TOWANDA — Virtual competition is upon us, and the Athens swim team got its first taste of it Thursday.
The Wildcats swam, along with Towanda in the Black Knight pool, while Shamokin swam in its own pool. Shamokin actually swam on Wednesday, but the times won’t be merged until Friday morning to produce the team scores and individual placements.
The following are the times and places in the Athens-Towanda meet:
Senior Mason Henderson and sophomore Chris DeForest won four events apiece, while seniors Joey Toscano and Zac Gowin, and sophomore Ethan Denlinger were each triple-winners to pace the Wildcats’ efforts.
Henderson and DeForest each swam on all three of Athens’ winning relays.
The duo teamed with Toscano and Denlinger to win the 200-yard medley really in a time of 2:21.98, then teamed with Toscano and Gowin to win the 200-yard freestyle relay in a time of 1:47.61. They teamed with Denlinger and Gowin to win the 400-yard freestyle in a time of 4:04.24.
Henderson won the 100-yard butterfly in a District-qualifying time of 1:07.46, while DeForest won the 100-yard freestyle in a District-qualifying times of 54.4 seconds, and Gowin placed third in 1:05.68.
Gowin won the 200-yard freestyle in a time of 2:23.68, while Denlinger won the 200-yard IM in 2:36.42, and Toscano won the 50-yard freestyle in a time of 26.43 seconds.
Senior newcomer Asher Ellis posted his first varsity win in the 100-yard breaststroke in a time of 1:34.8, and senior Lucas Aquilio was third in 1:37.43.
Toscano finished second in the 100-yard backstroke in a time of 1:17.55, and freshman Joe Blood was third in 1:28.21.
Sophomores Taegan Williams and Taylar Fisher, and freshman Emily Marshall were triple-winners, and sophomore Ally Thoman was a double-winner to lead the Lady Wildcats.
Williams led a sweep in the 200-yard freestyle in a district-qualifying time of 2:16.1, while freshman Isabella Potter was second in 2:35.03, and freshman Grace Cobb was third in exhibition in 2:40.64.
Williams also won the 500-yard freestyle in a District-qualifying time of 6:05.13, and senior Kaitlin Kisner was second in 7:10.58.
Fisher led a sweep in the 200-yard IM in a District-qualifying time of 2:41.67, while freshman Malaria Benjamin was second in 3:31.66. Swimming in exhibition, Marshall clocked in at 2:58.72.
Fisher also won the 100-yard backstroke in a District-qualifying time of 1:13.93, and freshman Emily Henderson was third in 1:58.1.
Marshall won the 100-yard butterfly in a time of 1:28.57, and Benjamin was second in 1:40.40.
Thoman won the 100-yard backstroke in a time of 1:26.41, and senior Raven McCarthy-Gardner was second in 1:27.32.
Fisher, Thoman, Benjamin, and Marshall teamed to win the 200-yard medley relay in a time of 2:20.39, while Kisner, Marshall, Potter, and Williams teamed to win the 400-yard freestyle relay in a time of 4:42.13.
Senior Emma Roe won the 1-meter diving competition with 156.1 points, and McCarthy-Gardner was second with 109.45 points.
Thoman finished second in the 50-yard freestyle in 31.44 seconds, and Kisner was third in 31.77, while Potter finished second in the 100-yard freestyle in a time of 1:08.35.
TROY — In a physical, foul-plagued game Athens came up short against
Troy, dropping a 70-53 decision, in NTL Large School boys’ basketball
The high profile match-up of the top two teams in the division a year ago was the Trojan season opener.
The Wildcats struggled the first three quarters to get anything going offensively as they had just 20 points at the half and 34 after three quarters.
However, their defense kept them in striking distance, down 47-34 with the final frame to go.
In the fourth, Athens’ offense got going, but so did Troy’s, and, after cutting it to a 9-point deficit with 5 minutes to go, the Wildcats hit a cold patch as they watched the Trojans pull away.
Athens was able to get Troy into the double-bonus in both halves, but also allowed Troy to nab several offensive rebounds and putbacks after they had gotten defensive stops.
Nalen Carling had the hot hand for the Wildcats, shooting 67 percent from the field and finishing with 15 points to go with six boards. J.J. Babcock added 14 points, four boards and three steals.
Troy Pritchard had six points and 11 boards, and Tucker Brown, Shayne Reid and Mason Lister had five points each. Carson Smith rounded out the scoring with three points.
Ethan VanNoy led Troy with 20 points while Athens kept Ty Barrett from going off, as he had just 17.
Jake Deitrick had 11 points, nine boards, three steals and two blocks, while Mason Imbt and Nick Williams had four points apiece. Imbt added four boards as Williams handed out four assists.
Devin Selleck finished with five points and six boards, while Owen Williams scored two. Morgan Madigan had one point to go with six rebounds.
Athens came out with a box-and-1 on Barrett, but Troy still took a 7-0 lead in the first three minutes, punctuated with a Barrett jumper.
Athens got on the scoreboard just before the halfway point of the first quarter on a Pritchard lay-up. A Deitrick lay-up off an assist from Imbt made it 9-2 Troy, then Babcock answered with a lay-up of his own.
After a Troy free throw, the two teams traded buckets as the Trojans went up 12-6. A pair of Reid freebies cut it to 12-8, but Barrett and VanNoy hit back-to-back 3-pointers to make it 18-8 Trojans. Carling had a putback at the end of the first quarter to cut it to 18-10.
The Wildcats came out strong in the second quarter, cutting the deficit to four points as Carling hit a jumper, followed by two free throws from Mason Lister.
A VanNoy driving lay-up extended the lead back to 20-14, but Carling hit two free throws to cut it to four points again.
An Imbt putback followed by another VanNoy 3-pointer extended the Troy lead to 25-16.
Athens, though, took advantage of Troy’s foul trouble as Pritchard went 2-for-2 from the line, followed by a Babcock lay-up, to cut it to 25-20.
VanNoy had the final answer of the half, hitting a driving lay-up for a 27-20 halftime lead.
Troy continued to extend the lead early in the third quarter as they went on a 8-2 run, punctuated by a Williams 3-pointer, to take a 35-22 lead.
Athens responded in kind, going on a 6-0 push themselves to make it 35-28 with five minutes left in the quarter.
That’s when Troy began to live at the line as they got the Wildcats in foul trouble. They would shoot 12 free throws in the third quarter, with their next five points all coming from the charity stripe.
With three minutes to play, Troy led 40-28 before Athens netted a freebie of their own to stop the bleeding.
A Deitrick putback, followed by a Madigan free throw, extended Troy’s lead to 43-29 with two minutes left in the quarter.
Athens, who had gotten Troy in foul trouble at this point, went 3-of-4 from the line after that to cut it to 43-32.
A Barrett jumper followed by another Trojan putback extended the lead to 47-32. Just as they looked to be running away with it, Babcock got to the line and hit both free throws to keep it a 13-point deficit with a quarter left.
A Carling old-fashioned 3-point play to lead off the fourth made it a 10-point game. Athens would cut it to nine points as Brown had a steal and lay-up.
Troy responded with a Williams free throw, followed by a Selleck lay-up to push the lead back to 51-39.
A Babcock lay-up off a Carling assist with six minutes left made it a 10-point game again, but Barrett answered with a jumper.
Carling came back with a putback seconds later, but a Williams-to-Barrett pass play ended with two more points to Troy.
Athens got their first 3-pointer of the game with five minutes to go as Brown hit a 3-ball to cut it to 55-46.
That’s as close as it got, though, as Troy rattled off a 6-0 run to extend the lead to 15.
Babcock cut it to 61-48 with a lay-up, but Troy out scored them 9-5 in the final 2:30 to seal the win.
The Wildcats fall to 1-2 on the year, but return home Saturday to host NEB in a 4 p.m. start.
BLOOMSBURG — Defending District 4 champion Bloomsburg jumped out to a
big lead early, and rolled to a 59-29 win over Athens here Wednesday
night in non-league girls basketball action.
“Bloomsburg is a very talented team,” said Athens coach Brian Miller. “They were bigger and faster and played great team defense.
“It was good for us to get of our league and play a talented team like that,” noted Miller. “We won’t see a team that good unless we make it to the state tournament.
“We played hard and did some nice things against a very good team,” he added. “We will build off it learn and get better from it.”
Rylee Klinger scored 11 points, including a pair of 3-pointers and an old-fashioned three-point play, to fuel Bloomsburg’s 22-7 first-quarter blitz.
The Lady Panthers used a 15-5 second-quarter run to extend its lead to 37-12 at the half.
Senior Kayleigh Miller scored eight points, including a pair of 3-pointers, in the first half for the Lady Wildcats.
Bloom subbed liberally in the second half, and outscored the Lady Wildcats, 22-17. Junior Caydence Macik and senior Megan Collins combined to score all 17 of Athens’ points.
Macik led Athens with 12 points, including 10 in the second half, three rebounds, and four blocked shots, while Miller had eight points and three steals, Collins scored seven points, and sophomore Karlee Bartlow grabbed four rebounds.
The Lady Wildcats committed 25 turnovers in the loss.
Klinger led Bloom with 22 points, including a trio of 3-pointers, while Madeline Evans scored 15 points, and Kelsey Widom added 10 points.
Athens, now 2-1, returns to action Saturday at Wellsboro in a noon start.
BLOOMSBURG — Bloomsburg raced out to a big lead early, an cruised to a big win over
Athens here Wednesday night in non-league junior varsity girls
Maize Aikey scored 12 points in the first quarter to fuel a 23-2 Bloomsburg blitz. Abby Champion scored Athens’ only bucket.
Braelynn Wood scored four points in the second quarter, and Karlee Bartlow added a pair of free throws, but Bloom used a 17-6 run to stretch the halftime advantage to 40-8.
The junior Panthers outscored Athens, 22-0, in the second half for a 62-8 win.
Wood led Athens with four points, and Mya Thompson had four rebounds, while Aikey led four Bloom scorers in double-figures with 17 points.
Athens, now 1-2, returns to action Saturday at Wellsboro.
CANTON — Athens went into Canton not knowing exactly what to expect,
with only a week of practice, but, despite coming out on the short end
of the match, 40-22, Wildcat coach Shawn Bradley felt good about what he
“The kids wrestled well,” said Bradley. “It’s a tough one to start out with ... start out with Canton. The kids were in the match.”
The defending NTL champion Warriors showed why they were the favorites coming into the season, but Athens made them work for a it.
They lost 3-point decisions at 160 and 132, while in the first match of the day, 120 pounds, Athens freshman Josh Courtney was leading in the third period, when he got turned and pinned by Canton’s Miah Lehman, a 9-point swing.
ATHENS — Longtime Athens wrestling coach Shawn Bradley says the
Wildcats will be a mix of experienced grapplers and newcomers in 2021.
“We had some guys not come out that we were expecting to be here, but we have some studs back, and some promising young kids,” he said.
Two-time PIAA place-finisher Gavin Bradley, who was 40-4 and finished seventh in the state, is the headline wrestler returning for the Wildcats.
“Gavin (Bradley) is back. He worked his butt off again this summer, and works hard in here every day,” said Shawn Bradley. “He didn’t get the 80 matches he wrestled last offseason, but he still food a way to get his work in.”
Also returning are Kaden Setzer (21-9), Jake Courtney (13-9), Zach Stafursky (20-20), and Karter Rude (19-11).
“Jake Courtney and Kaden Setzer, who have both worked their tails off, are back,” said Bradley.
“Zach (Stafursky) had a little knee injury in the spring, but he’s healthy and he’s back for us,” noted Bradley. “He’s our lone senior.
MOUNT CARMEL — Mount Carmel limited Athens to just 15 points, and built a
13-point halftime lead en route to a 61-40 win here Monday night in
non-league boys basketball action.
“It’s a simple formula — play defense, make lay-ups, make foul shots, and win basketball games,” said Athens coach Jim Lister. “We did none of the above tonight.
“Plus, we played their game in the first half and scored 15 points,” he added. “Hopefully, this is a nice wake-up call for us. We learn from it, fix it and move on.”
Mount Carmel led 10-8 after the first eight minutes, then took control with an 18-7 run in the second quarter to take a 28-15 lead at the intermission.
Sophomore Mason Lister scored nine points in the second quarter as the Wildcats outscored MC, 16-14, but the Red Tornadoes closed out the game with a 19-9 run in the final eight minutes.
ATHENS — After a back-and-fourth four quarters of action, Athens scored
the first seven points in overtime to pull out a 58-53 win over
Northeast Bradford here Monday night in NTL girls basketball action.
The Lady Wildcats improve to 2-0 with the win, and coach Brian Miller said Saturday’s game paid dividends Monday night.
“It was nice to have a game under our belt,” he said. “I needed it as a coach to see how some of my younger girls — meaning Emma (Bronson) and Karlee (Bartlow) — would react at the varsity level.
“As the game went on, you see their confidence level grow, and you could see them feel their way into the game.
“We held Lauryn Jones to three points, which is a great accomplishment, and that was mostly Karlee and Emma,” added Miller.
Junior Maisie Neuber picked up the slack for Jones, scoring 30 points and hauling down 11 rebounds.
“Next time, we have to do a better job on (Maisie) Neuber, she had a great game,” said Miller. “She was good last year … she has turned into an elite player.”
Opening the season at Athens was a tough chore, noted Beebe.
“I feel awesome about how our girls played. They never gave up,” said Beebe. “Coming into this gym on the first night of the season … with just five practices and you draw Athens, that’s tough.
“I couldn’t ask for anything else, well a win, I guess,” laughed Beebe, “The girls played great.”
Athens led by as many as five points three times in the first half, but Northeast fought back to take the lead each time.
Conversely, the Lady Panthers built a six-point lead early in the fourth quarter, but Athens rallied to take the lead before the game went into overtime.
“We’ve played Northeast three times since the start of last season, and two of the three have gone to overtime,” said Miller.
“It was a game of momentum. We’d take a five-point lead, and they’d come back to tie it. They would take a five-point lead, and we came back to tie it.
“It shows you what type of teams both of us have,” noted Miller. “We can get our backs against the wall, settle in, and battle back.”
“It’s a great win,” added Miller. “I told the girls (Northeast) is the best team by far (in the Small School Division), maybe the best team in the league, along with Towanda, if you take us out of the equation, so that’s a good win.”
NEB coach Ben Beebe expressed similar sentiments.
“One thing I love about playing one of Brian Miller’s team, is that it’s always good basketball,” said Beebe. “Both teams went on runs, and both teams answered.
“Both teams played good defense, you can’t really ask for a better game,” he noted.
“Tough games like this make you better,” Beebe added. “I’ll take a game like this any day of the week. I can’t wait to play Athens again in a month.”
Miller, who canned four 3-pointers, paced Athens with 25 points, including a 7-for-7 effort from the free-throw line. four steals, and four assists. She scored 17 points, including all seven free throws, in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Macik added 12 points, 10 rebounds, five blocked shots, and three assists in the win, while Stephens had seven points, seven rebounds, and three steals, Bartlow added six points and three steals, and Collins chipped in with five points and three assists.
Alena Beebe banked in a 3-pointer from the top of the key to open the scoring and Neuber added a pair of buckets, sandwiched around scores by Macik, to give the Lady Panthers a 7-4 lead.
Stephens then scored back-to-back buckets — the first off a nifty high-low assist from Macik, and the second on a fast-break assist from Miller — to trigger an 8-0 spurt that put the Lady Wildcats up 12-7.
Neuber scored five straight points on a long two-point jumper and a 3-pointer to tie the game at 12-12 with 1:02 remaining in the first quarter.
Macik banked in a runner with 6 seconds remaining to give Athens a 14-12 lead after the first eight minutes.
NEB scored the first five points of the second quarter, but Miller and Collins knocked down consecutive three-pointers, and Macik added a bucket on a textbook screen-and-roll assist from Miller in an 8-0 spurt that put the Lady Wildcats up 22-17 with 1:20 remaining in the first half.
Neuber scored with 2 seconds remaining in the first half to cut the NEB halftime deficit to 24-21.
Beebe, Kayleigh Thoman, and Neuber scored consecutive buckets to open the second half, giving NEB a 27-24 lead with 6:21 left in the third quarter.
After the teams traded buckets, Collins canned a 15-foot jumper, and Miller drained a 3-pointer to give Athens a 31-29 lead with 1:21 remaining in the third quarter.
Neuber made four straight free throws to give NEB a 33-31 lead with 33 seconds left in the third quarter, but a free throw by Bartlow cut the Athens deficit to one point heading into the final eight minutes.
Jones drained a long 3-pointer on NEB’s first possession of the fourth quarter, and moments later Neuber gave the Lady Panthers their biggest lead of the game — at 38-32 — after turning a steal into a fast-break lay-up with 7:25 left in regulation.
Athens answered with six straight points — the last five coming on a pair of free throws and an old-fashioned three-point play by Miller — to tie the game at 38-38 with 4:44 left in the fourth quarter.
The teams traded points until Beebe drained a 3-pointer with 3:01 remaining in the fourth quarter to give NEB a 45-42 lead.
After a free throw by Macik, Miller banked in a 3-pointer with 2:12 left in regulation to give the Lady Wildcats a 46-45 lead.
Neuber, off a feed from Thoman, gave NEB its final lead of the game, at 47-46, with 59 seconds left in regulation.
Athens’ ensuing possession nearly ended in disaster when a low-post entry pass intended for Macik went off her hands. As she fell out-of-bounds, she deftly batted the ball back in-bounds, where Miller fielded it cleanly near the top of the key, and buried a 3-pointer to give Athens a 49-47 lead with 38 seconds remaining.
After Neuber tied the game with a shot from the low block, Miller’s potential game-winner was blocked with 5 seconds remaining, sending the game into overtime.
Neither team was able to score on its first two possessions in overtime, but Bartlow put Athens ahead with a free throw, following her steal in the paint under the NEB bucket and subsequent coast-to-coast drive.
Following another NEB turnover, Miller drove baseline for a lay-up with 1:47 remaining in overtime to make it 52-49.
After a defensive stop, Athens made six of eight free throws, including three by sophomore Emma Bronson, to seal the win.
Miller was pleased with the contributions of every player that stepped on the floor.
“After Kayleigh banked in the three, Karlee had a nice drive for a basket, and Emma made three out of four free throws in overtime,” he said. “We had girls get some big rebounds and loose balls down the stretch.
“It’s a team game,” Miller added. “We’re more than just two girls, we have to play five girls on the floor — they all have to rebounds, they all have to communicate and play defense, and we did that tonight.”
Neuber added 11 rebounds to go along with her 30 points for the Lady Panthers, while Thoman and Beebe, who knocked down a pair of 3-pointers, scored eight points apiece, and Kate O’Connor added four points.
Athens returns to action Wednesday at Bloomsburg.
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.
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.
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.
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
“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.
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.”
AROUND THE NTL
“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.
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.”
AROUND THE NTL
“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.