By: Chris Manning | AthensWildcats.com | January 21, 2022


WYALUSING — Athens may have played one of its best first halves offensively this season, taking an 8-point lead on Wyalusing, but couldn’t continue it in the second half as the Rams chipped away at the lead. Then, with both teams going back-and-forth in the final minutes, a technical foul against Athens set them back, and Wyalusing pulled out a 66-61 win in NTL boys’ basketball action Friday.

“I thought both teams played very, very well,” said Wildcat coach Jim Lister. “I give a lot of credit to Wyalusing, they came to battle tonight.

“(Grady) Cobb was hot from the outside in the first half, and we made some adjustments to change that — we went to a man defense, it kind of slowed him down a little bit, but (Blake) Morningstar got us underneath, so it just wasn’t our night.”

Athens was down 60-58 with 50.2 seconds to play when Athens was called for a technical foul after a foul call against the Wildcats. The personal foul put them in the bonus, and Cobb went 3-for-4 from the line, extending the Ram lead, and Athens never recovered.

“I’m frustrated with that type of foul at the end of the game,” Lister remarked. “You just don’t make that call with 45 seconds left to go in the game. The player said ‘it was a travel,’ he didn’t say anything bad. You know, you don’t make that call — that won the game. If we had a shot, you know, that was gone at that point.”

Lister was pleased with how well his team shot the ball — the ‘Cats were 6-for-11 from deep, and 45.5 percent overall.

“We’re going to get our points underneath because were long and tall, but we have to be able to hit the outside shot, which we’re starting to do now,” he said.

However, in the second half Wyalusing switched from man-to-man to a zone, and it slowed Athens down. They had 38 points at the half, but only scored 23 in the final two quarters.

“The second half, I just thought our offense stalled a little bit,” he said. “We just kind of got out of what we normally do, and it cost us the game tonight.”

Mason Lister had the hot hand for Athens with 19 points, to go along with eight rebounds, five assists, and two blocked shots, and Nalen Carling added 13 points, six boards, and two assists.

Babcock finished with 11 points, five rebounds, and six assists, while Troy Pritchard added eight points, and seven boards, Tucker Brown had six points, and Chris Mitchell rounded things out with four points, and five rebounds.

Blake Morningstar, Grady Cobb, and Isaiah Way scored 62 of the Wyalusing’s 66 points.

Morningstar had 22 points, seven boards, and four steals, while Cobb netted 21 points, to go with four steals and two assists. and Way finished with 19 points, six rebounds, and three steals.

Athens jumped out quickly, hitting three 3-pointers in the first quarter as part of nine field goals for the Wildcats to take a 22-16 lead.

It was a team effort for Athens as Lister had six points to lead the Wildcats, while Babcock and Carling had five points a piece, and Pritchard scored four.

Cobb kept Wyalusing in it, netting 11 points himself, including three 3-balls, as Wyalusing had four bombs in the quarter.

Athens kept up the pressure in the second quarter, out scoring Wyalusing 16-14, as five different Wildcats hit field goals, mostly in the paint.

Morningstar kept Wyalusing in the game, netting 11 of his team’s point, including a 3-pointer, while Cobb hit a three, to keep it an 8-point deficit at the half.

Then, in the second half, the Rams held Athens to just nine points in the third quarter, as Morningstar scored five, to cut it to 47-44 after three.

To begin the fourth quarter, Way opened with a lay-up plus the foul to tie it up at 47-47.

Lister then came back with a 3-ball, followed by Way hitting a bucket to cut it to 50-49. That was followed by a Cobb lay-up to put the Rams up 51-50 with 4:14 left to go in the game.

Carling bagged a 3-pointer to go back up 53-51, and a Lister free throw would make it 54-51 with 3:24 left to play.

However, a Morningstar assist to Way cut it to 54-53, then another Way three-point play followed, putting the Rams back up 56-54 with 2:40 left to play.

Lister scored to tie things up, but back-to-back Morningstar baskets made it 60-56.

Babcock would come back with a lay-up to cut it to 60-58 with 1:03 left, but on Wyalusing’s next possession Athens was pressing the Rams, and was called for a foul on Cobb.

That’s when Athens was whistled for the technical foul, putting Cobb on the line for four free throws. He made three to put the Rams up 63-58.

Wyalusing would leave the door open for Athens, though, as they went on to miss four straight free throws down the stretch, the streak ending on a Bennett hit to push the lead to 64-58.

Brown hit a 3-ball with two seconds to play to cut it to 64-61, but they couldn’t get the steal they needed. Way was fouled, hit both free throws, and ended the game.

Things don’t get any easier for Athens, now 9-4, as it hosts Troy Monday.