By BRETT R. CROSSLEY
For the Loyalsock Lancers
WILLIAMSPORT—Loyalsock’s Ron “CI” Insinger Gymnasium is usually buzzing with activity, but it was unusually full last Saturday as the Lancers took on Athens in the middle of the afternoon.
Balloons hung from the railing lining the top of the gym and a larger than normal student section filled in the bleachers in the far corner. It was a special day for Loyalsock and a historical one for Pennsylvania’s high school basketball scene.
Insinger needed just one win to earn his 900th victory and junior guard Gerald Ross needed just 17 points to become the 14th player in program history to cross the 1,000-point marker for his career.
By themselves, both would be monumental accomplishments. Together, they are historic. It’s rare to even meet a person who has coached 900 games let alone won 900. For Loyalsock, which has seen its share of 1,000-point scorers, it’s almost as difficult to reach that milestone as a junior.
Both accomplished those goals as Ross hit a routine jumper in the third to cross the 1,000-point marker. The Lancers then went on to record a 71-57 win over Athens to give Insinger his 900th win.
“It’s was a very special day, a milestone and a great day for the Township,” Insinger said of his 900th win and Ross reaching 1,000 points. “I couldn’t sleep last night. You have emotions. You’re scared. You want to get it over with and reach that pinnacle, but on the other hand you have to keep everything in perspective and do what’s best for the team.”
The nerves and lack of sleep wouldn’t even have been noticed by fans. Insinger kept a calm about him throughout the game, even when the Lancers trailed through the first two quarters.
By the time the third quarter came around and Loyalsock started to make a move most in attendance were aware Ross was closing in on the mark and started to buzz with excitement. A routine jumper from the top of the paint went through the rim, barely touching the net. The next moment belonged to Ross as the game was stopped for a moment to acknowledge the feat.
Ross was presented with four blue balloons. A one followed by three zeros nearly reached the top of the gym as teammates and competitors reached out to give Ross praise. It was an outstanding scene for the everyone involved, but for Ross it was truly as special moment. As a junior, he still has one more year to play and add to that total. After hitting the shot Ross waved to the crowd and displayed class throughout the small ceremony.
“Being in combination with coach to get his 900th win on the same night you can’t ask for a better night than that,” Ross said. “Playing for a coach like him, he’s one of the greats. It was just a good feeling.”
The journey to 900 wins was long. Insinger started as a gym teacher at Loyalsock and when approached about coaching the basketball team wasn’t entirely sure he wanted the position. Obviously he leaned more toward accepting which sent him on a course to change the program’s history. Loyalsock has been a contender nearly every year Insinger has been at the helm. Insinger has won 19 district titles and has posted 20 or more wins in 33 of his 43 seasons.
“It’s really special,” Insinger said. “Many of my old assistant coaches were here. That’s very, very special to me and very meaningful that they care after all these years. I have such a passion for basketball and love the game so much. I’m just a small piece of the puzzle. I’m not bigger than the team or bigger than the school. I’ve just been blessed with quality players and great coaches and that’s just so invaluable.”
Insinger and company knew how to celebrate the feat. Entering the gym named in Insinger’s honor it was clear something special was going on. Directly above Loyalsock’s bench were golden balloons shaped to 900. Other balloons, in Loyalsock’s alternate blue, lined the top railing of the gym. It was clear something exceptional was on the line.
The balloons and obvious excitement from the fans to start the celebration looked a little premature throughout the opening quarter. Loyalsock stated slow and found itself down by six points at the the conclusion. The effort was a little better in the second quarter, but the Lancers headed into the half still down.
The third quarter of the game will be one locked in the minds of those in attendance. Ross closed in on his milestone will every basket. The Lancers also got their coach closer to his feat with every shot. It was a run that came to a stop when Ross hit his third shot of the quarter. The presentation was brief as Loyalsock quickly got back to work to outscore Athens 21-12 through the eight-minute span.
Ross came into the game needing 17 points to reach 1,000. He finished with 28 points and in typical Ross fashion helped his team overcome the sluggish start to record its 16th win of the season.
“It was just like Ross getting to 17 points,” Insinger said of Ross reaching 1,000 points for his career. “You stress yourself out and pressure yourself to the point where nothing falls. He stayed pretty loose today. He got off to a good start and that really helped.”
The final quarter continued in that fashion as Mitchell Klingerman, Loyalsock’s most improved player through the 2017-18 season, took over. Klingerman finished the final quarter with 10 points, a block, and two rebounds as the Lancers outscored the Wildcats 23-15 to closeout the historic day with one more milestone.
Insinger was greeted with hugs, pats on the back, high fives, cheers, and more cheers as the Loyalsock faithful joined with Athens fans to give the longtime coach his due. There’s a good chance this won’t be the last celebration for Insinger’s distinguished career, but for one moment he and Ross will be linked to one of the best days in Loyalsock’s history.
By BRETT R. CROSSLEY