By: Chris Manning | | January 13, 2021 | Photo courtesy Chris Manning


TROY — In a physical, foul-plagued game Athens came up short against Troy, dropping a 70-53 decision, in NTL Large School boys’ basketball action Wednesday.

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.