MONTGOMERY–Most North Penn-Liberty players did not compete a lot during varsity games last season.
But they sure played hard every day at practice. Each day there those younger players pushed the veterans and vice-versa as North Penn-Liberty captured a second straight NTL-II championship and reached the District 4 Class A championship. Now those same players who practiced so hard are showing their talents during the games.
And the results look a lot similar.
A team with four new starters, North Penn-Liberty continued its winning ways, defeating host Montgomery, 40-29 in Saturday’s Kyle Lynn Tournament championship. The Mounties (2-0) captured the title for a third straight year as the defense surrendered just 10 field goals and all eight players coach Brian Litzelman used made nice impacts.
“It’s one of those things where these kids have not necessarily had a lot of opportunity on the court, but a lot of time proving themselves in practice against some really good players night in and night out,” Litzelman said. “We told them you played against great players last year and you held your own and if you can do that, you’re going to be able to compete against anybody this year.”
It sure looked that way this weekend. North Penn-Liberty surrendered just 67 points in two hard-fought wins against Meadowbrook Christian and Montgomery. The Mounties briefly trailed Saturday early, but led from the first-quarter’s five-minute mark on. North Penn-Liberty overcame foul trouble and Montgomery’s own swarming defense, thundering back whenever Montgomery started cutting into a deficit which reached nine late in the first half.
Kyle Davis earned Tournament MVP honors, scoring 12 points and grabbing nine rebounds. Noah Shedden produced a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds and Derek Litzelman was a big reason Montgomery often was one shot and done, pulling down 15 rebounds. Devin Bradley sparked the defense, Hunter Thompson made some key baskets and reserves Talon Kolb, Caiden Alexander and Stettson McGovern all provided quality minutes.
“We’re pretty good in that aspect. Anyone can go off on any night and we all run the offense really well,” Davis said. “We’ve been playing together since elementary school days when we were little. We’ve always fit well together.”
So does Montgomery. The Red Raiders have made six and three-win improvements the past two years, reaching districts for the first time in 11 years a season ago. Montgomery is on the verge of an even bigger breakthrough despite Saturday’s result.
It was not that Montgomery (1-1) played bad. The Raiders often executed well and produced good shots. They just did not fall. The Raiders suffered through a miserable 17 percent shooting performance but that likely will be a mirage as this season continues.
It says a lot that despite the shooting woes, Montgomery was within five points late in the third quarter and as close as seven midway through the fourth. Defense looks like a constant and Montgomery held Northeast Bradford and North Penn-Liberty to 75 points. The foundation has been laid and better days sure look like they are coming.
“(Assistant coach) Rivers (Parrish) told them last night they set the bar for what kind of defense we can play. Now we have to go and play it every night,” Montgomery coach Junior Parrish said. “We’ll make those shots. I’m not even worried about that. We’re defensively where we want to be. We’re playing with the energy we need to play with.”
The ferocity both teams played played a role in both offenses being slow to burn. Neither team shot well throughout the first half but North Penn-Liberty built a 20-13 advantage. Montgomery quickly cut that lead to three early in the third quarter and had two chances to pull closer, but the Mounties fought off the challenge as Shedden fueled an 8-0 run which put them up, 29-18.
That sequence served as a microcosm. Montgomery kept fighting off the ropes, but every time it seemed like it might move ahead, the Mounties pushed them back against them. A Maurice Walters free throw pulled the Raiders within 29-24 with 14 seconds left in the third, but a Bradley drive beat the buzzer and North Penn-Liberty never let Montgomery get closer than seven again.
A day after watching a 13-point halftime lead turn into a three-point third-quarter deficit, North Penn-Liberty learned from its mistakes and kept the pressure high. The Mounties held Montgomery to one field goal in the quarter’s first 7 1/2 minutes and a Shedden to Thompson connection inside all but sealed the win, putting them up, 39-26.
“After that scare against Meadowbrook we realized we have to keep that pace up. Starting from here on out we’re going to pick it up a lot,” Davis said. “I think it definitely made us play a lot harder. It really helped us want to come out and here and prove a point.”
“We talked about in pregame and then at halftime about how the third quarter killed us yesterday and they didn’t play defense. We couldn’t have that letdown today,” Brian Litzelman said. “They definitely played hard all the way through.”
Montgomery did as well, literally fighting until the final second. It was not the result Montgomery wanted, but one game does not define it or signify where it could be going this season.
Logan Almeida scored 13 points, dealt four assists and made four steals, earning All-Tournament honors for Montgomery. Austin Kuhn grabbed 10 rebounds, Jacob Utter six and Walters scored seven points.
“We’re playing at a different level right now. It’s fun to see the kids enjoying the level they’re playing at,” Parrish said. “We’re going to surprise some people. I’m excited.ã
North Penn-Liberty 40, Montgomery 29
Devin Bradley 1 0-2 2, Noah Shedden 3 3-5 10, Derek Litzelman 0 3-5 3, Hunter Thompson 3 1-2 7, Kyle Davis 4 1-2 12, Talon Kolb 1 0-0 2, Caiden Alexander 1 0-0 2, Stettson McGovern 1 0-0 2. Totals 13 8-16 40.
Logan Almeida 4 3-6 13, Maurice Walters 2 3-4 7, Coltin Hans 1 0-0 3, Austin Kuhn 1 0-2 2, Rayne Parrish 0 0-0 0, Noah Gearhart 1 0-2 2, Jacob Utter 1 0-0 2. Totals 10 6-14 29.
NP-Liberty 10 10 11 9–40
Montgomery 4 9 11 5–29
3-pointers: NP-Liberty 4 (Davis 3, Shedden); Montgomery 3 (Almeida 2, Hans).
Records: North Penn-Liberty 2-0. Montgomery 1-1.