By: Tim Birney | AthensWildcats.com | December 18, 2021


CANTON — Athens built an eight-point cushion at the half, then limited Canton to just 13 points in the second half on its way to a convincing, 66-46, win here Saturday night in a key early-season NTL boys basketball match-up.

"I am very pleased with the entire team's effort - everyone contributed," said Athens coach Jim Lister.  "Our bench was outstanding.

"Defensively, I thought we played very well, especially in the second half," noted Lister."Tucker Brown's quick hands created a lot of deflection and turnovers.

"We need to continue to do that to be successful," added Lister.

Senior Nalen Carling scored 15 points and grabbed three boards, and junior Mason Lister had 15 points and three assists to lead the Wildcats.

Senior Troy Pritchard scored 11 points in the win, while senior J.J. Babcock had eight points, nine assists, and three blocked shots, senior Tucker Brown added eight points, and junior Chris Mitchell chipped in with five points.

"Offensively, everyone contributed, which is what we want," said Lister.

"The birthday boy Nalen Carling was terrific," noted Lister. "Troy (Pritchard's) posts moves underneath were just fun to watch.

"Mason Lister is getting smoother and more comfortable by the game and J.J. is becoming the complete player," added Lister.

The Wildcats jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead on a bucket Pritchard, a conventional three-point play by Carling, and a bucket by Lister, off a feed from Babcock, but Canton answered with seven straight points to tie the game.

Brown put Athens back in front with an old-fashioned three-point play, and Lister made the Warriors pay for a turnover with a 3-point bomb to give Athens a 13-7 lead.

Carling turned another Canton turnover into a lay-up yo give the Wildcats an eight-point lead, at 15-7 with 1:45 left in the first quarter.

Canton closed the gap to two points, at 18-16, but Mitchell knocked down a pair of free throws in the closing moments of the opening stanza to give the Wildcats a 20-16 lead.

Babcock scored a pair of buckets to start the second quarter, pushing the Athens lead to 24-16, but Canton answered with seven straight points to close the gap to one, at 24-23.

The game of runs continued as the Wildcats scored eight straight points to take its biggest lead to that point, at 32-23. Pritchard scored five of the eight points.

After a bucket by Canton stopped the run, Lister canned a 3-pointer to give Athens a 35-25 lead with 2:50 remaining in the half.

The Athens lead ranged from six to 10 points until midway through the third quarter, when a 12-2 spurt that bridged the final two quarter extended the Wildcat lead to 56-37 with 7:09 remaining in the game.

Carling sparked the run with a break-away lay-up, and Brown's three-point play made it 49-37. Mitchell's bucket, off a feed from freshman Kolsen Keathley, gave the Wildcats a 51-37 lead entering the final eight minutes.

Lister opened the fourth quarter with a steal and a lay-up, then capped the run with an old-fashioned three-point play to make it 56-37.

The Warriors closed the gap to 15, at 56-41, midway through the final stanza, but never got any closer as buckets by Babcock, Brown, and Pritchard gave the Wildcats a 21-point lead, at 64-43 with 56 seconds remaining in the contest.

Isaiah Niemczyk led Canton with 18 points "”16 of them in the first half, while Caiden Williams netted 10, and  Cooper Kitchen added nine.

Athens, now 3-1, hosts Sayre Thursday night.


About the Author

Tim Birney Author Bio
Tim Birney

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

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

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