Loyalsock goes down battling against Trinity in quarters.

By: Chris Masse | Williamsport Sun-Gazette | March 17, 2018


POTTSVILLE — Aiden Gair went flying through the air, extending his body across the Martz Hall baseline pursuing a loose ball. Gair landed chest-first, but quickly popped up and played defense. Moments later he drained a 3-pointer.

This was a play that symbolized the Loyalsock season. The Lancers were knocked down several times, but they kept rising, fighting on and moving on. They nearly did it one last time Saturday against the state's No. 2-ranked Class AAA team.

Loyalsock built an 11-point first-quarter lead and still led by eight late in the third quarter before Trinity rallied and defeated it, 57-52, in the state quarterfinals. The Lancers (22-8) never really were knocked out and kept battling until the final second when Mitch Klingerman hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.

They simply did not earn the decision yesterday. What Loyalsock did do was provide one last look at what made it so successful this season.

"That's just a good lifetime skill to learn. We all have ups and downs in our lives and we all face adversity, so they're kind of callous to that now," Loyalsock coach Ron Insinger said. "Hopefully, they learn from that and realize that tomorrow is another day and good things can happen again."

"Every single game in the state tournament we were the underdogs and we knocked out two private schools," Loyalsock guard Gerald Ross said after scoring a game-high 24 points. "Being a small school like Loyalsock, few people picked us to go this far."

That went double after Wellsboro defeated Loyalsock in the District 4 championship. Instead of moping, the Lancers went back to work. They rallied from a 15-point deficit to beat Holy Redeemer in the opening round on Ross's buzzer-beater and then stunned heavily-favored District 1 champion Valley Forge.

Loyalsock nearly played giant-killer again against a team featuring a 6-foot-10 Division I center for a second straight game as well as two players 6-5 or taller. The Lancers, with just one player taller than 6-4, settled themselves after Trinity scored the game's first four points in 23 seconds, dominating the first quarter and leading 19-10 after one. Loyalsock held its ground from there, leading 30-24 at halftime and using a 7-1 third-quarter run to go up, 39-31 with 2 minutes, 49 seconds remaining.

Ross scored 22 of his 24 points over the last three quarters, Klingerman continued his strong play with 14 points and Gair had five points during the third-quarter run. The Lancers had Trinity where they wanted them, but a team that has made the comeback its staple, fell victim to one.

"We controlled the game for 28 minutes. What I'm most pleased with is we played with so much heart," Insinger said. "At the end of the night you have to let the cards fall where they may. They're an outstanding team and that's why they're ranked second in the state."

Trinity coach Larry Kostelac Jr., called a timeout after Klingerman made a steal and fed Gair for the layup that pushed Loyalsock's lead to eight. Trinity came back looking like a different team, scoring the next eight points and tying the game, 39-39 in just a 99-second span. That set the stage for a furiously fought fourth quarter that featured several lead changes and in which no team led by more than three until 30 seconds remained.

"It was an outstanding effort. from the middle of the third quarter on we showed tremendous resolve and grit. That's what we needed to win the game," Kostelac said after earning his 699th career win. "Ron does such a great job and in the fourth quarter every possession was a battle. At this time of the year that's the way it's supposed to be. We feel very fortunate that things swung our way and that our kids stepped up and got the job done."

Ross hit two 3-pointers that twice put Loyalsock up three to start the fourth quarter. Matt Long hit his third 3-pointer to give Trinity its first lead since early in the first quarter, but Ross quickly answered with another 3-pointer as Loyalsock took its last lead, 48-47 with 4:43 remaining. From there, the Shamrock defense constricted as 6-10 center Sean Good served as an inside eraser, blocking three of his five shots. Good (12 points, 5 assists) fed Kalen Veres inside to put Trinity ahead to stay and hit a hook shot to put Trinity up, 52-49 at the 3-minute mark.

Good blocked another shot on Loyalsock's ensuing possession and on the next one, two potential game-tying 3-pointers were off the mark. Connor Watkins (8 rebounds, 3 assists) gave Loyalsock another chance with a late steal, but Loyalsock missed again. When Mike Scarpelli missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 1:10 remaining, Loyalsock had one last chance.

Trinity played good defense on that possession and Loyalsock called a timeout with 44 seconds remaining. Veres, who just recently returned from a broken ankle, then helped Trinity drop the hammer. The 6-7 forward made a steal in the backcourt, sped upcourt and threw down a one-handed dunk. Following another Lancer miss, Jack Bucher hit two free throws and clinched Trinity's first Final 4 appearance since 2013 when it defeated Loyalsock in overtime at Martz Hall on St. Patrick's Day.

"It (the steal) is a big deal. He just went up and ripped it. He did not hesitate," Kostelac said. "That was a big emotional lift. We put a challenge to him at halftime and he rose to the occasion the way we hoped he would."

Loyalsock did the same thing all season. The road was bumpy at times, but it ended up extending pretty close to Hershey. With four starters returning next season, maybe that road will go even farther next year.

"Hopefully they will all come back a little more polished than they are right now. That's what we talked about in the post game," Insinger said. "Now the 2018-19 season begins. You have to get in the gym. Basketball like most of these sports is 365 days a year, so if they don't touch a ball between now and November they're not going to get much better. But if we work all summer, then I'm excited for next year. I think we can again make a lot of noise in states."