March 26, 2021 Tim Birney

CANTON — Canton took an early lead with three unearned runs in the home half of the third inning on its way to a season-opening, 4-2, win over Athens here Friday afternoon in NTL baseball action.

After a two-out error kept the inning alive, Weston Bellows walked, and Joel Schoonover ripped a two-RBI double into left field to give the Warriors a 2-0 lead. Carter Route capped capped the rally with a run-scoring single to left field.

The Wildcats responded quickly with a run in the top of the fourth inning, but it could have been a much bigger rally.

Sophomore Lucas Kraft stroked a lead-off single to right field, and junior Tucker Brown and senior Dylan Merritt followed with walks to load the bases. Sophomore Gage Warner knocked in a run with a sacrifice fly to trim the Wildcat deficit to 3-1.

With two outs, junior Karter Rude walked to re-load the bases, but Canton’s Cooper Kitchen pitcher registered his second strike out of the inning to end the threat.

Canton added a run in the bottom of the fourth on an RBI single by Hudson Ward to make it 4-1.

Athens took advantage of four walks in the top of the fifth inning to score one run, but Bellows, on in relief, registered a strikeout to end the bases-loaded jam.

The Warriors loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the fifth inning, but sophomore Mason Lister, on in relief, used a strikeout and an infield pop out to escape the threat unscathed.

In the top of the seventh, Lister was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. Kraft followed with a single that sent Lister to third base, and Brown reached on a bunt single to load the bases.

Schoonover enter in relief for the Warriors and struck out the first two batters he faced. The game ended with a play at the plate on a ball that squirted away from the Canton catcher.

The Wildcats, who left 12 runners on base, outhit the Warriors 6-3 in the game.

Kraft led Athens with two hits, while sophomore Cam Sullivan singled and scored one run, and sophomore Jaren Glisson, Brown, and Merritt each added a single. Warner and junior Jared Peterson each had one RBI, and Kaden Setzer scored one run.

Kraft was tagged with the tough-luck loss in his first varsity start. He allowed four runs — one earned — on two hits, while striking out two and walking four in three innings of work.

Lister fanned seven and walked two in three innings of one-hit relief.

Athens returns to action Thursday at Cowanesque Valley.

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March 26, 2021 Tim Birney

CANTON — Athens banged out 20 hits, and held off a late Canton rally to post a 10-8 season-opening win here Friday afternoon in NTL softball action.

With the 2020 season canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was the first game for the Lady Wildcats since May 24, 2019 — a 3-2 loss to Bloomsburg in the District 4, Class AAA quarterfinals.

“It was nice to get back out there,” said Athens coach Mickey Farrell. “The atmosphere was electric, everybody was happy to be playing.

“I’m just glad the kids got a chance to play. We had a lot of fun,” he added. “To get the win was just icing on the cake.”

With a large group of sophomores and freshmen on the roster, the Lady Wildcats entered the game with little varsity experience.

“It’s good to get this first win, especially with a team that I had no idea about how it would respond, but the intensity level was there,” said Farrell. “The girls came out and played hard.”

Athens jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning on RBI singles by junior Caydence Macik, sophomore Addy Repsher, and senior Mallory Mummert.

Canton answered with a pair of runs in the home half of the inning to trim the deficit to 3-2.

Senior Megan Collins slugged a two-RBI double in the top of the third to make it 5-2. The Lady Warriors again answered with two runs to slice the lead to 5-4.

In the top of the fourth, senior Audry Hatch ripped a lead-off solo home run, freshman Ashley VanFleet added an RBI single, and Collins drove in a run with a groundout to make it 8-4.

The Lady Wildcats tacked on a run in the top of the fifth inning to make it 9-4.

Canton scored four times in the home half of the sixth, but Macik, on in relief of Repsher, stranded the would-be tying run at third base.

Junior Macie Coyle belted a lead-off double in the top of the seventh inning, and scored on a one-out RBI single by Hatch to give Athens a 10-8 lead.

The Lady Warriors threatened in the bottom of the seventh, but Hatch threw a runner out at the plate, and Macik ended the game with a strikeout to strand runners at first and second.

“Our bats won the game today, there’s no doubt about that,” said Farrell. “A lot of girls got their first varsity hits today.”

Repsher, VanFleet, Mummert, Coyle, and senior Carlie Simpson all collected their first career hits.

Hatch had three hits, including a home run, scored two runs, and drove in two runs, while Collins had three hits, including a double, and three RBI, Repsher had three hits, one run scored, and one RBI, and senior Harley Sullivan stroked three singles and scored one run to pace Athens at the plate.

Macik and VanFleet each had two hits, two runs scored and one RBI in the win, while Mummert singled twice, scored one run, and drove in one run, Coyle doubled, scored one run, and knocked in one run, and Simpson added a single.

Repsher earned the win for the Lady Wildcats, allowing seven runs on nine hits, while striking out four and walking seven in 5 1/3 innings of work.

Macik recorded the save, allowing one run on two hits, while striking out three and walking two in 1 2/3 innings in the circle.

“The reason this team is going to be successful is versatility; we have a number of girls that can play three or four positions,” said Farrell. “When we made the pitching change in the sixth inning, we made five line-up changes; that doesn’t happen on every team.”

Athens returns to action Thursday at Cowanesque Valley.

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March 24, 2021 Tim Birney

Athens junior Gavin Bradley racked up a 40-2 record, was a PIAA runner-up at 113 pounds this season, and has earned the distinction of NTL “Wrestler of the Year” in recent voting by the league’s coaches.

Bradley was the lone Wildcat named to the first team, but five of his teammates — freshman Mason Vanderpool, sophomore Jake Courtney, juniors Kaden Setzer and Karter Rude, and senior Zach Stafursky — were named to the second team.

On his way to a state silver medal, Bradley won the North Section, District 4, and Northeast Regional titles. He was runner-up at the PIAA East Super Regional.

Vanderpool had a 14-6 record in his first varsity season. He finished second at the North Section Championships to qualify for the District 4 Championships.

Courtney was 16-11 this season. He finished third at North Sections, and was sixth at Districts.

Setzer was 26-9 on the season. He finished second at North Sections, and fifth at Districts to qualify for the Northeast Regionals.

Rude was 24-9 on the season. He finished third at the North Sections to qualify for Districts.

Stafursky capped his career with a 21-12 season. He finished second at North Sections to qualify for Districts.

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March 21, 2021 Tim Birney

ENS — Athens’ Brian Miller was named the NTL “Coach of the Year” for the second straight season, and his star players — senior Kayleigh Miller and junior Caydence Macik — were voted first-team NTL Large School Division all-stars for the second straight year in voting by the league's coaches.

Senior Megan Collins was a second-team selection.

Towanda sophomore Paige Manchester was named the NTL “Player of the Year,” while NEB’s Maisie Neuber was voted the “Offensive Player of the Year,” Towanda’s Porschia Bennett was tabbed the “Defensive Player of the Year,” and Wyalusing’s Olivia Leichliter was named the “Sixth Man of the Year.”

Miller directed the Lady Wildcats to a 17-7 record in 2021, including a 54-42 win over Milton in the District 4, Class AAAA quarterfinals. The season ended in the semis with a 32-25 loss at Shamokin.

Athens is 39-12 under Miller the last two seasons.

Caydence Macik, junior, Athens:
An athletic low-post player, Macik was a standout on both ends of the floor for the Lady Wildcats.

Macik led Athens at 17.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.8 steals, and 2 blocks per game. She also averaged 2 assists per game.

Kayleigh Miller, senior, Athens: A dead-eye shooter from behind the 3-point arc, Miller graduates fifth all-time on the school’s scoring list with 1,187 points, and first all-time with 222 career 3-pointers.

This season, Miller averaged 17.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 2.3 assists per game. She shot 80 percent from the free-throw line, and 40 percent from the field.

Also named to the first team were Towanda’s Erin Barrett, Wyalusing’s Callie Bennett, Wellsboro’s Emma Coolidge, and Troy’s Sidney Taylor.

Megan Collins, senior, Athens:
A dangerous 3-point shooter, Collins averaged 5 points, 3 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game. She made 23 3-pointers on the season, and finished with 60 for her career.

Also named to the second team were Wyalusing’s Catherine Brown and Madison Putnam, Wellsboro’s Bailey Monks Towanda’s Amanda Horton, and Troy’s Rachel Kingsley.


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March 21, 2021 Tim Birney

ATHENS — Junior J.J. Babcock and sophomore Mason Lister were named NTL Large School Division first-team all-stars, while juniors Tucker Brown and Nalen Carling were second-team selections by the league’s coaches.

Troy junior Ty Barrett was named the NTL “Player of the Year,” while North Penn-Liberty’s Noah Spencer was voted the “Offensive Player of the Year,” Wyalusing’s Mitchell Burke was named the “Defensive Player of the Year,” and North Penn-Mansfield’s Curtis Craig was tabbed the “Sixth Man of the Year.”

North Penn-Liberty’s Brian Litzelman and his coaching staff was voted “Coaching Staff of the Year.”

J.J. Babcock, junior, Athens:
A versatile 6-5 swingman, Babcock could score in transition, from the perimeter, and in the low blocks.

He led the Wildcats in scoring at 14.8 points per game, while shooting 48.5 percent from the field. He also led the team with 24 blocked shots and 61 deflections.

Babcock was second on the team at 6.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game, as well as 38 steals, and 14 3-pointers.

Mason Lister, sophomore, Athens: At 6-4, Lister was a standout on both ends of the court for the Wildcats. He led the team in assists (4 per game), steals (49), and 3-pointers (30).

Lister was second on the team at 10.8 points per game, and averaged 4.8 rebounds per game.

Also named to the first team were Troy’s Mason Imbt and Ethan Vannoy, and Wellsboro’s Liam Manning and Darryn Callahan.

Tucker Brown, junior, Athens:
One of the premier defenders in the league, Brown was a much-improved player on the offensive end of the floor.

Brown averaged 8.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 15 blocks per game. He shot 45.5 percent from the field, and 70.8 from the free-throw line.

Nalen Carling, junior, Athens: Long and athletic, Carling was a big contributor in his first season at Athens.

Carling averaged 9 points, a team-high 6.6 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, and 1 steal per game. He shot a team-best 49.1 percent from the field, and also led the team with a 71.9 percentage from the free-throw line.

Also named to the second team were North Penn-Mansfield’s Karson Dominick and Alex Stein, Troy’s Jake Deitrick, and Wellsboro’s Connor Adams.

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March 12, 2021 Tim Birney

HERSHEY — Athens junior Gavin Bradley was unable to create the up-tempo match he wanted in his PIAA Class AA 113-pound championship bout with Wyoming Area sophomore Jaden Pepe, and dropped a 3-2 decision here Friday evening at the Giant Center.

Bradley, now a three-time PIAA medalist, finishes the season at 40-2 — both losses to Pepe — with his silver-medal performance. Pepe finishes the season at 19-1 — his only loss to Bradley.

“Gavin had a great season,” said Athens coach Shawn Bradley. “He wrestled his butt off the entire season, and he works his tail off all the time.

“He deserved to win that much, he just didn’t do quite enough to win,” noted Bradley. “This one is going to hurt him for a little bit. He can use that as a driving force next year.”

Bradley pressured Pepe the entire first period, but it was Pepe who scored a takedown on a low double-leg with 15 seconds remaining to take a 2-0 lead into the second period.

Bradley deferred, and Pepe chose bottom to start the second period, but Bradley elected to start neutral, giving Pepe a 3-0 lead.

Bradley pressed the issue for nearly the entire second period, but it was Bradley that was warned for stalling with 24 seconds remaining. The duo remained on their feet for the entire two minutes.

Bradley scored a quick escape at the outset of the third period to trim the deficit to 3-1.

After two stalemates, and four whistles for going out-of-bounds, Pepe was penalized for stalling with 17 seconds remaining to make it 3-2.

Bradley got in on a leg twice late in the match, but couldn’t finish either one off.

“(Gavin) has to have a little better mat sense,” said Shawn Bradley. “He had two shots on the edge … he just has to score there.”

Neither Bradley was pleased with the pace of the match.

“I’m not going to make excuses,” said Shawn Bradley. “(Pepe) won the match, he wrestled within the rules and won the match.

“Pulling our elbows, staying still, and doing nothing the whole match, though, it’s hard to somebody who’s not wrestling back,” he added.

“I pushed the pace the whole match,” said Gavin Bradley. “I tried my best to get to my stuff, but it didn’t turn out to be the match I wanted.

“He was always moving backward,” he added. “It’s hard to wrestle someone like that … I mean, we’re in the state finals, I think we should wrestle.”

Gavin Bradley, who finished sixth at States as a freshman and seventh last year, said he still has one more goal to accomplish, and will continue working hard.

“Knowing him, he’ll probably be at practice Monday, but I need a break,” laughed Shawn Bradley.

“I never take breaks,” said Gavin Bradley. “Sooner or later, I’m going to get what I want, and when I do, it will all be worth it.”

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March 12, 2021 Tim Birney

HERSHEY — Athens junior Gavin Bradley will wrestle for state gold here this evening at the PIAA Class AA wrestling championships at the Giant Center, and he’ll be wrestling a very familiar foe.

Bradley, now 40-1, will square off with Wyoming Area’s Jaden Pepe (18-1) in the 113-pound finals shortly after 5 p.m.

Athens coach Shawn Bradley said Gavin Bradley is not content with an appearance in the finals.

“I asked Gavin if he was done, he said, ‘Nope.’   We’re here to get one more,” said Shawn Bradley. “Hopefully, it erases that hurt he had last weekend.”

Gavin Bradley opened his action Friday morning with a 6-4 win over Bentworth freshman Chris Vargo in the quarterfinals, then dispatched of Western Super Regional champion Coen Bainey of Bald Eagle Area with a 10-7 decision in the semifinals.

“(Vargo and Bainey) are both really good kids,” said Shawn Bradley. “It’s hard to wrestle Gavin the first time through because of his pace and his strength — he keeps such a fast pace, and he’s really strong.”

Gavin Bradley scored a takedown just seven seconds into his quarter-final match-up with Vargo, who entered the bout with a 17-1 record. After riding top for 40 seconds, Bradley was whistled for potentially-dangerous actions as he worked a power-half.

Bradley cut Vargo loose, then needed just nine seconds for another takedown and a 4-1 lead with 59 seconds remaining.

About 40 seconds later, Bradley was whistled again and penalized a point for potentially-dangerous action on his power-half. Fargo scored an escape in the closing seconds, cutting Bradley’s advantage to 4-3 after the first two minutes.

Shawn Bradley took the blame for the “potentially-dangerous” calls.

“That’s more my fault than anything,” he said. “As you can tell, we spend 90 percent of our time on our feet. We probably need to spend a little more time on the mat, but you make your money on your feet.

“Gavin can turn anybody because it’s tighter than heck up there,” noted Bradley. “He just has to attack that arm, be a little more aggressive, instead of being nice with it.”

Gavin Bradley chose neutral to start the second period, and scored a takedown midway through for a 6-3 lead. Fargo escaped about 30 seconds later to trim the deficit to 6-4, and the duo remained on their feet for the final 42 seconds of the second period.

Vargo chose bottom to start the third period, but Bradley was able to ride him the entire two minutes to preserve the win

“Gavin did a nice job on top in the third period,”said Shawn Bradley.

In the semifinals, Bradley scored a takedown 14 seconds into the bout to take a 2-0 lead, but Bainey recorded an escape 15 seconds later to make it 2-1. The duo remained on their feet for the final 91 seconds of the first period.

Bradley chose neutral to start the second period, and scored a takedown with 1:26 remaining. He cut Bainey loose 14 seconds later to make it 4-2. Bradley added a little cushion to his lead with another takedown with 15 seconds remaining, upping his lead to 6-2 entering the final two minutes.

Bainey, who entered the match with a 23-1 record, scored a switch off the third-period whistle to trim the deficit to 6-4, but Bradley quickly escaped to take a 7-4 lead.

Midway through the period, Bainey scored a takedown and momentarily had Bradley in a cradle, but the Athens wrestler quickly broke the hold and escaped to take an 8-6 lead with 46 seconds left.

Just eleven seconds later, Bradey got in on a single-leg, and finished it off for a 10-6 lead. Bainey escaped with 14 seconds remaining, but Bradley fought off his takedown attempts to preserve the win.

“That match was a lot closer than it probably should have been,” said Shawn Bradley. “(Gavin) gave him five escapes, and gave up one reversal — the kids scored two points, we gave him five.”

Bradley and Pepe, who is now 18-1, have met in the finals each of the last two weeks. Bradley won a 5-3 decision at the Northeast Regionals, while Pepe scored a 9-6 decision at the Eastern Super Regionals.

“(Pepe) did a great job last week making a couple adjustments,” said Shawn Bradley. “Hopefully, it’s our turn to make a couple adjustments.

“We said last week, it we’re going to lose to him that was the time,” noted Bradley. “Hopefully this week, we can clean some stuff up.

“Of course, if (Gavin) doesn’t get dropped on his head last week that match might have been different,” he added.

Shawn Bradley said the key will be for Gavin Bradley to keep the pressure on Pepe.

“Gavin just has to wrestle, keep the pace high and make (Pepe) wrestle six minutes. We just need to make it a track meet.”

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March 10, 2021 Tim Birney

DANVILLE — Dante Harward and Jagger Dressler combined for 40 first-half points to lead Danville in an 86-39 win over Athens here Tuesday in the semifinals of the District 4, Class AAAA boys basketball playoffs.

First-year Athens coach Jim Lister could do nothing but praise Danville’s senior-laden team, which improves to 15-1 on the season, after the win.

“(Danville) is just a tremendous basketball team,” he said. “I told the kids when we came out here tonight, that we would have to play A-plus basketball.

“On film, they are just terrific, and they are just as good in person.

“There isn’t a superstar on that team, there are just five really good basketball players,” noted Lister. “They play great team basketball, they move well, and when they get looks, they bury the shots.

“They have a great shot at winning the strict title on Saturday,” he added.

Harward pumped in a trio of 3-pointers and scored 13 points in the first quarter, and Dressler added seven points to help the Ironmen to a 24-8 lead after the first eight minutes.

Danville jumped out to a quick 7-2 lead, but buckets by junior Troy Pritchard and sophomore Mason Lister, sandwiched around a score by K.J. Riley trimmed the deficit to 9-6, but the Ironmen took control with a 13-0 run to take a 22-6 lead.

Harward canned two more 3-pointers and scored 10 points in the second quarter, and Dressler added nine points, including a 3-pointer and an old-fashioned three-point play, as Danville outscored Athens 26-17 to take a 50-25 lead at the intermission.

The Wildcats trimmed the deficit to 12 points on a couple occasions in the second quarter, the last being at 29-17, but the Ironmen used a 16-2 blitz to blow the game open and take a 47-19 lead with 1:35 left in the first half.

Lister said his defense had no answers for the Ironmen.

“We came out trying to play man-to-man defense,” he said. “They screened well, and they don’t need much room to bury the shots, so they were running off their screens well, and they ran their offense well.

“Some of the shots were contested, and they still made them.

“It’s just a good basketball team,” added Lister. “They are solid fundamentally, and they took it to us.”

Lister also noted his team didn’t adjust to the physicality of the game.

“(Danville) plays very good defense,” he said. “They are right in your grill, and their hands are busy.

“And (the officials) let you play down here,” noted Lister. “You get away with a lot more here the you do (in the NTL); and that’s something we have to get use to.

“I told the kids at the beginning, ‘you can’t let their physicality get in your head. You have to play the game the same way,’” added Lister. “Maybe it did get in our head a little bit.”

Junior J.J. Babcock scored 15 of the Wildcats’ 25 points in the first half, including 13 points int he second quarter.

After trading buckets for the opening minute of the second half, Danville scored 11 straight points to take a 63-31 lead with 1:15 left in the third quarter.

Babcock led Athens with 16 points, including a trio of 3-pointers, four rebounds, and two steals, while Pritchard scored nine points, Brown added six points, and Lister had five assists and three boards.

Harward led Danville with 33 points and six 3-pointers, while Dressler had 31 points and three 3-pointers, and Riley and Brady Hills added seven points apiece.

The Wildcats end the season at 14-10. They lose just two seniors — Jon Smith and James Benninger-Jones, but Lister said they will be missed.

“Our two seniors are great role models for us,” said Lister.

“They knew their roles this year,” he noted. “They came to every practice, and they busted their ass every single night. They worked hard to make us better.

“I’m real proud of our seniors,” added Lister. “They are a pleasure to be around, they’re great kids, and I’m positive they will do very well in life.”

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March 8, 2021 Tim Birney

COAL TOWNSHIP — Athens turned in its typical strong defensive effort, but could not buy a ticket in a 32-25 loss to Shamokin here Monday night in the quarterfinals of the District 4, Class AAAA girls basketball playoffs.

“We didn’t shoot the ball that well, and we didn’t rebound on the offensive end,” said Athens coach Brian Miller. “So, if you don’t shoot the basketball well, and you don’t offensive rebounds, it’s tough to win a game like that.”

The Lady Wildcats shot 26 percent (10 of 38) from the field, including a 2-for-15 (13 percent) performance from behind the 3-point arc. The grabbed nine offensive rebounds in the game, but seven were in the first half.

MIller said the physical style of play also favored the Lady Indians.

“The nature of the game, with what the officials allowed … was a physical  game,” said Miller. “When you have two teams that are physical and there are only seven fouls called, that’s a tough team to play against, especially for our team.”

Shamokin was whistled for eight fouls, and Athens was whistled for seven.

Athens took the lead on its first possession of the game on a nice low-post move by junior Caydence Macik, but Shamokin scored the next eight points.

Macik scored on another move in the low blocks with 34 seconds remaining in the first quarter, trimming the deficit to 8-4, and ending an Athens scoring drought that last 7 minutes and 11 seconds.

The Lady Wildcats were held without a field goal in the second quarter, and made just 3 of 7 free throw attempts, but their defense was stellar, limiting Shamokin to just six points in the stanza. The Lady Indians led 14-7 at the half.

“We scored seven points in the first half, and we were still in the game,” said Miller. “We felt like if we had made a couple shots, or cut out a couple of our defensive mistakes, we would have been right there.

“We did some good things, and played well defensively,” added Miller.

Athens cut the lead to two points, at 14-12, with 5:56 remaining in the third quarter on a lay-up by Macik, who moments later drained a 3-pointer from the top-of-the-key.

Shamokin used an 8-3 spurt over the next 3 1/2 minutes to push its lead back to 22-15.

Macik scored a pair of buckets in the final two minutes, sandwiched around a basket by Grace Nazih to trim the Shamokin lead to 24-19 heading into the final eight minutes.

“It seemed like there were several occasions where we would get the lead to two, and then it would be eight,” said Miller. “We’d make a nice run to get it back to three, and they would get it back out to eight. It was frustrating.”

Athens committed a pair of turnover on its first two possession of the fourth quarter, and the Lady Indians turned them into transition buckets by Madison Lippay and Nazih to stretch the lead to 28-19.

“(Shamokin) is too good of a defensive team to give easy baskets, and we’re not going to get those easy baskets, and we didn’t tonight,” said Miller. “Everything we got, we earned.

“When you’re playing a very good defensive team like Shamokin, it’s very tough to come back when you’re down like that,” added Miller.

Senior Hannah Blackman scored a bucket with 6:14 left in the game to make it 28-21. Nearly 3 1/2 minutes later, Macik scored to trim the deficit to 28-23.

Moments later, Nolter scored on a drive to the bucket to push the lead back to seven points, at 30-23, and end Shamokin’s 4-minute and 32-second scoring drought.

Macik led Athens with 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Collins added five points, two steals, and two assists, senior Rachel Stephens grabbed five rebounds, sophomore Karlee Bartlow had three boards and two assists, and senior Kayleigh Miller was held scoreless for the first time since her freshman season, dished out two assists.

Athens finishes the season at 17-7.

The Lady Wildcats will graduate four seniors — Miller, Collins, Stephens, and Blackman.

“This was the 100th (varsity) basketball game for these seniors … they were 69-31; that’s pretty good,” said Miller. “For those girls to play that many games in four years is impressive.

“This is a great group of girls. They are good basketball players, and they are good kids.

“The Athens basketball community was truly lucky to watch these fours girls play the last four years,” noted Miller. “They brought exciting basketball to our school and were a pleasure to coach and watch.

“It will be difficult to replace them. It will tough to lose players like that who work hard in practice, and are leaders,” added Miller. “Hopefully, we can find someone to step up, and we can keep the program where it is.”

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March 6, 2021 Tim Birney

LEWISBURG — Despite trailing, Athens junior Gavin Bradley seemed to have momentum on his side in a battle of the top-two ranked 113-pounders in the state, until an illegal mat return nearly brought the PIAA Eastern Super Regional championship match to a premature conclusion here Saturday afternoon at Martz Hall.

Bradley, the state’s top-ranked 113-pounder, trailed Wyoming Area’s Jaden Pepe, 7-4, after two periods, and chose bottom to start the third. He immediately got to his feet, but Pepe lifted Bradley, while pinning his left arm to his side, and returned him to the mat.

The official immediately stopped the match after Bradley’s left shoulder and head were the first things to hit the mat. After a seven-minute stoppage, Bradley, who was awarded a penalty point for the illegal return, was allowed to continue.

Bradley scored a quick escape to trim the deficit to 7-6, but couldn’t dent Pepe’s defenses, ultimately giving up a takedown with 21 seconds remaining to seal Pepe’s 9-6 win.

“We had (Pepe) broke until we got slammed,” said Athens coach Shawn Bradley. “(Pepe) got a seven-minute break after the slam, or that’s a different match. He was gassed.

“It was a tough one. (Gavin) could have won that match three different ways, but he didn’t, so that’s something to work on,” noted Shawn Bradley. “It is what it is. We have to work on that and come back next week.

“Kudos to Gavin for getting up and wrestling again,” added Shawn Bradley. “Honestly, the trainers didn’t want him wrestling.”

The loss is the first of the season for Bradley, who is now 38-1. Bradley owns a 5-3 victory over Pepe in the finals of the Northeast Regionals.

“Hopefully, it motivates him, that’s the bottom line,” said Shawn Bradley. “This match didn’t really mean anything. Next week is the one that matters.”

Pepe started fast with a takedown just 8 seconds into the bout. He was able to ride top for 43 seconds until Bradley scored an escape to trim the deficit to 2-1. The duo spent the final 69 seconds of the period on their feet.

Pepe scored a reversal just 10 seconds into the second period for a 4-1 lead. Bradley escaped wth 1:18 remaining, and 25 seconds later collected a takedown to tie the bout at 4-4.

Pepe escaped moments later to take a 5-4 lead, then, in a wild scramble, ended up with a takedown with 17 seconds remaining in the second period.

“Gavin should have had a takedown there, and he gave up a takedown, and almost back points,” said Shawn Bradley. “He had to score there, that was a big one.”

“Gavin should have been in control at the end of the second period, going into the third period; that was a big takedown,” added Bradley.

Bradley returns to action Friday in Hershey at the PIAA, Class AA Championships.

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March 6, 2021 Tim Birney

LEWISBURG — Athens junior Gavin Bradley, the state’s top-ranked 113-pounder, guaranteed himself a PIAA medal — his third — Saturday morning with a 16-3 major decision win over South Williamsport’s Robert Gardner in the semifinals of the Eastern Super Regionals here at Martz Hall.

With the PIAA field at Hershey pared to eight in each weight class — four from the Eastern Super Regional and four from its counterpart in the West, Bradley is guaranteed of advancing, as well as winning another PIAA medal.

“Goal one, (Gavin) got his state medal. Now, we move forward,” said Athens coach Shawn Bradley.

Bradley pushed the pace from the outset against Gardner, who is ranked third in the State, and scored a takedown midway through the first period. He rode top before turning a turk into three near-fall points at the buzzer for a 5-0 lead.

Bradley, who beat Gardner 7-1 in the District 4 finals two weeks ago, maintained constant forward pressure for six minutes.

“He kept his motion going … he kept his feet going, he kept his hands moving,” said Shawn Bradley. “If he wrestles that pace, he’s hard to wrestle with.”

Bradley chose down to start the second period, but Gardner elected to cut him loose, and the duo started on their feet with the Athens wrestler leading 6-0.

Gardner threatened to score during a couple of scrambles, but Bradley eventually came out on top with a takedown midway through the period for an 8-0 lead heading into the final two minutes.

“Gavin got into a couple spots, but worked his way out of it,” said Shawn Bradley. “(Gardner) is tough, he’s not ranked third in the State for nothing.”

Bradley scored three takedowns in the third period for a 14-3 lead with 47 seconds remaining. He scored the final takedown with 2 seconds left to provide the final margin.

“Gavin kept wrestling and kept scoring, even in the end when I didn’t want him to,” said Shawn Bradley. “I just wanted him to get a wrist, and stay away from the big move … he got another takedown.”

Shawn Bradley said Gavin’s constant motion and pressure wears on his opponents physically and mentally.

“Gavin works hard, and it pays off. He has great partners number one,” he said. “Jake Courtney and Kaden Setzer have busted their butts this year, and the last couple weeks helping him.

“Gavin wrestles that pace for two hours every night, so seeing it for six minutes is not surprising to me.

“Kids know that when they go out there, and some of them are thinking ‘I don’t want to do this,’” added Shawn Bradley. “If a kid comes on the mat and has any doubt about being there, that’s a big advantage to Gavin.”

Gavin Bradley will have a chance to add a title no one else in Athens’ storied wrestling history can claim — Eastern Super Regional champ, but it won’t be easy as he’ll face Wyoming Area’s Jaden Pepe, who is ranked second in the state. Bradley beat Pepe, 5-3, in last weekend’s Northeast Regional final.

“We have another tough one in the finals,” said Shawn Bradley. “Gavin didn’t wrestle great last weekend, so we’re going to make some adjustments to try and capitalize on what we can do well, instead of worrying about what (Pepe) does.”

The finals are set to begin at 12:30 p.m.

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March 6, 2021 Tim Birney

LEWISBURG — One down, one to go.

After a second-period fall in his quarter-final match here Saturday morning at the PIAA Eastern Super Regionals, Athens junior Gavin Bradley is just one win away from his third trip to Hershey, and better yet, his third PIAA medal.

“(Gavin) doesn’t even know it right now, but he only needs one win and he places at States,” said Athens coach Shawn Bradley.

“If he goes out and wrestles like that, there’s no one in the State that can beat him, but that’s up to him,” added Bradley.

Gavin Bradley scored a single-leg takedown just seven seconds into his 113-pound bout with Boiling Springs junior Raif Barber to take a 2-0 lead.

After riding top for more than a minute, Bradley cut Barber loose with 44 seconds remaining, then scored a takedown four seconds later to take a 4-1 lead.

Bradley mercilessly worked on top, and turned Barber with a turk for three near-fall points with 7 seconds remaining to take a 7-1 lead into the second period.

Bradley chose neutral and scored a go-behind takedown just 7 seconds into the second period, then quickly cut Barber loose to make it 9-2.

Bradley scored another takedown with 1:23 remaining, and 21 seconds later finished off another turk for a fall at 2:58.

Coach Bradley said they had watched some tape on Barber this week.

“Honestly, you see everything on the Internet now.

“I watched (Barber) wrestle, and he has techniques that worried me a little bit,” said Bradley. “Gavin (Bradley) did what he had to do to stay away from those.

“And, he just kept the pace super-high,” Bradley added.

Coach Bradley said the win takes the edge off for the younger Bradley.

“It’s a new atmosphere, so it kind of relaxes him a little bit,” said Coach Bradley. “He was a little nervous earlier, but this (win) helps.

Gavin Bradley, now 37-0, won’t need to watch tape on his next opponent, South Williamsport’s sixth-seeded Robert Gardner, who improved to 35-2 on the season with an 8-5 win over third-seeded Adam Schweitzer of Notre Dame Green Pond in the quarterfinals. Bradley beat Gardner, 7-1, in the District 4 finals.

“Gavin just needs to keep the same approach he’s had all year, so nothing changes,” said Shawn Bradley. “If we can keep it so he doesn’t feel tension, and he can just wrestle, he can beat anybody.

“If we let something get to him, then it puts him in a spot where he has to overcome that, too,” he added.

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March 5, 2021 Tim Birney

LEWISBURG — Fifth-seeded Athens scored the first seven points of the game, and never led by fewer than four points the remainder of the game in a 55-41 win over fourth-seeded Lewisburg here Friday night in the quarterfinals of the District 4, Class AAAA boys basketball playoffs.

This is the second straight year, Athens has knocked off Lewisburg on its home court in the opening round of the District 4 playoffs. Last year, head coach Jim Lister was an Wildcat assistant coach.

“This feels good,” said Lister. “It was a great experience winning here last year, but as the head coach it’s even better.

“It’s great to come down here and get a big win with these kids,” added Lister. “I’ve been with these kids for a long time. I’ve grown up with them. I love to see them succeed and do well.”

The Wildcats led 9-5 after the first eight minutes, and extended their lead to 21-9 at the half. The Green Dragons never got closer than seven points in the second half.

First-year Athens coach Jim Lister said his team continues to play good defense.

“Defense was obviously the key tonight,” he said. “You have to play good defense to win games like this.

“We’re young, long, and athletic. When we keep our hands busy, we make it difficult on teams. I think we did that tonight.

“I’m real happy for these kids, they played great defense tonight. We gave up nine points in the first half, that’s fantastic,” added Lister. “The guys played hard … I’d say we played almost a full four quarters tonight.”

The Wildcats had chances throughout the first half to extend the lead, but did little until a 7-0 spurt in the final 1:47 pushed the lead from 14-9 to 21-9.

“I’m still not 100-percent happy with how we’re scoring,” said Lister. “I think we can score better. I think we could have put 75 or 80 points on the board tonight.

“You have to make the easy one … we have to make those shots,” he noted. “Early on, I think the kids were really just amped up, and were missing the easy ones, bus as I think back on the season, we’ve had that problem all year, so we have to continue to try to fix that.”

Leading 14-9, junior Troy Pritchard gave Athens a 16-9 lead with a putback on the offensive boards with 1:47 remaining in the first half.

After a defensive stop, senior James Benninger-Jones buried a 3-pointer from the wing to make it 19-9 with 1:16 left in the half.

Junior J.J. Babcock finished off the first-half scoring with 18 seconds remaining to make it 21-9 heading into the halftime locker room.

Pritchard scored on a nifty low-post move in the opening moments of the third quarter to make it 23-9, but Lewisburg used a 10-3 spurt, capped by a 3-pointer by Kevin Magyar, over the next four minutes to trim the deficit to 26-19.

Lister answered Magyar’s 3-pointer with one of his own to make it 29-19 with 3:23 left in the third quarter, then on the next trip down the floor knocked down another shot from behind the arc to make it 32-20.

Forest Zeledoski scored five straight points, including a 3-pointer, for the Green Dragons to cut the Athens lead to 32-25 with 1:00 minute remaining in the third quarter.

Junior Tucker Brown answered with 23 seconds remaining, but Lewisburg’s Joey Martin scored in the low blocks with 3 seconds left to close the gap to 34-27 entering the final eight minutes.

Junior Nalen Carling and Lister opened the fourth-quarter scoring with buckets in transition to give the Wildcats a 38-27 lead, and the closest Lewisburg would get the remainder of the game was eight points.

The Wildcats out-rebounded the Green Dragons, 44-23, in the contest, and allowed just six offensive rebounds in the entire game — and just one in the second half.

“We talked about rebounding at halftime,” said Lister. “We needed to pound the boards, and not give up any second-chance points.

“I told the guys when the shot went up, we needed to find someone and box them out,” he added. “I think we did that, especially in the second half.”

Athens was also much more efficient offensively in the second half.

“It was an adjustment we made at halftime,” said Lister. “We wanted to slow up our offense … we needed to run our offense, and get some good looks. We got those good looks, and we made those shots.”

Lister led Athens with 18 points, including a trio of 3-poiners, 10 rebounds, five assists, five steals, and one blocked shot, while Pritchard had 11 points and four boards, and Carling had nine points, four rebounds, and one blocked shot.

Brown added six points, three boards, and two blocked shots in the win, while Babcock chipped in with five points, 10 rebounds, five assists, and one blocked shot, and sophomore Chris Mitchell added five boards and two steals.

Zeledoski led Lewisburg with 11 points and Cam Michaels added nine.

Athens, now 14-9, returns to action Tuesday at top-seeded Danville, which rolled to a 79-30 win over eighth-seeded Midd-West Friday. Game time is 7 p.m.

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March 4, 2021 Tim Birney

ATHENS — Athens built a 14-point lead early in the third quarter, but on three different occasions over the next 12 minutes needed a “big shot” to stave off a pesky Milton in a 54-42 win here Thursday night in the quarterfinals of the District 4, Class AAAA girls basketball playoffs.

“It was a night where we played really well to get the lead,” said Athens girls coach Brian Miller. “(Milton) is a good team and they battled back, then we responded with big 3s from Kayleigh (Miller) and Megan (Collins), and a nice pass (from Megan Collins to Caydence Macik) for a finish in transition.

“I’m super-proud of the girls, we knew that team was going to battle for 32 minutes, no matter what, and we did a good job,” he added.

Senior Kayleigh Miller had 19 points, four rebounds and two blocked shots, and junior Caydence Macik had 18 points, eight rebounds, three assists, and three blocked shots to lead Athens.

“(Miller and Macik) have been our offensive threats the last two years, and this year especially,” said Miller. “Megan (Collins) hit a couple big shots, but Caydence and Kayleigh have been our offense.

“We’re that much better of a team, though, if the other girls make their shots, and they did tonight,” added Miller.

Senior Megan Collins added nine points on a trio of 3-pointers, and five assists for the Lady Wildcats, while sophomore Karlee Bartlow added five points — all from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, and four rebounds, senior Rachel Stephens grabbed five boards, and senior Hannah Blackman chipped in with four rebounds.

Macik scored Athens’ first two buckets, then Miller gave the Lady Wildcats the lead for good, at 7-4, with a 3-pointer from the top-of-the-key with 5:02 remaining in the first quarter.

Macik added a putback of her own miss to make it 9-5 with 2:35 remaining. After a Milton bucket, Miller buried another 3-pointer from the right wing to make it 12-7 less than a minute later.

Back-to-back 3-pointers by Miller late in the quarter extended the Athens lead to 25-12, but Milton scored the only bucket in the final 85 seconds of the first half, and trailed 25-14 heading into the locker room.

Collins buried her second 3-pointer of the game a little more than a minute into the second half, to give Athens a 28-14 lead, but Milton’s physical pressure defense helped it scored eight points in a row to cut the deficit to 38-32 with 4:27 left in the third quarter.

“We wanted to come out in the second half and extend our lead, hopefully close to 20, and the game could be over,” said Miller.

“We got it to 14, then they made a nice push with some physical play in the backcourt,” added Miller. “We turned it over and they made some baskets, but we held our composure, and made some key shots down the stretch.”

Miller stopped Milton’s momentum with a 3-pointer from deep in the corner to make it 31-22 with 3:22 left in the third quarter.

After a bucket by Kiersten Stork trimmed the lead to 31-24, Macik made a pair of free throws, then scored in transition against the Lady Black Panther press to make it 35-24 with 1:12 remaining in the third quarter.

Freshman Emma Bronson connected on a short jumper just 10 seconds into the final stanza to give Athens a 37-26 lead, but a bucket by Stork, followed by a defensive rebound and coast-to-coast drive by Crystal Hamilton, and a jumper by Morgan Riener cut the lead to 37-32 with 6:27 left in the third quarter.

Collins stemmed the tide with a 3-pointer to make it 40-32, but Milton bounced back to cut the lead to 42-36 with 4:16 remaining in the third quarter.

The Milton pressure seemed to be wearing on the Lady Wildcats, but Collins found Macik open up court against the press for an uncontested lay-up to make it 44-36.

A pair of free throws by Miller and Bartlow would push the lead to 48-36 with 3:39 remaining.

Milton would close the gap to nine points twice in the final 3 1/2 minutes but could get no closer.

Hamilton led Milton with 17 points and 12 rebounds.

“I saw (Hamilton) on tape and knew the was good, but seeing her in person you can really appreciate that’s she is a really good ball player,” said Miller. “Unfortunately for her, and fortunately for the Lady Wildcats,  she fouled out, and didn’t get to play the last couple minutes.”

Leah Walter scored eight points for Milton, while Stork added seven, and Reiner chipped in with six.

The third-seeded Lady Wildcats, now 17-6, will travel to second-seeded Shamokin (10-5) Monday at 7 p.m. for a Class AAAA semi-final match-up.

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March 4, 2021 Tim Birney

BLOOMSBURG — Athens senior Emma Roe finished third at the District 4 Diving Championships here at the Bloomsburg Middle School, improving on last year’s finish and point total.

Roe, in just her second year of diving, tallied 317.05 points, bettering last year’s total of 314.6 points, which earned her a fourth-plat finish.

Danville’s Gabrielle Hackett won individual gold medal with 339.2 points, and is the only diver advancing to States this year due to the reduction in numbers as a result of Covid.

Central Columbia’s Ava Snyder won the silver with 332.05 points, and Bloom’s Alayna Lovelace finished fourth with 315.3 points.

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