Liam Manning had it all working. The senior big man came in averaging a quiet fourteen points a game on the season, and had been more workman-like than explosive. That changed in a hurry Monday night as Manning erupted for a career-high 29 points as Wellsboro handled South Williamsport, 70-31.
“My coach has been telling me to get on balance before I shoot and go up strong. And I feel like that’s mainly what I did tonight,” Manning said. “I was looking for the ball at all times tonight. I made sure that I wasn’t cutting for no reason. I wasn’t kind of nonchalantly posting up. I was posting up with the intention of catching the ball.”
He was right with his self-analysis. Manning was incredibly assertive. His first 27 points came in only 18 minutes of playing time. The entire directory was working. Manning was rushing his post game early on in the year, but he was not on Monday it showed.
He scored over both shoulders, drop-stepping to either side with ease. He scored eight points on putbacks, finished through fouls twice and shot a very efficient percentage. It’s that potential that makes him one of the district’s premier post players when he has it going.
“Liam really finished extremely well at the hoop. One thing Liam’s doing an outstanding job of right now is getting on balance and going up strong. when he plays that power game, he is a force to be reckoned with,” Hornet Coach Steve Adams said.
It’s not like South Williamsport did not try to stop Manning. The Mounties threw 1-3-1, 1-2-2, 2-3 and man-to-man defenses at him, but nothing could slow him down.
Manning is one heck of a player and he had every move. It was easy for him,” South Williamsport coach Joe Simon said. “We tried multiple guys on him and multiple defenses and we couldn’t stop him and that’s the difference in the game.”
Manning was efficient all night, but it helps when he can come out of the game for stretches of play and Cameron Brought can come in to replace him. The junior reserve does not give teams a break down low, has finished extremely well around the basket all year, and punishes teams if they try to match Wellsboro’s substitution patterns by taking out their starting center when Manning exits. Brought has the size and strength to be a starting center on some good teams, but is happy with his reserve role.
“I’m obviously not six-feet-seven so I got to go in there and make my minutes count. You just got to be physical and be tough and get everything you can out of (limited minutes)” Brought said. You just gotta trust yourself. Go through through the contact, make sure you finish the shot and stay on balance.”
Speaking of balance, Manning did have 29, but Wellsboro got contributions up and down the lineup. Sharpshooter Peyton McClure is on pace to break the singe-season 3-point record at Wellsboro of 75 set by Jamie Jones in 1998, and made five more 3s on Monday. The junior has had four 3s or more in his last four contests, and made his first 3 of the game. It seems like every shot he takes is going to go in, and the basket must look as big as the ocean right now.
“It feels good just shooting with confidence and I’m getting some good looks. I’m gonna keep knocking them down,” McClure said.
Early on, it seemed like Wellsboro was making everything. They made ten of their 14 attempts from the field in that first quarter and jumped out to a quick 23-10 lead after Hayes Campbell cleaned up a McClure miss from 25 feet that looked sure to go in before kissing off the front of the rim as time expired to end the quarter.
South cut it to ten on a basket by Grant Bachmann with 5:30 to go in the second, but that is as close as it would get the rest of the game. Manning scored the next eight Wellsboro points and Wellsboro led 35-18 with 2:29 to play in the quarter. After an Alex Neidig basket, Wellsboro ended the first-half-scoring with a Darryn Callahan midrange jumper and Wellsboro led 37-20 at the end of the first half.
Any hopes of a Mountie rally in the third quarter were quickly evaporated when Manning scored six straight points to put Wellsboro up 43-20. Lee Habalar finally got South Williamsport on the board, but McClure immediately hit a rainbow three and the rout was on. When Manning converted a bucket and foul with ten seconds left, the game was in the mercy rule and Wellsboro was well on its way to a statement performance.
Wellsboro hosts Troy on Wednesday in what is the game of the season so far in a rugged NTL Large School. The two teams will come in tied for first, with Wellsboro losing the first meeting 73-52 But, Liam and Drew Manning did not play that night due to COVID protocols, and the two teams have split home and away the past two seasons. It’s a Wellsboro team that has been without starters in each of their two losses and it sets up to be a doozy of a basketball game.
“Troy’s a good ball club. They’ve got weapons and they’re tough. We’re excited for that challenge. We’re excited to be able to play this game at home and it’s going to be great for NTL basketball. You’re going to have two teams battling it out to see which one of the teams is going to be in sole possession (of first place) after Wednesday night,” Adams said.
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT (31)
Grant Bachmann 2 0-0 4, Alex Neidig 1 1-2 3, Lee Habalar 6 0-1 12, Zach Lynn 1 0-0 3, Aaron Akers 3 1-1 7. Totals 14 2-4 31.
Drew Manning 2 0-0 4, Conner Adams 0 0-0 0, Peyton McClure 6 0-0 17, Watson Feil 1 0-0 2, Caden Smith 1 0-0 3, Liam Manning 13 3-4 29, Darryn Callahan 2 0-0 4, Hayes Campbell 3 1-3 7, Cameron Brought 2 0-0 4. Totals 30 4-7 70.
South Williamsport 10 10 8 3 31
Wellsboro 23 14 22 11 70
3-point goals: South 1 (Lynn 1), Wellsboro 6 (McClure 5, Smith 1)