January 11, 2021 Tim Birney

MOUNT CARMEL — Mount Carmel took immediate control with a 24-4 first-quarter blitz, and cruised to a 61-19 win over Athens here Monday night in non-league junior varsity boys basketball action.

The Red Tornadoes pulled away in the second quarter with a 24-7 run that gave them a 48-11 lead at the half.

Chris Mitchell led Athens with seven points, while Connor Mosher and Carson Smith added five points apiece, with each knocking down one 3-pointer.

Athens, now 1-1, returns to action Wednesday at Troy.

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January 11, 2021 Tim Birney

ATHENS —  Northeast Bradford used an 18-7 second-period run to take control on its way to a 35-12 win over Athens here Monday night in NTL girls junior varsity basketball action.

The junior Panthers led 4-2 after the first 10-minute period, but Emma Neuber scored six points and Alena Beebe, Julia Brown and Meg Russell each added four points in the decisive run that extended the lead to 20-9. (The game was played in three 10-minute periods.)

Neuber scored seven more points in the final period, and finished with a game-high 13 points. Beebe added six points in the win.

Karlee Bartlow led Athens with six points, and Abby Champion added a 3-pointer.

Athens, now 1-1, returns to action Wednesday at Bloomsburg.

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January 9, 2021 Tim Birney

TIOGA JUNCTION, Pa. — Athens took control from the outset with a 21-4 game-opening run en route to an 88-33 season-opening win over Williamson here Saturday afternoon in NTL Large School boys basketball action.

The win was the first for rookie Wildcat head coach Jim Lister.

“I was a little bit nervous starting off the day, even though I was telling everyone I wasn’t,” he laughed. “I just wanted to get this first one behind us.

“I was thrilled for the kids today. They’ve been put on pause too long,” Lister noted. “They were ready to go, and I was real happy for them.

“It was a good day overall, and it’s a good way to start the season,” added Lister.

Sophomore Mason Lister triggered the game-opening run with a 3-pointer just 20 seconds into the contest, and sophomore Carson Smith capped it with a 3-pointer with 1:20 remaining in the first quarter.

In between, J.J. Babcock scored eight points. He finished the scoring in the opening stanza to give the Wildcats a 23-8 lead.

Lister said his team accomplished what it set out to do.

“Everything we preached all week, the kids played out in the game plan today,” he said. “It worked out well.

“We’ve been preaching playing good defense and playing as a team. I thought we played really well today,” noted Lister. “The team defense was excellent, there were a lot of steals, a lot of turnovers, and a lot of lay-ups.”

The Wildcats, who scored the first five points in the contest and never trailed, recorded 25 assists to just 14 turnovers.

Lister and Babcock scored nine points apiece in the second quarter to fuel a 26-9 run that extended the Wildcat lead to 49-17 at the halftime intermission.

Lister went to his bench in the second half, and it responded.

Smith drained a trio of 3-pointers, junior Nalen Carling added eight points, and sophomore Chris Mitchell scored his first six varsity points as Athens outscored the Warriors, 39-16, over the final 16 minutes.

“Our guys of the bench played well,” said Lister. “They moved the ball well.

“In practice all week, those guys were playing against the starters, running a lot of the same plays — a lot of the same offenses,” noted Lister. “And, of course, when you’re playing against kids who are just as good as you are, if not better, it makes you better.

“They had their opportunity today and took advantage of it, which is great,” he added.

Babcock, who made 12 of 17 shots from the field, led the Wildcats with 25 points, to go along with four assists and three rebounds, and Lister pumped in 20 points, including four 3-pointers, and grabbed five boards.

Smith scored 12 points on four 3-pointers for the Wildcats, while junior Tucker Brown contributed nine points, six steals, four assists, and four rebounds, Carling had eight points and a team-high seven rebounds, and Mitchell chipped in with six points and four boards.

Junior Shayne Reid had four points, four assists, and six steals in the win, and junior Troy Pritchard had four points, six rebounds, and three assists.

Jacob Schmitt led Williamson with 11 points and Kristian Mizdail added eight.
Athens returns to action Monday at Mount Carmel.

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January 9, 2021 Tim Birney

WESTFIELD, Pa. — Athens held Cowanesque Valley scoreless for more than 17 1/2 minutes and scored 44 consecutive points on its way to a season-opening 69-14 win here Saturday morning in NTL girls basketball action.

“It’s always good to get the first win under your belt,” said Athens coach Brian Miller. “We knew we were playing a young and inexperienced opponent. We just wanted to get sharp with the things we do because we’re playing a good Northeast (Bradford) team Monday night.

“It was good to get out there and play against someone else besides ourselves at practice.

“I thought we played an all-around good game,” added Miller. “We played good half-court defense, and we executed offensively against their man-to-man defense.”

The Lady Wildcats recorded 19 assists as a team and only 12 turnovers.

“We made the extra pass, and got some girls some easy baskets with that extra pass,” said Miller. “I thought we shared the ball very well.”

Seniors Megan Collins and Kayleigh Miller gave Athens an early 4-0 lead, then Paisley Nudd scored CV’s only bucket of the first half with 6:02 remaining in the first quarter to trim the deficit to 4-2.

Athens created several turnovers and easy buckets in transition, and pounded the offensive boards to scored the final 18 points of the opening stanza to take a 22-2 lead.

The run included the first varsity points for sophomore Karlee Bartlow and freshman Mya Thompson, as well as six points by junior Caydence Macik.

The onslaught continued in the second quarter as Macik scored six more points, Collins added four points, and Miller knocked down a 3-pointer in a 17-0 blitz that made it 39-2 at the half.

The Lady Wildcats scored the first nine points of the third quarter to extend the lead to 48-2 before Jana Quick ended the CV drought with a free throw with 4:24 remaining.

Miller drained a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter to finish with three in the game, giving her 173 for her career, which puts her tied for second on the program’s all-time list with MaryEllen Onofre, who is her father’s cousin. Mallory Hafer is the school’s all-time leader with 203.

Macik led Athens with 23 points, seven rebounds, five steals, and one blocked shot, and Miller pumped in 20 points, to go along with seven rebounds, four steals, and three assists.

Collins stuffed the stat sheet with 10 points, seven assists, five rebounds, and five steals, while Bartlow added 10 points and four assists, Thompson chipped in with four points, three rebounds, and one blocked shot, and senior Rachel Stephens grabbed nine boards and had three steals.

Abby Ackley led CV with seven points.

Athens returns to action Monday evening when it hosts NEB. The varsity games tips off at 6 p.m., with the junior varsity game to follow.

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January 8, 2021 Tim Birney

ATHENS — The Athens Lady Wildcats rode defense to an NTL Championship last year, and with a great deal of experience returning in 2021, coach Brian Miller said this year’s team will look to use the same formula.

“We are very good in half-court man-to-man defense — we are known for that,” said Miller. “We talk very well, we switch on screens, we hedge on screens … if you’re going to score on us, you’re going to earn the two points. We don’t make many mistakes in our half-court defense.

“We’re also known for running our sets in the half-court very well to get the best scoring opportunities.

“We’re not a run-and-gun team, and we’re not a pressing team, although with with (newcomers Emma) Bronson and (Karlee) Bartlow being so athletic, it gives us more speed on the floor, which may allow us to get out and press,” noted Miller. “We will trial-and-error that throughout the year, where we will pick our spots to press, but it’s not going to be 32 minutes of full-court pressing and fast-break offense.

“The reason we won last year is we were very, very good defensively,” Miller added. “We kept the score low, and we executed offensively.”

The Lady Wildcats, coming off a 22-6 season, return seniors Kayleigh Miller, who was NTL Player of the Year last year, and Megan Collins at guards, and senior Rachel Stephens and junior Caydence Macik, who is a two-time all-league performer, at forwards.

Senior Hannah Blackman, and sophomores Karlee Bartlow and Emma Bronson are battling for the fifth starting spot.

“The fifth starter will probably rotate throughout the year, depending on match-ups,” said Miller.

“Bronson and Bartlow are point guards who play good defense, and Blackman is a shut-down defender,” he noted. “If we need Hannah to start and shut someone down, it’s a good option to have.

“We’ll be down two girls the first few games — one is quarantined and the other is injured,” added Miller. “The girls further down the bench will have to step up the first few games.”

Miller’s varsity numbers are down a bit, but says it hasn’t effected his team’s depth.

“I’m happy with the girls we have. I think we can go 10 deep.

“Some of the girls are inexperienced,” said Miller. “Hopefully, the girls we have back are experienced enough, and I’m smart enough as a coach not to put those (inexperienced) girls in situations that are uncomfortable for them, until they start gaining confidence.

“I think our depth is fine,” added Miller. “We have scorers — and I think girls like Rachel Stephens and Megan (Collins) that really didn’t score in the past will step up their game. I’ve already seen them in practice look to be more offensive minded.”

Miller expects freshman Mya Thompson and sophomore Braelyn Wood to see time as well in their first varsity season.

“Both girls are in the tweener position — not really guards or post players,” said Miller. “But they can do a lot of good things. I feel comfortable putting them in to play defense, get some rebounds, and to run our plays and set screens for our scorers.”

Sophomore Natalie Watson will also vie for time in the low post.

“Natalie should give us some quality minutes in the paint,” said Miller. “She’s a presence and a good rebounder.”

One area that has Miller’s attention is point guard.

“I think right now point guard is my biggest source of concern,” he said. “I think we would have ironed that out over the spring and summer, but unfortunately Covid hit, so we really couldn’t figure out what was the best fit for the offense.

“It would have been nice to see how Emma Bronson and Karlee Bartlow progressed over the summer as varsity point guards. We’ll slowly get them in there and see how they do,” noted Miller. “If we have issues, we can always slide Kayleigh (Miller) to the point, but the best thing for the team is to keep her at the 2-guard.

“She’s a scorer, we want the ball in her hands,” continued Miller. “We want her to come off screens, run screen-and-rolls with Caydence (Macik) because (opposing teams) won’t double down on her with Kayleigh and Megan (Collins) on the perimeter, so that will give Caydence a lot of opportunities to score for us.”


“I would say it’s a three-team race in the Large School, and a one-horse race in the Small School,” said Miller.

Large School Division
“I would say Towanda returns the largest core of players from last year’s team,” said Miller. “They have a new coach in Rob Gentile, who has a great deal of experience, and a new system.

“Wyalusing is probably next in line,” he noted. “They have a good core group back.”

Small School Division
“Northeast Bradford is going to be the team to beat again with Lauryn Jones and Maisie Neuber,” said Miller. “I think Canton is the next best team in the division, and they lost their best player.

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January 8, 2021 Tim Birney

ATHENS — First-year boys basketball coach Jim Lister believes Athens has all the ingredients for a successful 2021 season.

“I think we have a little bit of everything,” he said. “We have guards who can handle the ball, we have kids who can score, and we have size in the paint.

“We have all the right tools, we just have to put it together,” noted Lister.

“I keep telling our guys: “if we play defense, make lay-ups, and make foul shots, we should win basketball games,’” added Lister.

Juniors Shayne Reid and Tucker Brown will start at guard, with 6-4 sophomore Mason Lister getting the nod at small forward, 6-1 junior Troy Pritchard starting at power forward, and 6-5 junior J.J. Babcock manning the center spot.

Lister expects 6-4 junior Nalen Carling, 6-6 senior Griffen Stein, senior James Benninger-Jones, and sophomore guard Carson Smith to see plenty of time off the bench.

Junior Ryan Thompson, sophomore Chris Mitchell, senior John Smith, and freshman Korey Miller will also vie for time.

Lister cites team unity as a strength in 2021.

“I think the team attitude and the team play is the biggest strength for this team,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of good communication the last week … these kids have played together for years, so they know one another.

“I think we lost a little of that last year,” noted Lister. “We didn’t have it at certain times and it cost us. When we got beat at Northeast, we didn’t play team basketball, and that was a game-changer for us.

“We had a big meeting after that game … we talked about being a team, and we went on a seven or eight-game run after that,” Lister added. “I think that proved to the kids how we need to play this game.”

Lister also expects the balance, versatility and depth of his roster to be a big strength.

“I think you can expect a lot of team basketball, and not one individual that you have to stop. You’re going to have to stop five guys,” he said.

“I can put a solid eight or nine on the floor at all times, and I can move them around and play them at different positions,” noted Lister. “I won’t be too concerned about foul trouble this year.

“Playing with these masks is another situation we’re going to have to deal with,” he added. “I think it’s going to be an issue for everybody, having a bench is going to be a key for everyone. Kids are going to get tired in a hurry, especially if you play any type of pressure defense.”

While not a concern, Lister knows his team will have to play defense.

“We need to play defense to be successful,” he said. “I think we can score points, and I think we can push the ball and make things very difficult on opposing defenses, but we will need to get back and play defense.

“Some times when you have a high-scoring team, they may give up a little bit on the defensive end of the floor,” added Lister. “We can’t afford to play that way.”

Lister knows he has one of the better players in the league in Babcock, and also knows the remainder of the starting five are known commodities around the league. He believes Carling and Benninger-Jones could open some eyes.

“Nalen Carling has grown … he loves the paint, he loves to rebound, and he has a really good work ethic,” said Lister.

“Nalen has the ability to shoot threes, he loves to pound underneath in the paint, and he can run the floor,” noted Lister. “I think he’s definitely going to surprise some people.

“James Benninger-Jones didn’t play last year, but he’s come out this year and really opened my eyes,” added Lister. “He does a lot of good things, and I think he’ll contribute a lot to this team.”

“I expect a very competitive league. I think we’ll have to be at our best every night to win,” said Lister.

Large School Division
“Troy is going to be tough. Ty Barrett is just an excellent basketball player,” noted Lister. “And, Wellsboro and Mansfield are always good.”

Small School Division
“Even without (Ben) Knapp, Canton is going to be a good basketball team.

“Northeast Bradford had our number last year, so we won’t take them lightly in any way, shape or form,” said Lister.

“And, I know all the Sayre kids,” added Lister. “They are loaded with athletes, and should battle with everyone.”

Athens opens the 2021 campaign this afternoon at Williamson.

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