Athlete of the Month: Moriah Murray

By Steve Svetovich

Dunmore junior Moriah Murray scored her 1,000th career point and three weeks later led her team to another Lackawanna League Division III title.

And then COVID-19 placed a pause in the fate of the Dunmore girls basketball program in the hands of District administrators. 

At press time, a total of three Dunmore girls players tested positive for COVID and because of the timing and state mandated quarentine protocols, the earliest the Lady Bucks can return to action is Friday, March 5. The team is currently seeded second in the Class 4A playoffs, but the dates initially posted by District 2 call for that bracket to begin play Thursday, March 4. 

Eight other Lsckawanna League teams are also on pause due to COVID protocols.

Daughter of Joe Murray and Lynn Plotkin, Moriah said she and her teammates remain prepared, focused and ready for the district playoffs. 

“We are on pause now with nine teams affected due to COVID,” she said. “We won the league title and we’ve been practicing hard. We will be ready for everything. We can’t wait to get going again. We will take it game by game.”

Moriah hit five 3-pointers and scored 21 points as No. 2 Dunmore clinched the Lackawanna League Division III title with a 71-35 win over No. 6 Old Forge Wednesday, February 24. Ciera Toomey added 17 points and Cadence Lewis added 10 points for the Lady Bucks. 

Three weeks prior, Moriah reached a personal milestone scoring her 1,000th career point in a 71-45 win over Holy Cross Wednesday, February 3. The junior standout reached the milestone on a 3-pointer in the third quarter. Moriah scored 15 points in her milestone game. Toomey led the Lady Bucks with 19 points. Anna Talutto added 18.

The Lady Bucks are 16-1 under veteran coach Ben O’Brien going into playoff action.

Moriah took a pause to reflect on her 1,000th point. “It was kinda crazy,” she said.

“You don’t think about the points, but rather about your teammates and coaches who put you in a position to accomplish something like that. My heart stopped when the buzzer sounded… It was just such a great feeling.”

Moriah has a 92 academic average. Her best academic subject is math. She committed to play college basketball at Drexel University in Philadelphia. She will play there with Riverside standout basketball player Kylie Lavelle, another junior and 1,000-point scorer who is a good friend.

“I am undecided on a major, but I am looking forward to playing basketball with Kylie at Drexel. She is a very good friend. We played in AAU leagues together over the years. I am looking forward to the type of intensity of basketball at that level.”

Moriah has learned a lot about the game of basketball from her dad. She started at a young age playing in AAU leagues. She said her parents always taught her to “be myself.”

Confident and articulate, Moriah said her Lady Bucks team has a simple goal. “Get into the districts and win the district playoffs. Then win the state playoffs. We were on our way last year when COVID struck. We feel there is a need to finish off a goal. And we are ready for it. We want a state championship. We don’t want to come up short for any reason. We’ll go game to game until we reach our goal.” 

“I am not even thinking about college now. I am excited about that down the road. But right now I am focusing on Dunmore and our team.”

The junior scholar-athlete is a member of the French Club and TACT at Dunmore. She is also a key member of the Lady Bucks softball team as a shortstop and pitcher.

Moriah started playing in AAU leagues at age seven, “It was such a great experience,” she said. “I picked up so many skills and moves from the other girls in the AAU  leagues.” 

Moriah said she loves Dunmore and her friends and teammates. “I just love the whole Dunmore experience,” she said. “I love the whole town of Dunmore. It is such a small borough. Everyone is so close, especially our basketball team. We have been together through thick and thin.” 

Athlete of the Month: Mason Maciejewski

Athlete of the Month - Mason Maciejewski pic 2By Steve Svetovich

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dunmore Bucks do not open their football season until Oct. 3, but senior all-star lineman Mason Maciejewski is more than ready.

“His work ethic is always outstanding,” said Dunmore football coach Kevin McHale.

A Lackawanna League all-star as a junior from the center position on offense, Mason is also a stalwart as a defensive tackle for the Bucks.

Son of Scott and Stephanie Maciejewski, his sister Moriah, 24, was a three-year starter and three-time all-star on the Dunmore Lady Bucks basketball team. She was twice All Regional and once All-State. She is a graduate of  Newmann College where she received a bachelor of science degree. in accounting.

With sports in his blood, Mason chose football and is now entering his fourth season as a key member of the Dunmore Bucks football team.

He is undecided where he will attend college or what he will choose as his field of study, but is certain he wants to play football on the Division I or II level.

Mason is an honor student with a 3.2 academic average at Dunmore. His best subject is history.

He enjoys listening to music in his spare time and his favorite musical artist is Travis Scott.

Well-spoken and polite, Mason talked about what it takes to excel as a lineman in high school football. “You need to work very hard in the weight room,” he said. “Never slack. You also need to learn all of the techniques from the coaches. And work hard all the time.”

Mason said he cannot thank his parents enough for everything he learned from them. “I thank them a lot. I can’t even begin to say everything they have done for me. It is so much.”

He is quick to praise Dunmore coach McHale. “He taught me so much about techniques. He knows a lot about linemen and teaching the right techniques. He taught me a lot even when he was an assistant coach under Jack Henzes.”

The hard working senior lineman said the Dunmore Bucks football team will once again be very good and compete at a high level despite a possible shortened season due to the pandemic. Athlete of the MOnth - Mason Maciejewski“The goal is a state championship,” he said. “That is always the goal here.”

Always striving, Mason has kept busy during the pandemic.

“I’ve been working out, running, going over plays, and talking football with my teammates,” he said. “Football practice has been going well and we can’t wait for our first game on Oct. 3.” 

Confident and self assured within himself, but not cocky, Mason talked about his future goals on a personal level. “I want to always work very hard and never slack. I want to be the best person I could be. And I want to always have goals. 

Mason summed up his experience at Dunmore in a few words that tell it all. “I love it. There is absolutely no better place.”

Athlete of the Month: Leahy O’Conner

Athlete of the Month - Leahy O'Connor2By Steve Svetovich

Leahy O’Connor knows how to seize an opportunity. Take his experience at Holy Cross High School, for instance. Leahy enjoyed Holy Cross to the fullest.

Son of James and April O’Connor, Leahy, 18, was a four-year member of both the baseball and basketball teams at Holy Cross. When he wasn’t practicing or playing a game, Leahy concentrated on academics and will graduate with a highly impressive 3.9 grade point average.

Leahy will attend college at the University of Pittsburgh where he will study pre-law in the fall.

“I have been looking at the University of Pittsburgh for a long time,” he said. “My dad and my aunt both went to colleges in Pittsburgh. I have been to Pittsburgh a lot and love the city. I am really looking forward to it.”

The scholar-athlete learned his work ethic from his parents. “My parents taught me the value of hard work and about how to overcome failure in order to succeed,” Leahy said.

Leahy was named honorable mention as a junior and was selected first-team all-league as a senior for basketball. 

Athlete of the Month LeahyHe averaged 12.5 points per game as a small forward this past year for the Crusaders under veteran basketball coach Al Callejas.

He scored 650 career points at Holy Cross.

A superb center fielder on the baseball team, he batted .273 as a junior. He was disappointed over the cancellation of his senior baseball season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was devastating not to play baseball,” he said. “We thought our team would strongly compete for the league and district title and even go further. It was tough not to be able to play as a senior.”

The hard working senior said he learned a lot from Holy Cross basketball coach Al Callejas. “He teaches you how to overcome difficulty. And that is how you become a success.”

Leahy also enjoyed playing for Holy Cross veteran baseball coach Sandy Menichetti. “He is a lot of fun to play for. He teaches us how to enjoy what we are doing while still working hard. He wants us to have fun, but still give our best effort.”

Leahy said his best academic subject is English. He is a member of Student Council, the National Honor Society and the History Club at Holy Cross.

He is very proud of the Holy Cross basketball team’s achievements this past year in winning the league and district titles and advancing to the second round in the state playoffs.

“Our hard work really paid off,” he said. “We worked hard the entire summer to get ready for the season. We were in the gym 10 months of the year working extremely hard. Our team success is really special because we put in the effort and it paid off.”

Leahy, who is a huge fan of the late Tom Petty, said he loved his four years at Holy Cross.

“It was just a great experience,” he said. “The atmosphere is the best. Everybody accepted me there. Seniors became friends with me when I was a freshman there. Likewise, I made sure to make friends with the freshmen when I was a senior. 

“That is the kind of school it is. It is close knit.”

And Leahy is not the kind of a young man who sits still. He is keeping busy during the COVID-19 pandemic studying and working. He works at a gas station in Archbald and does some landscaping work at Marywood University. 

“I’m trying to save some money for college,” he said. “I’m looking forward to Pittsburgh.”