March 8, 2022 Tim Birney

SCRANTON — Senior J.J. Babcock made big play after big play, senior Ryan Thompson canned a clutch 3-pointer, and senior Tucker Brown scored the game-winning points for the second time in three postseason games as Athens fended off a strong second-half effort by Mid-Valley to pull out a 42-40 win in the opening round of the PIAA Class 4A boys basketball playoffs here Tuesday night at Lackawanna College.

It’s the first state playoff win for Athens program since 1956, and only the second in school history.

“It’s been a long time,” said Athens coach Jim Lister. “It’s an awesome win.

“I’m so happy for our kids, for our program, and for our school,” added Lister. “I couldn’t be more proud of this team.”

Babcock said he wasn’t ready for his Athens playing career to end.

“It was desperation,” he said. “It was win-or-go-home for us. We have a bunch of seniors on this team, and we really did not want this to be our last game.

“It feels great,” added Babcock. “Words can’t describe, it’s just a great feeling to keep our season moving forward.”

Brown, who hit a pair of free throws in the closing seconds of Athens’ win over Shamokin in the District 4 semifinals, said he and his teammates have been through it before.

“We’ve been playing together since I was in 8th-grade, and the rest of them have been playing together longer than that,” he sad. “We know each other … we had to keep our composure, and we did a pretty good job of it. It got a little chippy and there were a lot of fouls, but in the end, we pulled it back together and got the win.

“It’s unbelievable. I just can’t wait to play again.” added Brown.

“I think senior leadership played a big part, these kids have been playing together a long time,” said Lister.

“If you look at this team, these senior are battle-tested over the last two years,” noted Lister. “They’ve played some unbelievable basketball games against some of the best teams around.

“These kids have worked hard, and they deserve all the accolades they’re getting,” he added. “They just don’t quit, no matter how tight it is. I love them for that.”

Both team struggled out of the gate offensively, and Babcock’s 3-pointer with 4:21 remaining in the first quarter gave the Wildcats a 5-2 lead, but Danny Nemitz answered moments later for Mid-Valley to tie the game.

Senior Nalen Carling scored off a feed from Babcock with 2:35 left to make it 7-5, and Lister scored of an assist from Babcock 45 seconds later to make it 9-5.

The Spartans tied the game at 9-9 on a free throw with 6:39 remaining in the first half, but Lister drained a 3-pointer from the top-of-the-key 26 seconds later to give the Wildcats a 12-9 lead.

Mid-Valley scored back-to-back buckets to take a 13-12 lead with 4:48 remaining in the first half, but the Wildcats started pounding the ball into the paint, and finished the half to an 11-4 spurt to take a 24-16 lead into the halftime locker room.

Babcock scored a pair of buckets in the run, including a short jumper with 27 seconds remaining to give the Wildcats their biggest lead of the game, at 24-15. Senior Troy Pritchard scored the first bucket in the run, and Brown added a big 3-pointer into the mix.

Lister was impressed with his team’s patience on offense in the first half.

“We worked on it last night for two hours,” he said. “We knew we were going to see man-to-man today.

“We are constantly working on it — being patient, making cuts, getting the ball to the right player, and try to get something in the paint,” added Lister. “I thought we did that well in the first half, especially in the last four minutes of the second quarter, which gave us a nice halftime lead.”

The Spartans, however, seized the momentum to start the second half, and used an 8-0 run to tie the game at 24-24 with 4:30 remaining in the third quarter.

“We stalled on offense,” said Lister. “We came out in the second half and didn’t follow the plan. The plan was to get the ball inside, and I thought we did a good job the last three or four minutes of the second quarter — getting the ball inside to J.J. (Babcock), and getting some easy buckets.

“I wanted to come out in the third quarter and do that again, but (Mid-Valley) switched up their defense, and I think it confused us a little bit, and we let them crawl back into the game,” noted Lister.

The teams battled evenly until Brown knocked down a pair of free throws with 9.9 seconds remaining to give the Wildcats a 30-28 lead heading into the final eight minutes.

Lister connected on a short jumper with 6:58 left in the game to up the Athens advantage to 32-28, but Nimitz answered with a 3-pointer, and Gabe Tanner knocked down a pair of free throws to give the Spartans a 33-32 lead.

Athens missed the front ends of two one-and-ones, sandwiched around a bucket by Tanner, and trailed 35-32 with 4:51 remaining in the game.

With 4:01 remaining, Thompson drained a 3-pointer from the left wing to tie the game at 35-35. Just 20 seconds later, after a steal by Babcock, Brown scored on a strong drive to the bucket to give the Wildcats a 37-35 lead.

“How ‘bout Ryan Thompson coming off the bench and hitting that big-time 3(-pointer) to tie the game,” said Lister. “Honestly, I think that really sparked us … we saw the finish line at that point, and finished strong.”

After junior Chris Mitchell drew a charge, Babcock scored in the low blocks with 3:12 left in the game to make it 39-35.

However, Nemitz and Tanner each went 2-for-2 at the line to tie the game at 39-39 with 50 seconds remaining.

The Wildcats worked the ball on its next possession, then Brown took a pass off a screen at the top-of-the-key, and drove hard to the bucket, kissing it off the glass to make it 41-39 with 22 seconds in the game.

“I saw my teammates clear out, and I saw an opening. I took it hard, and hoped for the best,” said Brown.

“Down the left-side of the lane is Tucker’s money,” said Lister. “If you give him an inch there, he’s going to finish. It was a beautiful move, and a great take.”

Mid-Valley rushed the ball up court, and in a flurry that saw the ball in the hands of two different Athens players, ended up in-bounding the ball under their bucket with 9 seconds remaining.

The in-bounds play was executed perfectly and the Spartans got a point-blank look at the rim, but the ball rolled off the rim, and Lister rebounded it with 5.9 seconds remaining.

Lister made the second of two free throws to make it 42-39.

Before Mid-Valley could get the ball up court to attempt a game-tying 3-pointer, Athens fouled Nemitz in the backcourt with 2.3 seconds remaining.

Nemitz made the first, then had the second roll off the rim. Babcock rebounded the miss, and fired a pass up the floor, which Tucker chased down as the final buzzer sounded.

“We played really good defense,” said Lister. “If you can hold a high school team to 40 points in the state playoffs, you have a good shot to win the game.

“It’s a team win — everyone contributed a little something to get us the W,” added Lister.

Babcock led Athens with 14 points, six rebounds, three assists, four blocked shots, and four steals, while Lister had 10 points and five rebounds, and Brown had nine points, four assists, and four steals.

Carling added five points, two assists, and two steals in the win, and Pritchard and Mitchell each grabbed four rebounds.

Tanner led Mid-Valley with 15 points, and Nemitz added 14.

Athens will face Archbishop Carroll in the Sweet 16.

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March 5, 2022 Tim Birney

WILLIAMSPORT — Senior Gavin Bradley became the second wrestler in Athens program history to qualify for the PIAA Championships four times here Saturday, while senior Karter Rude punched his ticket to Hershey for the first time.

Bradley avenged his only loss of the season — a 5-3 setback in the District 4 finals last week — with a wild 11-8 win over top-seeded Branden Wentzel of Montoursville in the 113-pound finale to win his third consecutive Regional title.

“Gavin is going to wrestle hard for six minutes, or however long the match is no matter what,” said Athens coach Shawn Bradley.

“I think he fixed some stuff tonight,” he noted. “He stayed in position, and position is huge in wrestling. Last week, he gave up position a couple of times, and Wentzel is a tough kid — he capitalized on it.

“He stayed in position a lot better, got to his offense, and gutted it out when he had to,” Bradley added.

Bradley scored a takedown with 1:11 remaining in the first period to take a 2-0 lead, but Wentzel recorded a reversal with 21 seconds left to tie it at 2-2.

Wentzel registered an escape off the second-period whistle for a 3-2 lead, but Bradley answered with a pair of takedowns for a 6-4 lead with 41 seconds remaining.

Wentzel scored an escape late in the second period, then hit for a takedown early in the third period for a 7-6 lead.

Bradley escaped with 1:25 left in the third period to tie the bout at 7-7, then connected on a pair of takedowns, including one with 12 seconds remaining to seal the victory.

Previously, Gavin Bradley, who pinned Wyoming Area’s Garret Pocceschi in 74 seconds in the quarterfinals Friday, sewed up his trip to Hershey with a pin of South Williamsport’s Kayvan Shams in 2:38 in the semifinals.

Rude, the third seed at 152 pounds, opened the tournament Friday night with a 5-2 win over Honesdale’s Joey Gianetti, 5-2.

Rude punched his ticket to States in the semifinals with a 5-0 win over second-seeded Cooper Price, who was 28-1 entering the bout.

“Coming into this year, Karter (Rude) had never even placed at Districts,” said Bradley. “This year, he takes second at Regionals, and he beats a kid who is undefeated in the semis. That’s cool.”

Rude’s quest for a Regional title came up short with a 9-1 loss to top-seeded Devon Deem of Montgomery in the finals.

“He closed the gap on Deem, and Deem is tough,” said Bradley.

“Karter has wrestled some really good kids in that weight class this year, the top three, four, five kids in the state.”

Bradley believes Rude is primed for good things in Hersehy.

“Karter is peaking just at the right time,” he said. “He’s right where he needs to be right now.

“Karter is a great athlete,” noted Bradley. “The keys for him are head position, his hands are super-heavy, and he’s got great attacks.

“And, his gas tank this year is really good this year,” added Bradley. “In the past that was the biggest issue, how do we get him to push through hard situations? We don’t have to ask that anymore, he’s pushed through hard situations every day.”

Junior Jake Courtney and sophomore Josh Nittinger, who both lost pigtail-round matches, were eliminated with losses in their first wrestleback matches Saturday morning.

“They both had great seasons,” said Bradley. “When you come down here, you have to fight through some tough kids to advance. They both battled, came up a little bit short in both matches, but they battled.

“I think both kids will take a big step forward next year, and they’re going to have to because they’re going to be our leaders,” he added.

Nittinger dropped a 4-1 decision to Meadowbrook Christian’s Gunner Treibley.

“I think Josh wrestled more matches than anyone in this tournament,” said Bradley. “He wrestled almost 50 matches, which is awesome. He showed me a lot this year as far as working hard, and wanting to learn.”

Courtney dropped a 6-5 decision to Line Mountain’s Lane Schadel.

“Jake has to take that next step, he’s right there,” said Bradley. “He beat some really good kids this year. He has to take that next step, know he’s good enough, and just prove it.”

Action at the PIAA Class AA Championships begins Thursday morning at the Giant Center in Hershey.

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March 5, 2022 Tim Birney

MANSFIELD — All season long, Athens feasted on lay-ups as a key cog of its offense, and that continued against Lewisburg. The difference against the Green Dragons was that those lay-ups didn’t go down, with the Wildcats falling 71-58 in District 4, Class AAAA boys’ basketball championship game Saturday.

“Tonight wasn’t our night,” Athens coach Jim Lister said. “So many bunnies and hippies that we normally make, we didn’t make tonight. We make those shots, we probably win the game. It just wasn’t our day.”

The Wildcats missed six lay-ups in the first quarter, but found themselves down just 13-8. They would tie it up at 22-all in the second quarter, but a 6-0 run would put the Green Dragons up, and they would carry that momentum to a 33-26 lead at the half.

The Green Dragons pushed their advantage to 48-34 in the third quarter, but Athens would chip away, cutting it a 4-point game with just under three minutes to play. It never got closer than that, though, and Lewisburg used lay-ups and free throws to pull away.

“They didn’t quit, they fought right to the end,” said Lister. “They cut it to three points with three minutes to go in the game. It just shows you the heart these kids have. I’m super proud of them, I really am.”

Tucker Brown led the way with 23 points, including a 14-for-16 effort from the free throw line. He also had four boards, and two assists.

At one point, he scored 13 straight points for Athens in the late third and early fourth to get them back in the game.

“He just doesn’t ever stop,” said Lister. “We love the kid to death. I’m going to mis him, he’s just a phenomenal kid, and a tremendous point guard, and he’s going to be a tough one to replace next year.”

JJ Babcock added 15 points, six rebounds, and two blocks, with Mason Lister netting seven points to go with five boards, three assists, and three steals.

Nalen Carling scored six, with six boards, and two steals, Kolsen Keathley finished with four points and three rebounds, Xavier Watson notched two points, and Chris Mitchell rounded things out with one point. Troy Pritchard added two boards for the Wildcats.

Lewisburg’s Jake Hernandez was strong inside with 26 points, while Joey Martin added 15 and Cam Michaels finished with 13. Michaels, the point guard, was a spark plug for the team all game long.

Jack Blough was also in double-figures with 11, while Forrest Zelechoski finished with four, and Henry Harrison added two.

It was a foul-plagued game, with Lewisburg going 20-for-23 from the line, while Athens was 23-for-36.

A Lister lay-up gave Athens a 2-0 lead less than a minute into the game.

After some back-and-forth, Hernandez used an old-fashion 3-point play to put the Dragons up 3-2. Babcock would knot things up with a free throw with 4:56 left in the quarter.

Lewisburg then went on n 8-0 run, behind four points from Hernandez, to take an 11-3 lead with 3:19 left to play in the first.

Mitchell would get a free throw, followed by a Keathley bucket to cut it to 11-6. Hernandez would follow that with a lay-up, but Babcock had the final say with two freebies to make it 13-8 at the first horn.

It was back-and-forth early in the second as Babcock would cut it to 14-10, but a pair of Michaels free throws pushed the lead back to six.

Brown would get a pair of free throws for Athens, but Hernandez followed with a lay-up. Lister would cut it to 18-15 with just under six minutes left in the second quarter with an old-fashion three-point play, but two more freebies for Lewisburg put them back up five.

Athens would strike back with a 4-0 spurt, as Lister found Babcock for a bucket, followed by Watson getting a putback to cut it to 20-19.

Michaels would end the spurt with a lay-up, but a Brown 3-ball off a Babcock cross-court pass tied it up at 22-all with 3:20 left in the half.

Lewisburg, though, would follow with another 6-0 run — all on free throws. Hernandez was fouled, followed by a technical foul called on Athens, giving him two more freebies. He made all four, they got the ball back, and he got fouled again, making those two to put Lewisburg up 28-22 with 2:42 left in the half.

Babcock would get a lay-up, but Michaels nailed a step back 3-ball to push Lewisburg’s advantage to 31-24.

The two teams would trade points down the stretch to make it 33-26 Green Dragons at the half.

Athens went on a 4-2 spurt to start the third quarter, with buckets from Brown and Babcock, cutting it to 35-30. Lewisburg would respond with a 7-0 run to put them up 42-30 near the midway point of the quarter.

Brown would end the spurt with a lay-up, the beginning of 13 straight points for the Wildcats.

Martin would hit a 3-ball, but Brown came back with two freebies. Martin would get another 3-pointer to push their lead to 14 points, but Brown responded with a lay-up.

The Wildcats then went to the line three times after that, but went 0-for-5.

However, Brown went to the line twice in the final 12 seconds, going 3-for-4 to make it 49-39 going into the final frame.

Lewisburg’s Blough would get back-to-back lay-ups early in the fourth to extend the lead to 53-39, but four straight free throws from Brown cut it to 10 points again.

Blough continued the hot hand, getting a putback, but two lay-ups from the Wildcats saw them cut it to 55-47.

A Martin lay-up with 4:20 left made it a 10-point game halfway through the fourth. After the two teams traded a free throw, Athens went on a 6-0 run — powered by four points from Babcock — to cut it to 58-54 with 2:51 to play.

Hernandez would end that stretch with a pair of free throws, followed by Michaels getting a steal and lay-up to make it 64-52 with 1:40 left.

At the other end in one possession, Athens had four good lay-up looks, but none of them went down. Michaels would get the ball, and drive straight to the bucket, but Pritchard played the best defense of the game, going straight at him to force an errant shot.

The Wildcats went down, with Lister finding Keathley for a basket to make it 64-58 with 1:10 left.

That’s the last time Athens would score, though, as Lewisburg finished the game on a 7-0 run to secure the win.

Despite coming up short, Lister was glad to see his team get Athens back into a district final.

“I’m just ecstatic for all of them,” he said. “They put the work in, the time in, and came up a little short tonight.”

Athens will now travel to the District 2 runners-up on Tuesday.

“We’ve got to give them the weekend off, and just kind of swallow this one hard,” said Lister. “We’ll go back at it hard on Monday.”

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March 4, 2022 Tim Birney

WILLIAMSPORT — Athens advanced two wrestlers — seniors Gavin Bradley and Karter Rude — to Saturday morning’s semifinals, while two Wildcats fell into the consolation bracket here Friday night at the District 4, Class AA Wrestling Championships.

At 113 pounds, Bradley decked Wyoming Area’s Garret Pocceschi in 1:14 in the quarterfinals.

Bradley will face South Williamsport’s Kayvan Shams in the semifinals. Shams topped District 2 champion Cole Henry of Lackawanna Trail, 7-5, in the quarterfinals.

At 152 pounds, Rude forged a 5-2 win over Honesdale’s Joey Giannetti in the quarterfinals.

Rude will face District 2 champ Cooper Price of Wyoming Area in the semifinals. Price edged Southern Columbia’s Louden Murphy, 5-3, in the quarterfinals.

At 138 pounds, Athens junior Jack Courtney dropped a 9-0 major decision to Benton’s Caden Temple in the pigtail round.

Courtney will face Line Mountain’s Lane Schadel Saturday morning in the consolation bracket.

At 285 pounds, Athens sophomore Josh Nittinger lost via fall in 2:44 to Milton’s Nathan Rauch in the pigtail round.

Nittinger will face Meadowbrook Christian’s Gunner Treibley in the first round of wrestlebacks Saturday morning.

Action begins Saturday at 9 a.m., with the semifinals and consolation quarterfinals set to begin at 10:30 a.m.

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March 3, 2022 Tim Birney

WILLIAMSPORT — Athens had five different swimmers, led by senior Brooke Kopatz and freshman Ethan Hicks, earn a pair of medals here Thursday night at Day 2 of the District 4 Swimming & Diving Championships.

The Athens boys finished third in the team standings, while the Lady Wildcats were fourth.

“We had a terrific meet,” said Athens coach Mark Keister.

Kopatz and juniors Taegan Williams and Taylar Fisher each won a pair of medals Thursday. Williams and Fisher each earned four medals in the two-day event.

Kopatz had the best individual finish of the day for Athens swimmers, placing third in the 100-yard breaststroke in a time of 1:11.39

Kopatz, Williams, Fisher, and sophomore Grace Cobb teamed to finish fourth in the 400-yard freestyle in a time of 4:02.03.

Williams finished fifth in the 100-yard freestyle in a time of 57.43 seconds, and freshman Elizabeth Talada was 16th in 1:07.85.

Fisher finished sixth in the 100-yard backstroke in a time of 1:09.99, and sophomore Emily Marshall was 10th in 1:13.79.

Cobb finished 14th in the 500-yard freestyle in 6:28.25.

Powerhouse Danville cruised to the team title with 465 points, while Central Columbia was runner-up with 296 points, Bloomsburg was third with 240, Athens tallied 213 points, and Jersey Shore was fifth with 197 points.

Hicks and junior Ethan Denlinger each earned a pair of medals Thursday to give them four in the two-day event. Junior Chris DeForest also brought home four medals.

Denlinger, DeForest, Hicks and freshman Ronel Ankam teamed to finish second in the 400-yard freestyle relay in a time of 3:32.76.

Hicks had the best individual finish for the Athens boys, placing fourth in the 100-yard backstroke in a time of 1:00.37.

Denlinger finished sixth in the 500-yard freestyle in 5:36.89, and junior Joe Blood was 13th in 6:39.35.

Ankam finished eighth in the 100-yard freestyle in a time of 55.38 seconds, while freshman Ryan Gorman was 18th in 1:00.39, and freshman Carter Lewis was 21st in 1:02.77.

Gorman finished 12th in the 100-yard breaststroke in a time of 1:19.78.

Athens divers — freshman Treyvon Simpson and Carter Lewis — finished ninth and 11th, respectively, last weekend at the District 4 Diving Championships.

Central Columbia ran away with the team title, amassing 391.5 points, while runner-up Lewisburg had 249 points. Athens tallied 213.5 points, while fourth-place Danville had 200, and Bloomsburg was fifth with 166 points.

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March 2, 2022 Tim Birney

WILLIAMSPORT — Juniors Chris DeForest and Taegan Williams had the top performances for Athens in Day 1 at the District 4 Swimming & Diving Championships, leading both the boys and girls teams into fourth place at the midway point.

“We had some very good races and fast swims,” said Athens coach Mark Keister. “Most of our swims are finishing at or better than seed times.

“We are excited to see our swimmers do tomorrow,” added Keister. “We have swimmers in every event for Day 2, and some events have multiple swimmers. It should be a lot of fun.”

DeForest had a trio of top-four finishes on Day 1.

DeForest finished second in the 50-yard freestyle in 23.17 seconds, and freshman Josh Leonard was 16th in 28.71 seconds. He finished fourth in the 100-yard butterfly in a time of 58.83 seconds, and Leonard was 10th in 1:07.84.

DeForest teamed with junior Ethan Denlinger and freshmen Ethan Hicks and Ronel Ankam to finish third in the 200-yard freestyle relay in a time of 1:50.46.

Hicks and Ankam teamed with fellow freshmen Ryan Gorman and Leonard to finish fifth in the  200-yard medley team in a time of 1:58.01.

Junior Ethan Denlinger finished sixth in the 200-yard freestyle in a time of 2:02.78, and junior Joe Blood was 12th in 2:29.2.

Central Columbia leads the team standings with 210 points, while Lewisburg is second with 157 points, Danville is third with 134, and Athens has 133 points.

Williams had a pair of third-place finishes, and junior Taylar Fisher had a pair of top-six finishes to pace the Lady Wildcats.

Williams finished third in the 200-yard freestyle in a time of 2:03.8, and sophomore Grace Cobb was 11th in 2:21.62.

Williams teamed with Fisher, senior Brooke Kopatz, and sophomore Emily Marshall teamed to finish third in the 200-yard freestyle relay in a time of 1:50.46.

Fisher finished sixth in the 200-yard IM in a time of 2:28.86, and Kopatz was ninth in 2:37.32.

Junior Macaria Benjamin finished eighth in the 100-yard butterfly in a time of 1:17.61, while Marshall was ninth in 1:18.44, and freshman Elizabeth Talada was 11th in 1:38.34.

Senior Hannah Walker finished 14th in the 50-yard freestyle in a time of 30.89 seconds.

Athens sits in fourth place after Day 1 with 129 points, well behind powerhouse Danville, which leads the team standings with 257 points. Central Columbia is second with 156 points, and Bloomsburg is third with 146.

Day 2 action begins at 6 p.m.

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March 1, 2022 Tim Birney

WILLIAMSPORT — Senior Tucker Brown buried two free throws with 16 seconds remaining to lift Athens to a 41-40 win over Shamokin, and into the District 4, Class 4A championship game.

“I’m very happy with the win tonight,” said Athens coach Jim Lister. “The kids dug deep and found a way to win.

“I’m so proud of them,” noted Lister. “When you go down to Williamsport, it’s a different level of basketball. It’s a lot more physical, they let you play a lot more.

“Our guys handled the adversity, they never quit, they followed the game plan, and we pulled it off,” he added. “I’m thrilled for the kids, and I’m thrilled for the program.”

The Wildcats finished the third quarter with a 6-0 spurt — on a pair of buckets by senior Nalen Carling, sandwiched around a short jumper by senior J.J. Babcock — to take a 31-25 lead into the final eight minutes.

Babcock scored again, off a feed from junior Mason Lister, to give the Wildcats their biggest lead of the game, at 33-25, with 7:35 remaining in the contest.

The Indians closed gap to 35-30, but another bucket by Carling, this one off an assist from Babcock, made it 37-30 with 4:35 left in the game.

Shamokin scored the next eight points to take a 38-37 lead with 1:48 remaining, but a steal by Babcock and a long pass to junior Chris Mitchell for an uncontested lay-up with 44 seconds left gave Athens a 39-38 lead.

"How about that pass to Chris Mitchell?,” said Lister. “Seriously, a half-court bullet right there for a
lay-up. That's part of being 6-6, being able to see the floor and finding his wide-open teammate."

Just eight seconds later, Shamokin made a pair of free throws to regain the lead, at 40-39, setting the stage for Brown’s game-winners.

“It was a big-time moment for a senior,” said Lister.

“We practice foul shooting a lot in practice, and Tucker kind of goes off to the side by himself,” he noted. “He’s constantly working on it, and it paid off tonight.”

Shamokin knocked down a pair of 3-pointers on its first two possessions to take a quick 6-0 lead

“It seems like every time we face a team, they come out in the first quarter and they hit their first two or three 3-pointers,” laughed Lister. “Shamokin made their first two, and then missed a bunch after that.

“I think our 3-2 zone was frustrating for them. They were having a difficult time getting the ball inside.

“I’ve watched a lot of Heartland (Athletic Conference) film, and it’s no secret, they all play man-to-man defense,” noted Lister. “Every game I watched, it’s man-to-man.

“We’re playing this zone, and they’re just not use to seeing it. With our length and athleticism, these guards struggle with it.

“We forced a lot of turnovers tonight, it’s been our type of basketball,” added Lister. “We’re going to stick with it.”

Shamokin led 12-4 midway through the first quarter, but Lister scored back-to-back buckets to close the gap to 12-8 at the end of the opening eight minutes.

After a free throw by Shamokin to open the second-quarter scoring, senior Troy Pritchard scored on a nice low-post move to trigger a 7-0 spurt that Brown capped with a steal and uncontested lay-up to give the Wildcats a 15-13 lead.

The teams battled evenly until Athens’ 6-0 spurt to end the third quarter.

Carling led Athens with 12 points, five rebounds, and three steals, while Babcock had nine points, three assists, and one blocked shot, and Brown had eight points, five rebounds, four assists, and six steals.

Lister added four points, four rebounds, four assists, and six steals in the win, while Pritchard had six points and four rebounds, and Mitchell chipped in with five rebounds and one blocked shot.

The Wildcats, now 20-6, are just one win away from a District 4 title.

“That’s one banner in our gym we just don’t have for Athens boys basketball,” said Lister.

“We use the phrase, we have to be 1-0,” he noted. “We have to keep being 1-0. Now, we’re at the point where we can be 1-0 again, and win a District title.

“The kids have bought in, and are playing some really good basketball,” Lister added.

Athens will face the winner of Wednesday’s game between top-seeded Lewisburg and fourth-seeded Mifflinburg on Saturday at a site and time to be determined.

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February 26, 2022 Tim Birney

WILLIAMSPORT — It was a good day for Athens wrestling, but it could have been better. Four wrestlers made it through to regionals — the highest number of any team from the NTL, but none of them won their medal-round match.

Seniors Gavin Bradley (113) and Karter Rude (152) were both runners-up, while junior Jacob Courtney (138) was fourth, and sophomore Josh Nittinger (285) came in sixth.

“That’s a rough last round,” said Athens coach Shawn Bradley.

They also lost Kaden Setzer to an injury. If he was healthy, there’s a good chance he would be have joined them.

“He did the best he could, but came up a little bit short,” said Bradley. “We had Josh step up as a sophomore, and he’d lost to that boy two or three times this year.”

Gavin Bradley lost to Montoursville’s Branden Wentzel, 5-3, on a late third-period takedown on a scramble with 30 seconds left in the match. Gavin Bradley took a 3-2 lead on a takedown during a scramble in the second, but after riding Wentzel much of the third he had to let him up.

Gavin Bradley pushed the pace on Wentzel, and nearly had him for takedowns several times, but Wentzel was able to wrestle on the edge of the mat, and get out whenever he was in trouble.

“We’ve got to survive or do better in the scrambles there,” said Bradley. “Finish a little bit quicker. We had to cut him there because Gavin had two cautions when he was riding him tough, but it is what it is, he’s got to learn from that and get better for next time.”

Rude was pinned by Montgomery’s Devon Deem in 3:01 after beating Lewisburg’s Chase Wenrich in the semifinals.

Deem used a strong single-leg attack to build a 6-2 lead in the first period. In the second, he kept at it, ultimately getting the fall.

“That kids a hammer,” said Bradley. “And Karter asked me, ‘what do I have to do?’ We just have to keep working. Karter’s got some good work out partners, Karter’s just got to pull the trigger. That kid took all the shots. Karter’s got to get after it, and take it to him. Karter’s got a good offense, but that kid is very good — Karter’s got to wrestle up to his level.”

Despite the setback, Rude is glad to be where he’s at.

“I’ve never had anything like this before, so I’m just trying to take it one step at a time,” he said. “Keep it nice.”

As for wrestling Deem, he plans on doing better next time.

“He was getting the single-leg on me, I need to work on defending that,” he said.

Courtney got a big win over Benton’s Caden Temple (3-1) to get to the third-place match, where he fell to Southern Columbia’s Kole Biscoe, 6-0. In the semifinals, Courtney lost to Warrior Run’s Cameron Milheim, 5-1.

Nittinger had an NTL kind of day, opening the elimination round with a 3-1 win over Towanda’s Jared Gunther, then pinning Canton’s Mason Nelson in 4:32 to get to the consolation semifinals.

Once there, he lost to Williamson’s Kade Sottolano 9-1, and then was pinned by Meadowbrook Christian’s Gunner Treibley in 1:42 in the fifth-place match.

Athens freshman 215-pounder Caleb Nason dropped a 6-4 decision to Montoursville’s Cole Yonkin in the first round of wrestlebacks Saturday morning.

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February 25, 2022 Tim Birney

WILLIAMSPORT — Athens advanced three wrestlers — seniors Karter Rude and Gavin Bradley, and junior Jake Courtney —  into the semifinals of Saturday’s District 4, Class AA Wrestling Championships.

The Wildcats also have three grapplers — senior Kaden Setzer, sophomore Josh Nittinger, and freshman Caleb Nason — in the consolation bracket.

Athens is in fifth place in the team standings with 28 points. Benton leads the team title chase with 49 points, with Montoursville second at 39, Canton third at 32.5 points, and Southern Columbia in fourth at 31 points.

Rude, the second seed at 152 pounds, forged a 13-3 decision over seventh-seeded Evan Brokenshire of Benton in the quarterfinals.

Rude will square off with third-seeded Chase Wenrich of Lewisburg in the semifinals.

At 113 pounds, second-seeded Gavin Bradley decked 10th-seeded Kris Kalbarchick of Mount Carmel in 1:22 to advance to the semifinals.

Bradley will square off with third-seeded Brady Struble of Mifflinburg in the semifinals.

At 138 pounds, Courtney, the fourth seed, pinned fifth-seeded Lane Schadel of Line Mountain in the quarterfinals.

Courtney will take on top-seeded Cameron Milheim in the semifinals.

Setzer, the fourth seed at 132 pounds, was knocked into the consolation bracket via pin by fifth-seeded Caiden Puderbach of Hughesville in the quarterfinals.

Setzer, who had right knee heavily protected after his injury default in last Saturday’s 132-pound finale, will take on 11th-seeded Sam Persun of South Williamsport in the first round of wrestlebacks.

Nittinger, the ninth seed at 285 pounds, pulled out a 4-2 decision over eighth-seeded Andrew Wolfe of Benton in the round-of-16.

Nittinger was knocked into the consolation bracket by top-seeded Emmanuel Ulrich of Mifflinburg inn the quarterfinals.

Nittinger takes on 10th-seeded Jared Gunther of Towanda in wrestlebacks Saturday morning.

Freshman Caleb Nason, the 10th seed at 215 pounds, dropped an 8-2 decision to seventh-seeded Cale Bastian of Milton in the round-of-16.

Nason will take on eighth-seeded Cole Yonkin of Montoursville in the opening round of wretlebacks Saturday morning.

Actin begins at 9 a.m. Saturday.

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February 25, 2022 Tim Birney

ATHENS — Athens allowed seven first-half points, limited Milton to 15-percent shooting from the field in the game, and forced 28 turnovers in a 57-23 rout here Friday night in the quarterfinals of the District 4, Class AAAA boys basketball playoffs.

“Our defense was definitely the story tonight,” said Athens coach Jim Lister. “My kids were fantastic on defense tonight. There were active, they had a lot of intensity, and their hands were busy.

“On film, it’s no secret the Heartland (Conference) match up … they match up and play man-to-man. Everything I watched on film was man-to-man.

“Playing Wyalusing and Troy, I thought their guards were better than what we saw tonight, so I thought our 3-2 (zone) would be nasty for (Milton), and it was,” noted Lister.

“When they starting figuring things out, we went to a half-court press, and it was game over,” Lister added.

The Wildcats scored the first eight points of the game, and led 10-1 after the first eight minutes, with five different players putting their names in the scoring column.

After a bucket by Milton to start the second quarter closed the gap to 10-3, the Wildcats scored nine points in a row in a run that featured four points by senior Tucker Brown, and a 3-pointer by junior Mason Lister.

Senior Nalen Carling’s puback on the offensive glass capped the run and made it 19-3 with 1:45 remaining in the first half.

The teams traded buckets to finish the half, and the Wildcats led 23-7 at the intermission.

Lister believes the 16-point halftime bulge should have been much bigger.

“If there was one thing I was all over the kids about tonight is that we were not finishing at the rim,” he said. “We missed a lot of bunnies in the first half that we normally make.

“Obviously our defensive was tremendous in the first half, but I thought we should have had another 15 points on the scoreboard,” noted Lister. “We just missed a lot of easy shots.

“We came out in the third quarter, and I think we were rushing things a little bit … we were trying too hard to score,” he added. “I took a time out just to settle them down, and we were just fantastic after that.”

Milton scored the first five points of the third quarter, but the Wildcats closed out the third quarter with a 14-3 run to take a 39-15 lead into the final eight minutes.

Senior Troy Pritchard started the run, and Lister scored six points in the stretch.

Athens continued to poor it on in the fourth quarter with an 18-8 run, field by six points from senior J.J. Babcock.

Lister took a minute after the game to pay homage to the Athens student body.

“Our student body again was fantastic tonight,” he said. “They came out in droves, and they were so loud and into the game the entire time. I’m just thrilled to have them there.”

Lister led Athens with 15 points, four rebounds, and four steals, while Babcock had 12 points, five boards, three assists, and two blocked shots, and Carling added eight points and eight rebounds.

Brown had eight points, six assists, four rebounds, and three steals in the win,, while Pritchard had six points and six boards, and junior Chris Mitchell chipped in with five points.

Athens, now 19-6, will face second-seeded Shamokin at a time and place to be determined.


Athens honored senior J.J. Babcock for reaching the 1,000-point plateau and the 500-rebound marker.

“We had eight alumni at the game from Athens (and SRU) who were 1,000-point scorers to recognize them, and celebrate J.J.’s accomplishments,” said Lister. “I think it was a wonderful thing for J.J. (Babcock), I’m thrilled for him.

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February 24, 2022 Tim Birney

ATHENS — When two teams play good man-to-man defense, points can be hard to come by.

That proved to be the case Thursday night as sixth-seeded Lewisburg edged third-seeded Athens, 21-18, in the quarterfinals of the District 4, Class 4A girls basketball playoffs.

“We knew as a coaching staff that it was going to be a low-scoring game,” said Athens coach Brian Miller.

“Lewisburg plays very, very good half-court man-to-man defense, and they run their (offensive) man sets for a long time. They are very patient to get the best shot, and sometimes they shoot and miss and get the rebound, and you have to keep playing defense.

“We knew the number of shots we were going to get was going to be low, and the quality of shots we were going to get was going to be lower,” added Miller. “And, that did come to fruition.”

The Lady Wildcats only took 24 shots from the field, making seven for a 29-percent clip. Worse yet, they were just 1-for-3 from the free-throw line.

“If you told me we were going to hold them to 21 points, I’d take that every single night,” said Miller. “We didn’t execute offensively, .

“Caydence (Macik) didn’t shoot any foul shots. We tried to pound the ball into her because she was a mismatch to them,” added Miller. “Unfortunately for us, she didn’t get to the foul line at all.”

The game was a very physical affair with one Athens player sustaining a black eye, and another a bloody mouth.

“They let us play big-time,” said Miller. “The nature of the officiating tonight, letting them play, worked in their favor, not ours.

“We need to score points from the foul line,” noted Miller. “Unfortunately, we only shot three foul shots, and Caydence (Macik), our best interior player who usually gets to the foul line 5 to 10 times per game, didn’t shoot a free throw.”

Athens led 7-6 after the first eight minutes, and, thanks to a 3-pointer by Macik late in the second quarter, the two teams entered the halftime locker room tied at 12-12.

Kealey Baker scored on Lewisburg’s first possession of the second half to give the Lady Green Dragons a 14-12 lead with 6:44 remaining in the third quarter.

It took Athens nearly two more minutes to get on the board in the second half, but Macik and junior Emma Bronson scored in transition about 30 seconds apart to give the Lady Wildcats a15-14 lead with 4:15 left in the third quarter.

With 2:50 left in the third quarter, Sophie Kilbride canned a 3-pointer to give Lewisburg the lead for good, at 17-16.

Anna Baker added a pair of free throws in the final minute of the stanza to give the Green Dragons a 19-16 lead heading into the final eight minutes.

Junior Karlee Bartlow hit a driving baseline runner with 6:48 remaining in the game to trim the deficit to 19-18, but missed a free throw to complete the traditional three-point play.

Lewisburg took 2 1/2 minutes off the game clock in its next possession before Athens came up with a steal. However, the Lady Dragons returned the favor at half court to regain possession.

About 30 seconds later, Lewisburg miss the front end of a one-and-one. The Dragons would miss the front end of two more one-and-ones, and with 26 seconds remaining, Kealey Baker rebounded a miss and scored on a putback to make it 21-18.

Athens’ last-ditch effort to tie the game, a 3-pointer with 5 seconds remaining was blocked.

Macik, who ends her Athens career with 1,283 points — third all-time in program history — led the Lady Wildcats with nine points, three rebounds, and six steals, while Emma Bronson added four points, and Karlee Bartlow chipped in with three points, four rebounds, and two assists.

Senior Olivia Bartlow had five rebounds, three steals, and one blocked shot, and freshman Addy Wheeler chipped in with two rebounds, two steals, and two blocked shots.

The Lady Wildcats lose just two seniors from this season’s 17-7 team.

“Caydence had a tremendous career, and Olivia came back and had a nice season for us,” said Miller. “They will both be missed.”

Miller said losing his two best low-post players will result in a different-looking team in 2022-23.

“We’ll be smaller and faster next year year.,” he said. “Sara Bronson and Mya Thompson will get more playing time … Natalee Watson will step into the center position and get more playing time.

“We have girls like Ella Coyle who will see more time.

“We’ll kind of be like Lewisburg — small and fast, and have to pressure the basketball to create opportunities to score in transition,” added Miller.

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February 19, 2022 Chris Manning

SAYRE — For two-and-a-half quarters, Athens was able to hang with Towanda, but a Black Knight run late in the third quarter, and early in the fourth, helped them edge the Wildcats, 43-37, for the NTL Showdown title Saturday.

“That was a nice thing we took that lead, but, again, Paige (Manchester) had some big threes in the second half, and then we had some mistakes in our half-court, where we turned it over, and they got transition baskets,” said Athens coach Brian Miller. “That’s the two things we were concentrating on — don’t let Paige beat us from the perimeter, and don’t let them get transition baskets, and that hurt us a little bit.”

Karlee Bartlow had 15 points to lead Athens, while Olivia Bartlow added 11 points and nine boards. Caydence Macik had six points to go with seven boards, and five assists, while Addy Wheeler added five points and six boards.

Manchester finished with 15 points for Towanda and Porschia Bennett added 14. Bella Hurley scored six, Gracie Schoonover netted four, Destiny Brennan notched three, with Eliza Fowler added one.

“We’ve gotten better,” Miller said. “They beat us by 30 at their place, they beat us by 11 at our place, and then we lost by six, and we were ahead in the third quarter, so I’m using it as motivation that we’re getting better.”

Athens came out and took a 4-0 lead on buckets from Olivia Bartlow and Wheeler. Hurley would answer with a 3-ball, then Manchester made a lay-up to give them their first lead.

Schoonover would make it 7-4 with a jumper, but a Karlee Bartlow lay-up cut it to 7-6. Manchester then found Bennett for a bucket to take a 9-6 lead at the first horn.

The lead would get as high as 14-7 early in the second on a Bennett 3-point play.

Athens, though, would get a lay-up from Olivia Bartlow, followed by a 3-ball from Wheeler, to cut it to 14-12.

Schoonover would get a lay-up to make it 16-12, but a 3-0 Athens spurt to end the half cut it to 16-15 at the break.

Bennett opened up the quarter with a lay-up, but Karlee Bartlow answered with a 3-ball to make it 18-18.

The two teams would trade baskets, with Athens getting a lead when Karlee Bartlow hit a jumper with 4:12 on the clock.

But that’s when Towanda made their move, beginning with a Manchester 3-ball. She then found Bennett on the run out, followed by another 3-ball from her to put the Knights up 28-22.

After a Macik free throw Brennan then hit a 3-pointer with under a minute left in the quarter to put them up by eight points. A Macik lay-up cut it to 31-25 with one quarter left.

Athens would cut it to a 4-point game on a Karlee Bartlow 3-ball, but Manchester followed with a 3-pointer of her own. Karlee Bartlow would get a lay-up, followed by Bennett going 1-of-2 from the line.

After two Athens misses at the charity stripe, Hurley hit her second 3-ball of the game to Towanda a 39-30 lead with just over four minutes to play.

Olivia Bartlow would get a putback, but Manchester got to the line at the other end to keep it at nine points.

An old-fashioned 3-point play from Olivia Bartlow cut it to 41-35 with 2:28 left to play, but that’s as close as it got.

Athens wouldn’t score again until there were 18.8 seconds left to play, and by that time Towanda had added two freebies to go up 43-35.

Karlee Bartlow’s final lay-up made it a 43-37 final.

The Wildcats will be hosting a district game next week, possibly Lewisburg, and they hope they can continue their strong play into the postseason.

“We’re going to use this to get ready for probably Lewisburg on Thursday night,” said Miller.

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February 19, 2022 Chris Manning

SAYRE — In a game no fan wanted to end, Athens and Troy needed extra time to decide who was going to walk out with the NTL Showdown Trophy. And, in the end, the Wildcats got a Nalen Carling free throw with 49.9 seconds remaining to take a 1-point lead, and made it stick defensively to beat the Trojans, 68-67, in boys’ basketball action Saturday.

“It feels awesome,” Athens coach Jim Lister remarked. “Honestly, it feels terrific.”

The stars certainly showed up, as Wildcat JJ Babcock finished with 29 points, eight of them coming in overtime, while Troy’s Ty Barrett lit up with 33, including seven 3-pointers.

“First, I want to say congratulations to the Troy Trojans,” Lister said. “Coach Renzi has a phenomenal program, and Ty Barrett is an unbelievable player. Mason Imbt, he’s just s man-child in there, and they’re so good, but, you know what, I think we’re a match-up challenge for them. Our length and our athleticism makes it a little bit tough for them.”

The Wildcats made their living in the paint, as they hit 31 2-point field goals, with no threes, as they worked to get the ball inside. That was in sharp contrast to Troy, who had as many threes (12) as two point field goals (12).

“I always say we’re a complete team,” remarked Lister. “I’ve got five or six guys out there all the time that can score, and score a lot, and I think that helps.

“And, if I go back in time, and I look at our AAU season, we battled them in AAU, but we were able to beat them in AAU. We battled over summer league, and we were able to beat them in summer league,” he noted. “We beat them at our place the first time we played them, and tonight was a phenomenal game. They got us last Saturday in Troy, and, I’m not taking anything away from them whatsoever, nothing, but we had to play back-to-back games, and I just didn’t think our legs were 100percent, and it showed a little bit.

“But tonight, we got rest, and I think our intensity was there in the beginning of the game, which was good,” added Lister. “And you need to do that against a team as good as Troy.”

Twice the Wildcats got out to decent leads, 8-2 in the first quarter, and 50-42 early in the fourth, but both times the Trojans came back. The two teams would trade leads down the stretch of the fourth, with Troy missing two game-winning shots in regulation. The two teams traded leads through the first half of the fourth quarter, until Athens got back-to-back buckets to go up three points. A Troy 3-pointer tied, but Carling got to the line, made the second of two freebies, and that was enough to carry it home.

Babcock had eight boards, seven assists, three blocks, and two steals to go with his 29 points.

“I keep saying it, he’s a complete player,” said Lister. “We want him to have the ball. He’s got to touch it, and, if he touches it, usually good things happen.”

Carling had 15 points, five boards, three assists, and two steals.

Mason Lister finished with eight points, four boards, five assists, and two steals, and Tucker Brown added eight points, and two steals.

Troy Pritchard had four points, two boards, and two steals, with Kolsen Keathley getting two points and three rebounds, and Christ Mitchell adding two points.

“When they went zone, we’re good at finding mismatches,” said Babcock. “When I touch the ball up top, I just see over everybody, and I see guys like Nails or Troy for easy buckets.”

After Barrett, Imbt was the second-leading scorer for Troy with 13 points, while Justice Chimics finished with nine. Lance Heasley and Ethan VanNoy had six points each.

“What a comeback by the Troy Trojans,” Lister remarked. “They made it a game, which you knew they would. An unbelievable shooting night they had.”

The Wildcats jumped out to an 8-2 lead thanks to three lay-ups and a jumper — Babcock had one of each — but after a Troy time-out, Barrett hit a three ball to cut it to 8-5.

Carling responded with another lay-up, but Chimics answered that with a 3-ball to make it 10-8. The two teams would trade buckets, followed by a VanNoy 3-ball to give Troy their first lead, 13-12, but a Brown jumper put Athens up 14-13 at the first horn.

The Wildcats opened the second quarter with lay-ups from Carling and Babcock, but Troy came back with two Imbt freebies, followed by a Heasley putback.

That’s when Athens went on a 12-0 run, fueled by six points from Lister. They showed off their quick passing as they assisted on three of the buckets, including a Babcock-to-Lister-to-Brown that got their fans going.

A Barrett lay-up off a Chimics assist stopped the run. Carling answered with a short jumper, but Troy finished the half on a 4-0 spurt to cut it to 32-23 at the half.

Babcock opened the third with a put-back, but Barrett got Troy rolling with back to back 3-balls to make it 34-29.

A 4-0 Athens spurt pushed it to 38-29, but Troy rallied again, as Imbt thad a putback, followed by another Barrett 3-pointer to make it 38-34.

Carling would score a lay-up at the other end, but the Trojans would cut it to 40-37 behind a 3-for-4 effort from the foul line.

After another Carling jumper, the two teams traded lay-ups, and Chimics hit another 3-pointer to close the gap to 44-42. Mitchell would get the final bucket of the quarter to give the Wildcats a 46-42 lead with one quarter left.

Athens would start the fourth with a 4-0 spurt, but an Imbt putback cut it to 50-44.

Then, Barrett put on one of the best shooting displays many people will see in a high school game. He would make three 3-pointers in a row, the second from nearly 25 feet, and the third off balance in transition, to put his team up 53-50 with 5:55 left in the game.

Babcock would end the run with a lay-up, but a Heasley bucket off a VanNoy pass helped Troy keep a 3-point lead.

Athens would chip away, though, as Babcock would hit two free throws and a lay-up to give them a 56-55 advantage with 3:50 left in the game.

Imbt would put Troy back up 57-56 off a putback, but Babcock came back with a runner at the other end with just under three minute to go.

The two teams would trade misses, followed by another Imbt putback to give the Trojans a 59-58 lead with 1:30 left to play.

Babcock would get fouled with just over a minute, making 1 of 2, to tie things up at 59-all.

At the other end, Troy would run some clock, then shoot with under 30 seconds to go. It missed, but Chimics hauled in the rebound.

Athens had some fouls to give, so, after a Trojan timeout, they began to foul, but one was by Mason Lister, which would knock him out of the game. Troy’s shot at the buzzer was no good, and the game went to overtime.

In the extra period, Babcock would get in the lane for a runner, but VanNoy came back with a 3-pointer. Babcock answered with a jump hook, with Barrett making two freebies at the other end.

Then came the big play of the extra period, as Babcock drove the lane. Imbt stood in to take a charge, there was contact, and the call came out a block, with the Wildcat senior making the lay-up.

He missed the free throw, but put Athens up 65-64 with 2:32 left to play.

Troy would miss at the 2:04 mark, Athens would miss with 1:57 left to play, with Troy then getting another miss after that.

Athens made good on their next possession, as Babcock had a putback with 1:20 left to go up three points.

“We were short-handed a little bit, but, you know, I just had to put it in my head that I had to take over the game,” said Babcock.

However, Troy didn’t go away, as Chimics hit his third 3-pointer of the game to knot things up at 67-all with 1:07 to play.

At the other end, the Athens shot was off, but Carling got the offensive board and was fouled. He missed the first, but made the second, putting the Wildcats up 68-67 with 49.9 seconds to play.

The Trojans would run some clock, then call a timeout with 21 seconds to play to set something up. Athens would get a near steal with 3.5 seconds to play, but the ball rolled out-of-bounds.

In the final seconds, Barrett was able to get a decent look, but the shot was just short.

“I’m so thrilled with the kids, and so happy for them,” said Lister. “I’m so happy for our program.”

Athens will now try to bottle this energy as they host a district game next week.

“It makes us feel like we can beat anybody,” said Babcock. “So we’re going to ride this momentum for sure.”

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February 19, 2022 Tim Birney

ATHENS — Athens crowned two champs, and will advance six wrestlers to next weekend’s District 4 Championships after a third-place finish here Saturday at the North Section Tournament.

Canton won the team title with 187.5 points, while Towanda was second with 129.5, Athens tallied  107.5 points, Troy was fourth with 102 points, and Wyalusing was fifth with 94 points.

Seniors Gavin Bradley and Karter Rude were North Section champs, while senior Kaden Setzer was forced to injury default after taking a big lead early in his title bout, and junior Jake Courtney gave up a takedown with 1 second remaining in overtime in his championship bout.

“Two champions is good,” said Athens coach Shawn Bradley. “We probably should have had four, but stuff happens.

“The big goal now is to get through this week, get to next week, and just keep moving on,” added Bradley.  “All four of those guys have aspirations, plus the other two who fought their way back through.”

Sophomore Josh Nittinger finished third in his weight class, and freshman Caleb Nason was a fourth-place finisher.

Bradley, the top seed at 113 pounds, decked Sullivan County’s Rocky Finnegan in 66 seconds in the semifinals, then flattened second-seed Cohen Landis of Canton in 57 seconds in the finals.

Bradley, now 30-0 and ranked No. 1 in the state, will be tested at Districts, says coach Bradley. The 113-pound bracket will likely be topped by former state champion (106 pounds in 2020) Brandon Wentzel, who is 31-2 this season.

“We’ll see next week. (Brandon Wentzel) is a state champ, and has two state medals — Gavin has three,” said Coach Bradley.

“Wentzel will be the first seed, and Gavin will be the 2-seed … the two highest point totals in the whole district are in the same weight class.

“Gavin is looking forward to it, and he’s working hard,” added Coach Bradley.

Rude, the second seed at 152 pounds, was dominant on his way to a title.

He pinned Wellsboro’s Jacob Dean in 13 seconds in the quarterfinals, then flattened third-seeded Jayden Renzo of Troy in 1:15 in the semifinals.

In the finals, top-seeded Bailey Ferguson of Canton scored the first takedown, but Rude relied to win an 8-3 decision.

Bradley said Rude is at the top of his game right now.

“(Karter) is working hard in practice, and he’s wearing kids out.

“He’s doing i the right way,” said Bradley. “He’s wrestling  hard, and staying in great position.

“He’s peaking at the right time, he just needs to keep it going,” added Bradley.

Setzer, the top seed at 132 pounds, pinned Wyalusing’s Cade McMicken in 1:32 in the semifinals, then used two sets of near-fall points to build a 9-2 first-period lead on second-seeded Seth Seymour of Troy, when he “tweaked” his knee during a scramble.

He tried to continue, but Bradley stopped the match after Setzer was unable to defend against Seymour’s takedown attempts.

“He strained (his knee) a little bit,” said Bradley. “Hopefully, tomorrow it feels better.

“He got through this week. Now we work toward next weekend.

“That weight class is deep, so it may not matter one way or the other,” added Bradley. “He’s going to have to wrestle hard next weekend.”

Courtney, the top seed at 138 pounds, scored an 18-3 technical fall over Troy’s Ben Randall in 3:05 in the quarterfinals, then forged a 10-4 decision over Williamson’s Ayden Sprague in the semifinals.

In the finals, third-seeded Riley Vanderpool of Towanda built a 5-0 lead, but a reversal late in the second period closed the gap to 5-2.

After an escape late in the third period, Courtney scored a takedown with 8 seconds remaining to force overtime.

In the extra session, Courtney got in deep on a takedown, but was unable to finish it off, and Vanderpool came out on top in a scramble to secure a takedown with 1 second remaining in the extra session.

“It was a good scramble,” said Bradley. “Credit to (Riley Vanderpool), he fought through it, you can’t take that away from him. Jake just has to finish off that takedown in overtime.

“We were trying to push it too hard in overtime,” added Bradley. “He just needs to stay with his techniques.”

Nittinger, the third seed at 285 pounds, opened his day with a pin of NEB’s Kamden Ricci in 1:39 in the quarterfinals.

In the semifinals, NIttinger gave up back points late in the third period in a 5-3 loss to second-seeded Mason Nelson of Canton.

In the wrestlebacks, NIttinger forged a 15-1 major decision over Wellsboro’s Justice Harlan to advance to the third-place match, where he pinned Towanda’s Jared Gunther with 7 seconds remaining in the third period.

“Josh getting through (to Districts) for the first time is a big deal,” said Bradley. “And, it’s probably the best Josh has wrestled all year. We just need to keep building on that.”

Bradley lamented Nittinger’s loss in the semifinals.

“Josh is a knucklehead,” laughed Bradley. “He didn’t know the score. He said he thought he was losing, and that’s why he went for the big move. All he had to do was go to overtime.

“He was controlling the pace the entire match,” noted Bradley. “I thought we could have gotten a couple more stalling calls, but it is what it is.

“I bet he’ll remember the score of the match now,” added Bradley.

At 215 pounds, Nason’s day started in inauspicious fashion with a loss via second-period fall to Canton’s Connor Davis.

Nason decked Jamie Roman in 1:57, then won via injury default of NP-L’s Goerge Valentine to advance to the third-place match, where Davis again got the better of Nason — this time in a 12-7 decision.

“Caleb getting through as a freshman is a big deal,” said Bradley. “Caleb is as strong as a horse. He’s going to get better.

“He just needs to listen better during matches, and take advantage of opportunities,” added Bradley.

Senior Lucas Forbes, the fifth seed at 145 pounds, went 1-2 on the day.

He dropped a 5-1 decision to fourth-seeded Skyler Manahan in the quarterfinals, but bounced back with a pin of NP-L’s Ryan Roupp in 53 seconds.  Forbes was eliminated in the consolation semifinals in a 6-4 loss to Towanda’s Sawyer Robinson.

Sophomore Mason Vanderpool was 0-2 on the day at 126 pounds.

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February 18, 2022 Tim Birney

ROME — A dominant defensive effort, and a 28-point showing by Caydence Macik helped lead the Athens Wildcats past Northeast Bradford 37-25 in the semifinals of the NTL Showdown on Thursday night.

The Wildcats advance to the finals where they will take on Towanda in the final on Saturday.

“Girls are excited, we played a great defensive game as a team,” Athens coach Brian Miller said. “And, Caydence scoring 28 points was a stellar offensive game. She was 11-16 from the floor, exceptional shooting and scoring.

“Beating NEB at home is a tough thing to do and we are happy and excited to get back in the NTL overall championship game.”

The Athens defense held the Panthers scoreless in the first quarter.

“I was really happy with our defense,” Athens coach Miller said. “We played hard, communication was outstanding and we executed our defense very well like we practice it on a daily basis. So, to hold a team like that to 25 points makes me proud as a coach.”

Macik got four of the six opening quarter points for the Wildcats as they led 6-0 after one.

Athens led 16-10 at the half after both teams scored 10 in the second quarter.

Macik and Karlee Bartlow each had five points in the second quarter for Athens and Alana Beebe had five points for the Panthers in the quarter.

In the second half it was Macik taking over as she had seven points in the third quarter and 12 in the fourth to help the Wildcats secure the win.

Both teams stayed even in the third quarter at nine points each, but in the fourth quarter Macik scored all of her team’s points to help seal the win. Beebe had two threes in the fourth for the Panthers to try and keep them in the game.

Bartlow finished with five points for Athens and Emma Bronson had four points.

Macik had a double-double, finishing with 10 rebounds, and adding three steals. She was 11-for-16 from the floor in the win.

Addy Wheeler had a strong game leading the Wildcats offense, racking up five assists and seven steals in the game.

Bartlow had two rebounds, two steals and she blocked two shots and Bronson and Olivia Bartlow each had four rebounds in the game.

The Panthers were without leading-scorer Maisie Neuber, who was out with an ankle sprain.

Beebe led Northeast Bradford with 16 points and Kayleigh Thomas had seven, with three steals.

Kate O’Connor had two points and eight boards for NEB and Julia Brown also had eight rebounds.

The final is at 7 p.m. at Sayre on Saturday. Towanda made the final with a 46-11 win over Canton.

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