Good day!

WOW! There must have been a full moon last night. Or at least one that was very bright, because things certainly went haywire in the Lackawanna League.

Let me begin by saying, contrary to popular belief, I still can’t be in two places at one time. I’m not sure anybody can. But, if I could, I would have loved to be at the three games that turned out to be main events from last night. Again, though, I can’t be everywhere.

ellogoThat being said. I chose the Montrose at Elk Lake game in Division IV for a couple of reasons. First, I am doing a future story on a wonderful young man, who when you all read it early next week will be glad that you did. Second, it is pretty neat to go to a game up there in Dimock, but to get to one against the school’s biggest rival is special. I learned so much about the rivalry and what it means to the residents of Susquehanna County. It was as much a learning experience for me as it was a basketball experience.

montlogoI know that sometimes the schools in the Lackawanna League don’t look outside the corridor of Main Avenue in Scranton. I get it. But know this, there is a plethora of basketball history with Montrose and Elk Lake that everyone should appreciate.

From the fans packing the bleachers before the junior varsity game even begins, to Elk Lake not charging admission, to the cozy gymnasium and the fold out chairs on the stage beneath a basket, it transports you back in time to one that resembled games from an era long past.

Elk Lake vs. Montrose (Photo by Butch Comegys)

Elk Lake vs. Montrose
(Photo by Butch Comegys)

– — –

In case you aren’t familiar with some of the backstory, just visit Elk Lake. Before you walk into the gym, there is Bob Stevenson‘s jersey. Days ripped from the calendar can never erase his legacy. A career 2,000-point scorer without a 20-foot jumper earning him 3 points, Stevenson once scored 55 points in a PIAA title game in 1977 and he averaged 39 points a game. The Warriors over 94-60 victory over Shanksville in the Class A final and the journey made by this tiny school makes you immediate think “Hoosiers.”

Not too far from the banners that honor that team is one that recognizes the 1969 Class C state champions. Jimmy Wallace was the ace scorer back then on a flashy group that also included guys like Steve Prentice and Jack Keeney.

Those teams were coached by legendary Mike “Red” Wallace, who died of cancer not too long after the 1977 title. His name is emblazoned on the hardwood in dedication of the court where he guided so many teams to memorable wins. Many may forget with the passage of time, the Fell Township graduate was an NBA player, a Keystone Junior College Hall of Famer and graduate of the University of Scranton Hall of Famer.

So, yes, there is nostalgia overflow when you attend an Elk Lake game.

Throw in the storied history of Montrose and you have generations of fans making the trip to the game, squeezing into the tight quarters, just as their forefathers did decades ago.

Montrose also has a state championship to its credit. That came in 1964 when the Meteors went undefeated. Under the guidance of Si Bernosky, who died in 2000, the program won 342 games and lost only 43 in his 14-year career. During his tenure, Montrose advanced to three other state championship games and won a then-PIAA record 52 straight games, later passed by Carbondale Area’s remarkable run of 59 from 1993 to 1994.

During the 1960s and 1970s and early 1980s which included another state final run by Elk Lake in 1982 when it lost to Monaca, 57-48, this rivalry and the championship pedigree brought relevance to the area and defined old school basketball with the mountainous Susquehanna County as a perfect backdrop for rural small-school clashes.

Elk Lake's Bailey Newhart (Photo by Butch Comegys)

Elk Lake’s
Bailey Newhart
(Photo by Butch Comegys)

Today, maybe the championship banners aren’t as significant on the state level, but certainly both programs continue to flourish and often are against each other to determine the best in that northern region of the state.

Since 2008, Elk Lake has won Lackawanna division titles in 2008, 2009, 2013 and 2014. Montrose has won division crowns in 2010 and 2015.

That made this a tight battle. Elk Lake raced to a big 23-4 lead as Bailey Newhart ran out for seven of his 14 points in the first quarter, the fans were loud and jumping so strongly the bleachers were shaking. Then, Montrose made a comeback and tied the game at 40-40 after three quarters as last year’s Division IV player of the year Austin Smith scored 10 of his 18 points forcing the students who were sitting on the stage to raise to their feet. Eventually, Elk Lake, thanks to a huge 3-pointer from Hunter Watkins, won, 58-49, and the fans and I were treated to a special moment in this treasured rivalry.

Maybe I will even make the rematch on Feb. 9.

Here are some highlights: 

_____________________________________________________________________________

Knights Rising

Now, if the Elk Lake-Montrose was the only game, it would have been a great night. But, boy oh boy, did Scranton create a buzz.

Again, I was at Elk Lake and had no cell phone service in the gymnasium. Therefore, even in these advanced technological days, I had no way of knowing what was going on elsewhere around the league. I was in a cocoon.

Timmy Toro Abington Heights

Timmy Toro
Abington Heights

That being said, once I went out to my car, where by the way, I wrote my story from the parking lot, my phone started buzzing a fever pace. First, I had at least 50 texts and past Twitter messages that were catching up and catching me up on what must have been a thriller between No. 1 Abington Heights and No. 4 Scranton.

Abington Heights was coming off an impact win over Lower Merion that even started gaining it some serious top 10 consideration among the Class AAAA teams in the state. Scranton is 100 percent now with its lineup and rotation of standout players in order. I thought this could be a decent game, because Scranton with 6-foot-10 Matt Hart and 6-3 Jacob Watts inside, could give the Comets towers of 6-10 Seth Maxwell and 6-8 Timmy Toro a good matchup of size and strength.

In the end, Hart and Watts combined for just 6 points, while Toro had 12 and Maxwell was shutout.

Ky'Ron Harbin Scranton

Ky’Ron Harbin
Scranton

But the X-factor was Ky’Ron Harbin, a remarkably gifted sophomore who, when he is on the court on the long and triple jump runway, is one of the best athletes in the state, came through with 16 points and he and Josh Shields knocked down some key free throws in a 41-35 upset that ended Abington Heights’ undefeated season.

Scranton also put the Lackawanna Division I into a logjam as it is tied with Abington Heights and Scranton Prep — all with 5-1 records.

On Thursday now, Scranton will host Western Wayne and on Friday Scranton Prep will be at West Scranton. … THEN on January 26, Scranton Prep will be at Scranton. That should be a good one.

Scranton upsetting Abington Heights is a mild surprise, but for some reason fans forget just how successful the Knights have been under the guidance of coach Tony Battaglia. And I have no idea why?

  • 5 – Lackawanna Division championships since 2003

  • 3 – District 2 Class AAA championships since 2010

  • 6 – Seasons with 20 or more wins since 2003

Not too bad for a coach with more than 250 career wins.

Tony Battaglia Scranton coach

Tony Battaglia
Scranton coach

_____________________________________________________________________________

Triboro Rivalry

No rivalry gets fans lathered up quite like the Old Forge-Riverside battles. Yes, even in basketball, this battle raises the ire of the two neighboring school districts.

thumb_oldForgeSo all the athletes did this season was put together an exhausting triple-overtime instant classic. Jaret Horn, a late addition to the varsity basketball team this year and big Ben Grochowski scored 18 points each and “Mr. Blue Devil” Mando Sallavanti proved a tough matchup on the hardwoods as well, scoring on a layup at the end of the second overtime to tie the game and move it into legendary status.

RiversidelogoJustin Copp scored 20 points to lead Riverside, while Matt Fallon drilled five 3-pointers and finished with 18 points.

No, this game wasn’t for the first-half title in the Lackawanna Division III, but I am sure, judging by the 18 text updates I received from former Old Forge legend Jake Manetti and Riverside scorekeeper Evan Prall, that it certainly felt like it was.

For your calendars – Riverside will be at Old Forge on Feb. 9

_____________________________________________________________________________

Titletown

Well, Mid Valley has done it again.

mv_spartans02The Spartans are the last unbeaten standing. After a 48-32 win over Carbondale Area and Holy Cross’ 53-50 win over borough rival Dunmore, Mid Valley clinched the first-half title and also made Thursday’s game even more important in the grand scheme of things. True, it won’t be as significant in the statndings, but both teams want to make sure to remind the other that they are still around in this championship hunt. All that winning the first-half title means is that you have earned the right, if somebody else wins in the second half, an opportunity to play for the division championship.

I still hate the reset button on a regular-season schedule, but that is how we play it, so that’s how I will report on it.

Take a look at Holy Cross and Mid Valley in the Lackawanna Division III regular season in the last four seasons:

Years

Holy Cross

Mid Valley

2012-13

11-1

9-3

2013-14

10-2

9-3

2014-15

9-3

9-3

2015-16

3-2

5-0

Totals

33-8

32-9

_____________________________________________________________________________

That is all for now.

Remember the first-half wraps up Thursday in Divisions III and IV.

Also, a winter storm warning is in effect for NEPA, so there are at least two changes to Friday’s schedule that will allow me to get out for bread and milk.

Delaware Valley at Abington Heights is now THURSDAY NIGHT

Western Wayne at Scranton is now THURSDAY NIGHT

I will post again on Friday, if I get a chance, so stay tuned.

And as always ENJOY!