Montour fills highlight reel in section-clinching win over Avonworth

Tuesday, February 6, 2024 | 11:36 PM

Montour captured a boys basketball section championship Tuesday and did so in grand style with several exclamation points.

There was a raucous crowd, an incredible start, several thunderous dunks and a historic basket to finish what turned out to be a dominating performance as Montour crushed visiting Avonworth, 65-38.

The outcome gave the Spartans a two-game lead over the Antelopes with only one game remaining, earning the outright Section 4-4A crown.

The game was an amazing contrast from the first meeting between the two Jan. 12 at Avonworth. On that night, the Antelopes led by eight points after the first quarter and continued to build toward a 64-48 victory that, at the time, put Avonworth alone in first place.

So what changed in the last 25 days?

“I thought our pressure, with our 2-1-2 press, got them and we got a couple of steals out of it,” Montour coach Bill Minear said. “I thought they were a little shaken up by it. We didn’t use it at their place and played straight man. We been using it quite a bit lately and we’re getting better.”

The fate of both teams has changed since that earlier meeting as well.

Montour has now won eight of nine games since that loss while Avonworth has dropped three section games in the last three-plus weeks and is 3-4 overall since the January victory.

The Spartans started hot Tuesday, scoring the first 17 points of the game. The Antelopes didn’t dent the scoreboard until there was 3:05 left in the opening quarter, a quarter that ended with Montour leading 22-4.

The second quarter wasn’t much better for Avonworth, as the ‘Lopes were outscored 12-8 and trailed 34-12 at the half.

While the Montour defense was a big factor, Avonworth worked for open looks but could not buy a basket in the first half. The ‘Lopes were 4 of 25 from the field in the first two quarters for a dreadful 16% shooting.

The Antelopes did come out flying in the third quarter, scoring the first seven points of the half; however, following a Montour timeout, the Spartans quickly built their lead back up to over 20 points.

“I think our guys got caught up playing the scoreboard a little bit and we lost our mental focus,” Minnear said. “Once we got it back, I thought we finished pretty well.”

The finish of the game was one of the highlights.

Needing 25 points to reach 1,000 for his career, Montour senior Jake Wolfe had 22 points with two minutes remaining. He passed on several shots, missed a couple, then drilled a 3-pointer with 11 seconds left as the home crowd went nuts for the game’s final exclamation point.

“I think for the rest of our guys, it was tremendous because you saw how many times he gave up good shots to get Ama (Sow) dunks or other guys layups, so he’s not a selfish player,” Minear said. “I think they were unselfish for him.”

Wolfe led the Spartans with 25 points, including 17 in the second half.

“It feels great to get a big-time win at home and clinch as section champs,” Wolfe said. “It was an awesome accomplishment to get at home in front of my community. Basketball was the sport I grew up playing and it was a great experience to get to that accomplishment.”

Spartans junior Ama Sow lowered the boom with several dunks as he finished with 20 points.

Junior Rowan Carmichael scored 18 points to lead an Avonworth team that remains in second place at 6-3 in the section, 13-7 overall.

Montour improves to 8-1 in the section and 17-3 overall. The Spartans finish Friday at Quaker Valley and hope their strong finish can garner a second or third seed in Class 4A, on the other side of the bracket from a certain defending champion.

“That’s where everybody is trying to get to, on the opposite side of the bracket from Lincoln Park,” Minear said while smiling. “We need the intensity you saw on defense (Tuesday) and we seriously have to get more disciplined on offense. If we can get a clean possession 90% of the time, I think we’ll be hard to beat.”

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