WILLIAMSPORT - Greg Ousley tore his ACL and MCL late last season and faced a long road back. The physical pain was one thing, but even more frustrating was watching from the sidelines.
Still, Ousley did everything he could to work his way back and he experienced the ultimate payoff Thursday night. In front of a large and loud home crowd, Ousley played his first minutes since suffering the devastating injury and put an exclamation point on a resounding 72-34 home-opening win over Central Mountain, making a steal near mid- court, then throwing down a thunderous one-hand dunk while sending both the Williamsport bench and students into near delirium.
"Greg is a good, hard worker and even if he doesn't play he's always there to support us," forward Jahad Thomas said. "That was great to see."
Central Mountain’s Beau Snyder controls the ball against Williamsport last night in Williamsport. The Wildcats lost, 72-34.
Thomas was a force, scoring a game-high 20 points, grabbing 17 rebounds and dealing six assists in only three quarters, capping his night with a two-hand power dunk at the third-quarter buzzer. Isaiah Washington added 19 points and five steals while DeAndre Kaough and Herb Stelly ignited a ferocious defense.
But as much as those players thrilled the crowd, none generated more excitement than Ousley. The players and fans know not only how hard he worked to get back, but how valuable he can be.
"Greg's just now getting back and getting in the flow of things so the more he plays, the more confidence he'll get in that knee and the better he'll get and the better he gets, the better we will be," Williamsport coach Allen Taylor said. "Greg was real disappointed in the preseason because college coaches didn't get to see him. I told him, 'you have another year so don't worry about that. You just keep working hard and get that knee healthy and your opportunity will come.'"
The players, coaches and fans who cheered so loudly after the fourth-quarter dunk might also be excited because they sense that Ousley's comeback could be symbolic of the one Williamsport (3-4) is trying to make after winning five games last year. The Millionaires are making strides toward re-establishing themselves and have plenty of work ahead. There is no doubt, though, that last night was a big step forward.
Williamsport dominated the game from the start and blew things open with a 15-0 second-quarter run that made it 30-7. Thomas, playing power forward for the first time in three years, was virtually unstoppable, scoring at will down low and grabbing 13 rebounds by halftime. He and Washington seemed to be doing a highlight video at times, feeding each other consistently as Williamsport efficiently and unselfishly moved the ball.
Prior to Ousley's dunk, it appeared the play of the night would be when Stelly fed Washington for a fourth-quarter alley-oop dunk.
Washington stole the ball near midcourt and hit Stelly in transition. Stelly looked like he was going in for a layup, but instead pulled back and threw a perfect mid-air pass that Washington slammed down.
"It was very exciting," Stelly said. "I told Isaiah at the foul line, 'just look up and I'm going to throw it up.' I saw him coming so I just stopped and threw it up and didn't want to be selfish and go for the basket on the play."
Stelly and Kaough were the game's unsung heroes, making life difficult for high-scoring Central Mountain guard Cole Renninger. While Renninger (averaging nearly 23 points per game) scored a team-high 19 points, he had to work hard for every basket he made and was limited to six field goals. Renninger scored nine points in a quick 90-second burst early in the third quarter but was stymied beyond that.
Kaough (8 points) and Stelly (7 points, four assists), a District 4 cross country champion, took turns playing relentless defense while staying in front of Renninger and rarely letting him get a clean look at the basket. That duo held Renninger to five first-half points and by halftime, the Millionaires led 32-11 against a team that beat it last year.
"Coach said don't let him be a one-man show so we tried to lock him to one side so our defense could help even if he drives to the paint," said Stelly, who had three fourth-quarter assists. "We needed to step up and we did a good job staying on him and not letting him do what he wanted throughout the game."
Williamsport snapped a three-game losing streak and gained confidence after losing all those games in close fashion in the fourth quarter.
The fans did not care about those losses and produced one of the biggest home crowds over the past two seasons. Taylor said the student body had been buzzing for a home opener a few weeks in the making since Tuesday and it was obvious the players fed off the energy.
The Millionaires had bounce in their step throughout and Taylor received strong performances from every player he used. Williamsport hit 16 of 26 shots between the second and third quarters and was excellent in transition while also shredding Central Mountain (3-2) in the half-court while working the ball around, inside and outside.
"It was fun," Thomas said. "Coach Taylor told us to just go out there and have fun. It was our first home game so we tried to keep the intensity up the whole game and just play how we should play every day."
CENTRAL MOUNTAIN 34
Central Mountain 6 5 13 10-34
Williamsport 13 19 21 19-72
Cole Renninger 6 6-12 19, Beau Snyder 2 0-0 4, Michael Dicello 1 0-0 3, John Fisher 0 0-0 0, Tanner Blazina 1 2-2 4, Jonny Wise 0 0-0 0, Von Walker 1 0-3 2, Brad Walker 0 0-2 0, Justin Allen 0 2-2. 11 10-21 34.
Jahad Thomas 9 2-2 20, Isaiah Washington 6 5-5 19, Chris Kinley 2 1-2 5, Taron Dinkins 2 0-0 4, Syd Dowling 1 0-0 3, Achilles Watson 0 2-6 2, DeAndre Kaough 4 0-0 8, Sharif Coleman 1 0-0 2, Herb Stelley 3 0-0 7, Greg Ousley 1 0-1 2. Totals 29 10-16 72.
3-pointers: Central Mountain 2 (Renninger, Dicello); Williamsport 4 (Washington 2, Dowling, Stelly). Records: Williamsport 3-4, Central Mountain 3-2. JV Score: Williamsport 83-42. High Scorers: Brandon Fedoriw, W, 22; Tre Brown, W, 17; Tyler Everhart, C, 12