By: Tim Birney | | December 23, 2021 | Photo courtesy David Alliger


ATHENS - Athens scored 15 points in a row in a run that bridged the halftime intermission to blow open a close game on its way to a 67-28 win over Sayre here Thursday night in NTL boys basketball action.

The Wildcats led 19-16 with 2 minutes remaining in the second quarter, but closed out the first half with a 6-0 spurt to take a 25-16 lead at the half.

Athens opened the second with a 9-0 run to extend its lead to 34-16, and ended up outscoring the Redskins 42-12 in the second half.

"I think (Sayre's) game plan was to slow everything down," said Athens coach Jim Lister. "They wanted to slow the game down, and I think they did that in the first half, and that was good coaching on Coach (Devin) Shaw's part.

"We made some halftime adjustments, and came out in half-court press, and made them push the ball. We need to pick up the pace of the game," added Lister. "We forced a bunch of turnovers, got a bunch of lay-ups, and ran way with it."

"Credit to Athens, they are a good basketball team and they play well together," said Sayre coach Devin Shaw.

"We did a good job in the first half against their 3-2 zone," he noted. "We took care of the ball and got some good shots. Defensively in first half, we slowed them down a little and they didn't get the easy buckets that they did in the second half.

"In the second half, we came out flat and turned the ball over which lead to easy points and kind of put our heads down," added Shaw. "We need to be stronger with the ball and stay positive. I need to do a better job coaching that in practice."

Both team spread the ball around in the first quarter, and Athens led 13-10 after the first eight minutes.

Senior J.J. Babcock scored a pair of buckets in the opening 90 seconds of the second quarter to give the Wildcats a 17-10 lead, but junior Jackson Hubbard's old-fashioned three-point play trimmed the deficit to 17-13.

After a bucket by Lister, Sayre senior Josh Arnold canned a 3-pointer with 2:15 remaining in the second quarter to pull the Redskins with three points, at 19-16. Sayre wouldn't score again for more than four minutes.

Seniors Troy Pritchard, and Nalen Carling and Babcock closed out the second quarter with buckets to give the Wildcats a 25-16 lead at the half.

Senior Tucker Brown buried a 3-pointer on Athens' first possession of the second half, Brown and Carling turned Sayre miscues into lay-up in the next 35 seconds to extend the Athens lead to 32-16.

Babcock capped the 15-0 run with a steal and uncontested lay-up to make it 34-16 with 6:30 remaining in the third quarter.

Senior Cayden Firestine ended Sayre drought with a pair of free throws, but Athens scored the next 11 points to take a 45-18 lead with 45 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

Senior Dom Fabbri's 3-pointer with 10 seconds remaining left the Redskins trailing 45-21 entering the final eight minutes.

Junior Carson Smith knocked down a pair of 3-pointers, and senior Ryan Thompson added five points to fuel a 22-7 game-closing run for the Wildcats.

Babcock led Athens with 19 points, six rebound, six assists, and seven steals, while Brown scored 13 points, Carling had 10 points, four rebounds, and three assists, and Lister added six points, four rebounds, five assists, and three steals.

Smith scored six points in the win, while Pritchard had four points and five boards, and Thompson had five points and four rebounds.

Jackson led Sayre with 11 points, Fabbri added eight, and Firestine chipped in with four.

Athens, now 4-1, returns to action Tuesday at Waverly in the opening round of the Valley Christmas Tournament, while Sayre (2-2) hosts Towanda in the other opening-round game.


About the Author

Tim Birney Author Bio
Tim Birney

Tim Birney is the founder / owner of River Road Media Group. He was born and raised in the Valley, graduating from Waverly High School in 1984.

Birney earned an Associate's Degree in Journalism from SUNY Morrisville in 1986 and a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism / Public Relations from Utica College of Syracuse University in 1988. He began his newspaper career at The Daily Review in Towanda in 1989, before moving on to The Evening Times in 1995. He spent more than 10 years at the Times, the last four as Managing Editor.

River Road Media Group includes five sites in "The Sports Reports" family that cover 24 school districts in five counties: Valley Sports Report (launched Aug. 10, 2009), Tioga County (NY) Sports Report (Aug. 13, 2018), and Northern Tier Sports Report (Aug. 31, 2020); Northern Tier West Sports Report (March 15, 2021) Southern Tier Sports Report (Aug. 16, 2021).