and we found four. We really battled EJ and Northwest and that really took it out of us. We didn’t have our explosiveness and they looked explosive because of it. They shot lights out, so you have to give them credit.”
Montoursville will try carrying its momentum over into another road challenge at Jersey Shore tonight. The Warriors have come a long way, but they also have kept things in perspective. Do not expect that to change despite Friday’s strong performance.
“I have a lot of appreciation for the teammates I play with because they know they’re good, but they’re not cocky,” Fenner said. “They’re not going to walk into a game thinking, ‘Oh I had 20-some points last game.’ We know what we need to do and we do it every game.”
John Schneider 7 2-3 16, Bryce Eberhart 2 2-2 6, Nolan Kutney 1 0-0 2, Isaiah Fenner 10 0-0 23, Quinn Ranck 2 0-0 6, Tanner Menne 1 1-3 3, Jared Matlack 2 0-0 4, Brayden Brown 0 0-0 0, Ian Labatch 1 0-0 2, Noah Shaffer 5 0-0 11. Totals 31 5-8 73.
Ross Eyer 9 3-3 26, Branson Eyer 2 0-1 4, Gio Persun 3 1-2 7, Noah Confer 2 0-0 4, Loudon Boring 0 2-2 2, Michael Fry 1 0-0 3, Eli Weikle 2 0-0 5, Eli Slamka 2 0-0 6. Totals 21 6-8 57.
Montoursville 19 25 19 10-73
Muncy 15 10 20 12-57
3-pointers: Montoursville 6 (Fenner 3, Ranck 2, Shaffer); Muncy 9 (R. Eyer 5, Slamka 2, Fry, Weikle).
Records: Montoursville 8-7. Muncy 11-4.