ATHENS LANDS FOUR ON LARGE SCHOOL DIVISION ALL-STAR TEAMS

ATHENS LANDS FOUR ON LARGE SCHOOL DIVISION ALL-STAR TEAMS

March 21, 2021 Tim Birney

ATHENS — Junior J.J. Babcock and sophomore Mason Lister were named NTL Large School Division first-team all-stars, while juniors Tucker Brown and Nalen Carling were second-team selections by the league’s coaches.

Troy junior Ty Barrett was named the NTL “Player of the Year,” while North Penn-Liberty’s Noah Spencer was voted the “Offensive Player of the Year,” Wyalusing’s Mitchell Burke was named the “Defensive Player of the Year,” and North Penn-Mansfield’s Curtis Craig was tabbed the “Sixth Man of the Year.”

North Penn-Liberty’s Brian Litzelman and his coaching staff was voted “Coaching Staff of the Year.”

FIRST TEAM
J.J. Babcock, junior, Athens:
A versatile 6-5 swingman, Babcock could score in transition, from the perimeter, and in the low blocks.

He led the Wildcats in scoring at 14.8 points per game, while shooting 48.5 percent from the field. He also led the team with 24 blocked shots and 61 deflections.

Babcock was second on the team at 6.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game, as well as 38 steals, and 14 3-pointers.

Mason Lister, sophomore, Athens: At 6-4, Lister was a standout on both ends of the court for the Wildcats. He led the team in assists (4 per game), steals (49), and 3-pointers (30).

Lister was second on the team at 10.8 points per game, and averaged 4.8 rebounds per game.

Also named to the first team were Troy’s Mason Imbt and Ethan Vannoy, and Wellsboro’s Liam Manning and Darryn Callahan.

SECOND TEAM
Tucker Brown, junior, Athens:
One of the premier defenders in the league, Brown was a much-improved player on the offensive end of the floor.

Brown averaged 8.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 15 blocks per game. He shot 45.5 percent from the field, and 70.8 from the free-throw line.

Nalen Carling, junior, Athens: Long and athletic, Carling was a big contributor in his first season at Athens.

Carling averaged 9 points, a team-high 6.6 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, and 1 steal per game. He shot a team-best 49.1 percent from the field, and also led the team with a 71.9 percentage from the free-throw line.

Also named to the second team were North Penn-Mansfield’s Karson Dominick and Alex Stein, Troy’s Jake Deitrick, and Wellsboro’s Connor Adams.

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TOP-SEEDED DANVILLE TOO MUCH FOR ATHENS IN CLASS AAAA SEMIFINALS

TOP-SEEDED DANVILLE TOO MUCH FOR ATHENS IN CLASS AAAA SEMIFINALS

March 10, 2021 Tim Birney

DANVILLE — Dante Harward and Jagger Dressler combined for 40 first-half points to lead Danville in an 86-39 win over Athens here Tuesday in the semifinals of the District 4, Class AAAA boys basketball playoffs.

First-year Athens coach Jim Lister could do nothing but praise Danville’s senior-laden team, which improves to 15-1 on the season, after the win.

“(Danville) is just a tremendous basketball team,” he said. “I told the kids when we came out here tonight, that we would have to play A-plus basketball.

“On film, they are just terrific, and they are just as good in person.

“There isn’t a superstar on that team, there are just five really good basketball players,” noted Lister. “They play great team basketball, they move well, and when they get looks, they bury the shots.

“They have a great shot at winning the strict title on Saturday,” he added.

Harward pumped in a trio of 3-pointers and scored 13 points in the first quarter, and Dressler added seven points to help the Ironmen to a 24-8 lead after the first eight minutes.

Danville jumped out to a quick 7-2 lead, but buckets by junior Troy Pritchard and sophomore Mason Lister, sandwiched around a score by K.J. Riley trimmed the deficit to 9-6, but the Ironmen took control with a 13-0 run to take a 22-6 lead.

Harward canned two more 3-pointers and scored 10 points in the second quarter, and Dressler added nine points, including a 3-pointer and an old-fashioned three-point play, as Danville outscored Athens 26-17 to take a 50-25 lead at the intermission.

The Wildcats trimmed the deficit to 12 points on a couple occasions in the second quarter, the last being at 29-17, but the Ironmen used a 16-2 blitz to blow the game open and take a 47-19 lead with 1:35 left in the first half.

Lister said his defense had no answers for the Ironmen.

“We came out trying to play man-to-man defense,” he said. “They screened well, and they don’t need much room to bury the shots, so they were running off their screens well, and they ran their offense well.

“Some of the shots were contested, and they still made them.

“It’s just a good basketball team,” added Lister. “They are solid fundamentally, and they took it to us.”

Lister also noted his team didn’t adjust to the physicality of the game.

“(Danville) plays very good defense,” he said. “They are right in your grill, and their hands are busy.

“And (the officials) let you play down here,” noted Lister. “You get away with a lot more here the you do (in the NTL); and that’s something we have to get use to.

“I told the kids at the beginning, ‘you can’t let their physicality get in your head. You have to play the game the same way,’” added Lister. “Maybe it did get in our head a little bit.”

Junior J.J. Babcock scored 15 of the Wildcats’ 25 points in the first half, including 13 points int he second quarter.

After trading buckets for the opening minute of the second half, Danville scored 11 straight points to take a 63-31 lead with 1:15 left in the third quarter.

Babcock led Athens with 16 points, including a trio of 3-pointers, four rebounds, and two steals, while Pritchard scored nine points, Brown added six points, and Lister had five assists and three boards.

Harward led Danville with 33 points and six 3-pointers, while Dressler had 31 points and three 3-pointers, and Riley and Brady Hills added seven points apiece.

The Wildcats end the season at 14-10. They lose just two seniors — Jon Smith and James Benninger-Jones, but Lister said they will be missed.

“Our two seniors are great role models for us,” said Lister.

“They knew their roles this year,” he noted. “They came to every practice, and they busted their ass every single night. They worked hard to make us better.

“I’m real proud of our seniors,” added Lister. “They are a pleasure to be around, they’re great kids, and I’m positive they will do very well in life.”

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ATHENS UPENDS LEWISBURG AGAIN IN CLASS AAAA QUARTERFINALS

ATHENS UPENDS LEWISBURG AGAIN IN CLASS AAAA QUARTERFINALS

March 5, 2021 Tim Birney

LEWISBURG — Fifth-seeded Athens scored the first seven points of the game, and never led by fewer than four points the remainder of the game in a 55-41 win over fourth-seeded Lewisburg here Friday night in the quarterfinals of the District 4, Class AAAA boys basketball playoffs.

This is the second straight year, Athens has knocked off Lewisburg on its home court in the opening round of the District 4 playoffs. Last year, head coach Jim Lister was an Wildcat assistant coach.

“This feels good,” said Lister. “It was a great experience winning here last year, but as the head coach it’s even better.

“It’s great to come down here and get a big win with these kids,” added Lister. “I’ve been with these kids for a long time. I’ve grown up with them. I love to see them succeed and do well.”

The Wildcats led 9-5 after the first eight minutes, and extended their lead to 21-9 at the half. The Green Dragons never got closer than seven points in the second half.

First-year Athens coach Jim Lister said his team continues to play good defense.

“Defense was obviously the key tonight,” he said. “You have to play good defense to win games like this.

“We’re young, long, and athletic. When we keep our hands busy, we make it difficult on teams. I think we did that tonight.

“I’m real happy for these kids, they played great defense tonight. We gave up nine points in the first half, that’s fantastic,” added Lister. “The guys played hard … I’d say we played almost a full four quarters tonight.”

The Wildcats had chances throughout the first half to extend the lead, but did little until a 7-0 spurt in the final 1:47 pushed the lead from 14-9 to 21-9.

“I’m still not 100-percent happy with how we’re scoring,” said Lister. “I think we can score better. I think we could have put 75 or 80 points on the board tonight.

“You have to make the easy one … we have to make those shots,” he noted. “Early on, I think the kids were really just amped up, and were missing the easy ones, bus as I think back on the season, we’ve had that problem all year, so we have to continue to try to fix that.”

Leading 14-9, junior Troy Pritchard gave Athens a 16-9 lead with a putback on the offensive boards with 1:47 remaining in the first half.

After a defensive stop, senior James Benninger-Jones buried a 3-pointer from the wing to make it 19-9 with 1:16 left in the half.

Junior J.J. Babcock finished off the first-half scoring with 18 seconds remaining to make it 21-9 heading into the halftime locker room.

Pritchard scored on a nifty low-post move in the opening moments of the third quarter to make it 23-9, but Lewisburg used a 10-3 spurt, capped by a 3-pointer by Kevin Magyar, over the next four minutes to trim the deficit to 26-19.

Lister answered Magyar’s 3-pointer with one of his own to make it 29-19 with 3:23 left in the third quarter, then on the next trip down the floor knocked down another shot from behind the arc to make it 32-20.

Forest Zeledoski scored five straight points, including a 3-pointer, for the Green Dragons to cut the Athens lead to 32-25 with 1:00 minute remaining in the third quarter.

Junior Tucker Brown answered with 23 seconds remaining, but Lewisburg’s Joey Martin scored in the low blocks with 3 seconds left to close the gap to 34-27 entering the final eight minutes.

Junior Nalen Carling and Lister opened the fourth-quarter scoring with buckets in transition to give the Wildcats a 38-27 lead, and the closest Lewisburg would get the remainder of the game was eight points.

The Wildcats out-rebounded the Green Dragons, 44-23, in the contest, and allowed just six offensive rebounds in the entire game — and just one in the second half.

“We talked about rebounding at halftime,” said Lister. “We needed to pound the boards, and not give up any second-chance points.

“I told the guys when the shot went up, we needed to find someone and box them out,” he added. “I think we did that, especially in the second half.”

Athens was also much more efficient offensively in the second half.

“It was an adjustment we made at halftime,” said Lister. “We wanted to slow up our offense … we needed to run our offense, and get some good looks. We got those good looks, and we made those shots.”

Lister led Athens with 18 points, including a trio of 3-poiners, 10 rebounds, five assists, five steals, and one blocked shot, while Pritchard had 11 points and four boards, and Carling had nine points, four rebounds, and one blocked shot.

Brown added six points, three boards, and two blocked shots in the win, while Babcock chipped in with five points, 10 rebounds, five assists, and one blocked shot, and sophomore Chris Mitchell added five boards and two steals.

Zeledoski led Lewisburg with 11 points and Cam Michaels added nine.

Athens, now 14-9, returns to action Tuesday at top-seeded Danville, which rolled to a 79-30 win over eighth-seeded Midd-West Friday. Game time is 7 p.m.

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FAULTY FREE-THROW SHOOTING DOOMS ATHENS IN 60-58 LOSS TO TROY

FAULTY FREE-THROW SHOOTING DOOMS ATHENS IN 60-58 LOSS TO TROY

February 10, 2021 Tim Birney

ATHENS — Junior Ty Barrett’s driving lay-up with 2.4 seconds remaining lifted Troy to a 60-58 win over Athens here Wednesday night in NTL Large School boys basketball action.

“Ty is a special basketball player,” said Troy coach Steve Renzi. “When the game is on the line, we can depend on Ty (Barrett) to get to the rack.”

Athens coach Jim Lister pointed to his team’s fourth-quarter performance at the free-throw line (1-for-6) after the loss.

“You have to make your foul shots at the end of the game when you’re tired; that’s the key.

“We had them in double-bonus, and we missed five foul shots at the end of the game,” said Lister. “We make those foul shots, we win the game.

“It’s the little things, we need to make lay-up, make foul shots, and play defense,” he added.

The Trojan win, however, wasn’t all Barrett, who was held to 19 points — about seven points below his season average. Jake Deitrick scored a season-high 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, and Mason Imbt had 10 points and 12 boards.

“We challenged our big guys to be better tonight,” said Renzi. “We go as our big guys go.

“They came out in the second half, and really pounded the boards.

“Jake Dietrick played the best game he’s played all year, and Mason Imbt played his best game of the year,” Renzi noted.

“Usually, you see the box score is a little lopsided, with our guards getting all the points, and our big guys not producing much, but tonight was pretty much opposite,” he added.

Lister said his team executed the game plan.

“When we played Troy the first time, we were in a box-and-one on Ty Barrett, and Tucker Brown did a really nice job,” said Lister. “He held him to seven points in the first half.

“But where Troy got us was (Ethan) VanNoy in the corner. He killed us from three-point land,” noted Lister. “Tonight, I wanted to take a different approach. I put Mason (Lister) on VanNoy, and he didn’t score many points.

“The game plan was to meet them at half court, play defense, and make them earn every shot they got,” added Lister. “I think we did that.”

The teams traded scores over the first six minutes of the game, until Deitrick scored back-to-back buckets to give the Trojans an 11-9 lead with 1:33 remaining in the first quarter.

After a pair of free throws by Athens sophomore Chris Mitchell tied the game, Nick Williams scored his only bucket of the game with 6 seconds left in the first quarter to give Troy a 13-11 lead.

Ethan Vannoy came up with a steal and lay-up on the first possession of the second quarter to give the Trojans a 15-11 lead, but a pair of free throws and a bucket by 6-5 Wildcat junior J.J. Babcock tied the game at 15-15 with 6:48 remaining in the first half.

After Deitrick gave Troy a 17-15 lead with a nifty one-hander in the lane, Babcock drained a 3-pointer to spark a 9-2 Athens spurt that gave the Wildcats a 24-17 lead with 3:27 remaining in the first half.

Troy trimmed the deficit to 24-20, but Nalen Carling’s old-fashioned three-point play pushed the Athens advantage back to seven points, 27-20, with 2:48 left in the first half.

A 3-pointer by Barrett with 1:45 remaining made it 27-23, but junior Troy Pritchard made a free throw to push the Athens lead to 28-23 at the half.

The Wildcats maintained their lead, and pushed it to seven points, at 37-30, on a nice low-post bucket by Pritchard with 4:03 remaining in the third quarter, but a top-of-the-key 3-pointer by Zeb Oldroyd — his only bucket of the game — with 1:55 left capped an 8-0 spurt that gave the Trojans a 38-37 lead.

The lead was short-lived, however, as Babcock and junior Tucker Brown scored back-to-back buckets to give the Wildcats a 41-38 lead with 55 seconds left in the third quarter.

A pair of Barrett free throws cut the deficit back to one point, but a driving baseline lay-up by Mason Lister with 5 seconds remaining gave Athens a 43-40 lead heading into the final eight minutes.

A spinning move in the lane resulted in a bucket by Pritchard in the opening moments of the fourth quarter, but he missed the free throw to make it a three-point play, and Athens led 45-40.

Moments later, Imbt scored on a putback and made the free throw to complete the old-fashioned three-point play to trim the deficit 45-43.

Imbt and Deitrick then added putbacks on the offensive glass on consecutive trip down the floor for the Trojans, giving them a 47-45 lead with 6:35 remaining in the contest.

Babcock gave the Wildcats the lead back moments later on a fast-break lay-up and a free throw to make it 48-47 with 6:12 left in the game. It was Athens’ last lead of the contest.

Deitrick scored on an offensive rebound, then made two free throws after collecting an offensive rebound, giving the Trojans a 51-48 lead with 5:13 remaining.

Pritchard scored in the low blocks, thanks to a nice pump fake, but missed the free throw after being fouled on the shot.

A driving lay-in down the lane by Barrett with 4:13 remaining gave the Trojans a 53-50 lead.

Athens missed the front end of a one-and-one with 3:31 remaining, but a fast-break lay-up by Babcock, off a steal by Lister, trimmed the deficit to 53-52 just 26 seconds later.

A bucket by Deitrick, and a long 3-pointer by Vannoy gave the Trojans a 58-52 lead with 1:50 remaining.

Things seemed dire for the Wildcats moments later after a pair of missed free throws, but they turned up the defensive pressure and scored three quick buckets to tie the game with 36 seconds remaining.

Carling started the spurt with a steal and breakaway lay-up, then Brown scored on a putback of an errant lay-up in transition, and Babcock scored on a lay-up, off a long outlet pass on the break from Pritchard, to cap the 6-0 run.

Troy milked the clock into single-digits, then Barrett took the ball near the Troy bench, cut across the top of the key, and down the lane, kissing the ball off the glass for the game-winner.

After a time-out, a long in-bounds pass for Athens was batted away from Babcock, and the final horn sounded as the ball rolled out-of-bounds.

“The kids had a hell of an effort tonight. I think that’s the first time this season we’ve played four full quarters,” said Lister.

“I’m proud of the guys, they’ve played very well the last two games. I told them after the game, if they continue to play the way they did tonight, we’ll be right there in the end,” he added.

Carling led Athens with 17 points and six rebounds, while Babcock had 16 points, five rebounds, four assists, and one blocked shot, Pritchard scored 11 points, Brown added eight points and six rebounds, and Lister chipped in with eight assists, three rebounds, and one blocked shot.

Athens, now 8-6, travels to Wellsboro Friday night.

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TUNKHANNOCK'S CHILSON POURS IN 50; WILDCATS FALL, 88-70

TUNKHANNOCK'S CHILSON POURS IN 50; WILDCATS FALL, 88-70

February 8, 2021 Tim Birney

ATHENS — Sophomore Ben Chilson put on a show here Monday night, knocking down 12 3-pointers — nine in the first half — en route to a 50-point performance in leading Tunkhannock to an 88-70 non-league boys basketball win over Athens.

“I’m not unhappy in how we played tonight,” said Athens coach Jim Lister. “Normally, when you put up 70 points in high school basketball you win.

“Not tonight, though, because I watched one of the best shooting performances I have ever had the pleasure of watching,” noted Lister. “We contested every shot, but it didn’t matter.

“(Chilson) and his teammates just could not miss tonight,” Lister added.

Lister said this game, like the Wildcats’ other non-league contests, will benefit them in the long run.

“We will continue to keep playing these very good teams down south .. it's just going to make us better.”

Chilson, who connected on 12 of 18 shots from behind the arc, hit four 3-pointers and scored 15 points in the first quarter, and his teammate Ryan Harder drained two 3-pointers to help the Tigers to a 25-14 lead after the first eight minutes.

The lead was nearly 14 points at the end of the first quarter, but Athens junior Shayne Reid’s shot from well behind the mid-court line found nothing-but-net at the buzzer.

Chilson, who also had a pair of big dunks in the game, scored 21 more points, including five 3-pointers, in the second quarter to give him 36 points in the first half. Tunkhannock outscored Athens 30-18 in the stanza to take a 55-32 lead into the halftime locker room.

Juniors Tucker Brown and Troy Pritchard scored six points apiece in the third quarter, and senior James Benninger-Jones and junior J.J. Babcock added 3-pointers for the Wildcats, but Ben Chilson countered with seven points, including two 3-pointers, and senior Jack Chilson scored five points, including his second trey of the game. Both teams scored 21 points in the third quarter, and the lead remained at 23 points, at 76-53, entering the final eight minutes.

Brown scored a career-high 19 points, and had six rebounds and three assists, while Pritchard had 14 points and three rebounds, Lister had 10 points, three rebounds, and three assists, and Benninger-Jones scored 10 points.

Babcock added seven points, eight rebounds, and seven assists for the Wildcats, and junior Nalen Carling chipped in with six points and seven boards.

Harder added 19 points, including a trio of 3-pointers, and Jack Chilson chipped in with 10 points.

Tunkhannock shot 60 percent (18 of 30) from behind the 3-point arc.

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UNBEATEN NP-LIBERTY TOPS ATHENS, 79-59

UNBEATEN NP-LIBERTY TOPS ATHENS, 79-59

February 6, 2021 Tim Birney

LIBERTY — Noah Spencer poured in 34 points, including 16 points from the free-throw line, to lead unbeaten North Penn-Liberty to a 79-59 win over Athens here Saturday night in NTL boys basketball action.

The Mountaineers, now 7-0, shot 30 free throws (24 made) in the contest to the Wildcats’ 17 (12 made), and that fact was not lost on Athens coach Jim Lister.

“I am taking nothing away from (North Penn-Liberty) and Noah Spencer,” he said. “They are a very good, well-coached basketball team and we would had to be at our best to beat them.

“Our game plan tonight was to come out and be aggressive on defense and attack, but unfortunately some extremely inconsistent officiating took us completely out of our game plan,” noted Lister. “I believe we had 12 or 13 team fouls with 5 minutes left to go in the second quarter.

“I felt terrible for our kids who working there tails off,” added Lister. “Through it all, though, they did not quit and were never out of the game until the end, and for that I am proud of them.”

Spencer scored six points in the first quarter, and Koleton Roupp and Brandon Thompson each had five points to help NP-L to a 20-13 lead after the first eight minutes.

Thompson scored seven points in the second quarter, and Spencer added five, but the Mountaineers were only able to add one point to their lead, taking a 41-33 lead into the halftime locker room.

Junior Troy Pritchard scored six points in the second quarter, and junior J.J. Babcock, who had 10 points in the first half, added five points, including a 3-pointer, to keep the Wildcats in the game.

Athens had no answers for Spencer in the second half.

Spencer tossed in 14 points in the third quarter, including an 8-for-10 performance at the line, as NP-L used an 18-14 edge in the stanza to stretch its lead to 59-47 entering the final eight minutes.

Spencer made 5 of 6 free-throw attempts, and scored nine points in the fourth quarter to fuel a 20-12 Mountaineers advantage in the final stanza.

Spencer had eight assists and six boards to go along with his game-high 34 points for NP-L, while Thompson added 20 points, five rebounds, and three blocked shots, and Colton Litzelman added six steals, five rebounds, and four assists.

Babcock led Athens with 14 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, and three steals, while junior Shayne Reid had 14 points, five steals, and two blocked shots, and junior Mason Lister had 11 points, four rebounds, and four steals. Junior Nalen Carling and Pritchard each had eight points and five rebounds for the Wildcats,.

The Wildcats shot 31 percent (22 of 71) from the field.

Athens, now 8-4, hosts Tunkhannock Monday in a non-league contest.

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ATHENS CRUISES TO 53-23 WIN OVER WILLIAMSON

ATHENS CRUISES TO 53-23 WIN OVER WILLIAMSON

February 5, 2021 Tim Birney

ATHENS — Chris Mitchell and Carson Smith led a balanced Athens scoring attack in a 53-23 win over Williamson here Friday night in NTL junior varsity boys basketball action.

Mitchell scored six points in the first quarter, and Smith added four to help Athens to a 12-4 lead after the first eight minutes.

Seven different Wildcats scored in a 19-8 second-quarter run that pushed the lead to 31-12 at the half.

Smith scored nine points in the second half, and Mitchell added seven as the Wildcats added to their lead.

Mitchell led Athens with 15 points, and Smith added 13 points as all nine Wildcats put their name in the scoring column.

Connor Mosher and Ryan Thompson scored five points apiece in the win, while Lucas Kraft and Davin Spencer had four points apiece, Matt Aquilio added three points, and Korey Miller and Nicholas Jacob chipped in with two points each.

Kaufman led Williamson with 11 points.

Athens returns to action tonight at North Penn-Liberty.

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ATHENS ROLLS OVER WILLIAMSON, 73-27

ATHENS ROLLS OVER WILLIAMSON, 73-27

February 5, 2021 Tim Birney

ATHENS — Athens turned a close game into a rout with a second-quarter blitz on its way to a 73-27 win over Williamson here Friday night in NTL Large School Division boys basketball action.

Seven different Athens players put their names in the scorebook in the first quarter, led by five points from junior Nalen Carling, four points by senior Griffin Stein, and old-fashioned three-point play by junior J.J. Babcock, as the Wildcats built an 18-12 lead.

Babcock scored 10 points, including a 3-pointer and a conventional three-point play, in the second quarter, while junior Tucker Brown added seven points, including a trey, and juniors Shayne Reid and Troy Pritchard chipped in with four points apiece in a 28-4 run that extended the Wildcat lead to 46-16 at the intermission.

Athens added three points to its advantage in the third quarter, and sophomore Carson Smith buried a pair of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to fuel a 15-2 game-closing run.

The Wildcats, now 8-3, opened the season with an 88-33 win over Williamson.

Babcock led a balanced Athens attack, which had 10 players score at least four points, with 13 points, five steals, three rebounds, and three assists, Brown had nine points, three rebounds, three assists, and three steals, and junior Mason Lister had eight points, eight rebounds, seven assists, and one blocked shot.

Stein had eight points and three rebounds in the win, while Carling had seven points and four rebounds, Pritchard scored seven points, Reid had six points and three assists, Smith scored six points, senior James Benninger-Jones added five points, and sophomore Chris Mitchell chipped in with four points and one blocked shot.

Tristan Parker led Williamson with 11 points, and Jacob Schmitt added 10 points.

Athens returns to action Saturday night at unbeaten North Penn-Liberty.

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TURNOVER-PLAGUED WILDCATS FALL, 71-34, AT DALLAS

TURNOVER-PLAGUED WILDCATS FALL, 71-34, AT DALLAS

January 30, 2021 Tim Birney

DALLAS — Dallas knocked down six first-half 3-pointers on its way to a 22-point halftime lead, and cruised to a 71-34 win over a turnover-plagued Athens here Saturday night in non-league boys basketball action.

“I am disappointed in our effort tonight,” said Athens coach Jim Lister. “We turned the ball over 29 times, with 20 of those turnovers in the first half.

“You just cannot do that period,” noted Lister. “Especially against a good, fundamentally-sound team like Dallas.

“On top of that they hit 12 threes,” added Lister. “That’s just not a good combination.

Junior Austin Finarelli knocked down a pair of 3-pointers and scored 11 points in the first quarter, and junior Nick Nocito also hit a pair of treys and scored eight points as the Mountaineers jumped out to a 24-11 lead after the first eight minutes.

It was much the same in the second quarter as Finarelli and Nocito combined for 13 points in a 22-13 spurt that gave Dallas a 46-24 lead at the half.

It got worse in the second half as the Mountaineers outscored the Wildcats 25-10, holding Athens without a field goal in the fourth quarter.

Junior Troy Pritchard led Athens with 12 points and eight rebounds, while junior J.J. Babcock scored eight points and grabbed four boards, sophomore Mason Lister added seven points and three assists, and senior Griffen Stein chipped in with five points and four rebounds.

Finarelli led all scorers with 25 points, including four 3-pointers, and Nocito added 16 points.

“Hopefully we learned something tonight,” said Lister. “We need to re-group, watch the film and get ready for a very good North Penn-Liberty team on Tuesday night.”

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ANOTHER COMEBACK WIN! ATHENS RALLIES IN FOURTH TO EDGE WYALUSING, 52-51

ANOTHER COMEBACK WIN! ATHENS RALLIES IN FOURTH TO EDGE WYALUSING, 52-51

January 22, 2021 Tim Birney

ATHENS — Junior J.J. Babcock scored 11 points in the final 3 1/2 minutes of the game, including a pair of free throws with 10.2 seconds remaining, to help Athens erase a nine-point deficit, and post a 52-51 win over Wyalusing here Friday night in NTL boys basketball action.

“J.J (Babcock) took over at the end,” said Athens coach Jim Lister. “He has a lot of God-given talent, and he’s a hell of a player.”

The win marks the second Friday in a row, the Wildcats needed a major fourth-quarter comeback. Last week, Athens trailed Wellsboro by 16 with 5:07 remaining, and rallied for a 54-53 win.

Lister said he’s hoping it doesn’t become a habit.

“It’s frustrating. It’s like we struggle for 3 1/2 quarters, then we wake up. This is the third time this has happened,” he said.

“We did not play very good basketball, but the one thing I will say about these kids is, they don’t quit — they play right to the very end.

“I wish I had the answers, but it seems to come together in the fourth quarter,” added Lister.

Junior Tucker Brown, off a feed from Babcock, gave Athens a 2-1 with 6:49 remaining in the first quarter. It would be the Wildcats’ only lead until the final minute of the game.

A 3-pointer by Grayden Cobb gave the Rams a 6-3 lead with 5:23 left in the first quarter. A 3-pointer by Hunter Moss, and another by Cobb pushed the lead to 14-7 about 2 1/2 minutes later.

A bucket by Babcock, an old-fashioned three-point play by junior Troy Pritchard, and a free throw by Brown trimmed the lead to 14-13 with 2:03 left in the first quarter, but the Rams closed the quarter with a 6-0 spurt, capped by a 3-pointer by Moss to make it 20-13 after the first eight minutes.

Lister and Babcock, off a nifty pick-and-roll with Brown, scored buckets to open the second quarter, and trim the deficit to 20-17.

The teams traded scores until Isaiah Way knocked down a shot in the lane to give the Rams a 28-23 lead with 4:20 left in the first half.

Way added four free throws, and Kashawn Cameron scored on a driving lay-up to complete an 8-2 first-half ending spurt that sent the Rams to the halftime locker room with a 34-25 lead.

Lister credited Wyalusing for its patient offense in the first half.

“They run that weave at the top (of the key), and try to get you to fall asleep,” he said. “They make you play defense, and when you take a second off, they cut to the lane, or kick it out.

“We worked on it at practice for an hour last night, and we still struggled with it.

“(In the first half) I was just trying to find the right combination that would work,” added Lister. “Honestly, what worked in the fourth quarter was full-court man-to-man; that’s what got us back in the game.”

Lister also pointed to his team’s shooting woes in the first half. The ‘Cats made 8 of 32 shots (25 percent) from the field.

“We had good, high-percentage shots in the first half,” he said. “We just weren’t making them. We were missing lay-ups, the shots we have to make, we weren’t making.”

A driving lay-up by Mitchell Burke midway through the third quarter gave Wyalusing its biggest lead of the game, at 49-37.

A conventional three-point play by Babcock, and a free throw by junior Nalen Carling trimmed the deficit to 49-41 with 54 seconds remaining, but a driving lay-up Burke pushed the lead back to 10.

A point-blank jumper by Pritchard with 20 seconds remaining, pulled Athens within eight points, at 41-33, entering the fourth quarter.

A pair of free throws by Abram Bennett gave Wyalusing a 48-37 lead with 4:14 remaining, but Burke fouled out of the game 13 seconds later, and the Wildcats closed the game with a 15-3 blitz.

“Credit Athens, it was a great effort to get back in the game,” said Wyalusing coach Brent Keyes.

“When the game got going up-and-down, we got in foul trouble, and it took some of our leadership off the floor,”” he noted.

“We got sped up, and turned the ball over,” added Keyes. “We gave too many possessions away in the second half.”

Babcock started the run with a short jumper with 3:30 left in the game. After a pair of Wyalusing turnovers, Babcock scored on a baseline drive, and added a free throw to complete the three-point play, trimming the deficit to 48-42 with 2:59 left in the game.

After a Wyalusing time out, Babcock came up with a steal in the Ram end, and scored on a breakaway lay-up to make it 48-44 with 2:21 left in the game.

Following another Wyalusing turnover, Brown was fouled on a drive to the bucket, and converted both free throws to trim the deficit to 48-46 with 1:53 remaining.

After both teams came up with defensive stops, Babcock recorded a steal, and found Carling in the lane with a shovel pass for an open jumper to tie the game at 48-48 with 1:04 remaining.

With both teams in the double-bonus, Bennett made 1 of 2 free throws with 57 seconds remaining, but Babcock tipped in an Athens miss16 seconds later to give the Wildcats a 50-49 lead.

With 29.7 seconds remaining, Way went to the line and drained a pair of free throws to give the Rams a 51-50 lead.

With 10.7 seconds remaining, Brown found Babcock open in the lane, and he was fouled. Babcock drained both free throws to provide the final margin, but the game didn’t end without a bit more drama.

Wyalusing in-bounded the ball, and called timeout when it cleared half court with 4.3 seconds. After the time out, a baseline jumper by the Rams was long, and Blake Morningstar was johnny-on-the-spot on the weak side with an offensive rebound, but his short jumper spun off the rim as the buzzer sounded.

Babcock led Athens with 21 points, 13 rebounds and five assists, while Pritchard scored nine points, Brown had seven points, sophomore Mason Lister added five points, and senior James Benninger-Jones chipped in with four points.

Way led a balanced Wyalusing attack with 12 points, six rebounds, and one blocked shot, while Burke had 11 points and four rebounds, and Moss scored seven points.

Cobb scored six points for the Rams, while Morningstar added five points, five rebounds, three steals, and one blocked shot, Cameron had four points and three rebounds, and Bennett chipped in with four points.

Athens, now 6-2, returns to action Tuesday at North Penn-Liberty.

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ATHENS JVs ROLLS TO 41-18 WIN OVER WYALUSING

ATHENS JVs ROLLS TO 41-18 WIN OVER WYALUSING

January 22, 2021 Tim Birney

ATHENS — Athens took an early lead, and pulled away during the middle two quarters for a 41-18 win over Wyalusing here Friday night in NTL junior varsity boys basketball action.

Lucas Kraft scored six points in the first quarter to help the junior Wildcats to a 12-5 lead after the first eight minutes.

Chris Mitchell scored four points in the second quarter, Carson Smith knocked down a 3-pointer, and Kraft added an old-fashioned three-point play to account for the scoring in a 10-3 run that pushed the lead to 22-8 at the half.

The junior Wildcats duplicated the 10-3 run in the third quarter, with four points by Smith and a 3-pointer by Conner Mosher doing most of the damage. They led 32-11 heading into the final eight minutes.

Korey Miller buried a 3-pointer and scored five points in the fourth quarter as Athens added two points to its lead.

Mitchell led Athens with 11 points, while Kraft and Smith scored nine points apiece, and Miller and Mosher chipped in with five points apiece.

Trenton Hugo and Nick Vanderpool led Wyalusing with five points apiece.

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ATHENS RIDES SECOND-QUARTER BLITZ TO 78-61 WIN OVER NP-MANSFIELD

ATHENS RIDES SECOND-QUARTER BLITZ TO 78-61 WIN OVER NP-MANSFIELD

January 20, 2021 Tim Birney

ATHENS — Athens used a 14-0 second-quarter run, fueled by eight points in 50 seconds from junior Shayne Reid, to overcome an early deficit on its way to a 78-61 win over North Penn-Mansfield here Wednesday night in NTL Large School boys basketball action.

The Wildcats built an 18-9 lead with 2 /12 minutes remaining in the first quarter, but the Tigers closed the stanza with 13 straight points, then scored a quick bucket in the second quarter to take its biggest lead of the game, at 24-18.

“We came out of the gate strong tonight, right from the get-go,” said Lister. “We were rolling, then we just took our foot off the gas, and let them get back in the game.

“I wasn’t real happy, so I gave the guys a real hard time, and they responded,” added Lister.

The Wildcats forced NP-M into 20 turnovers, which created plenty of fast-break opportunities in the contest. They combined for 19 assists.

“We moved the ball well, and we were attacking the rim — our transition game has been really good,” said Lister. “And, we’ve been playing really good defense.

“I keep going back to that same old formula: if you play defense, you make lay-ups, and you make free throws, you win basketball games. That’s what we’re doing right now,” added Lister.

Twelve of Athens’ 19 assists came from the Wildcats’ big men — juniors Austin Lister, J.J. Babcock, and Nalen Carling.

“It’s something we work on in practice,” said Lister. “It’s a team game, I want to pound it inside. I want my bigs touching the ball. When that happens, good things happen, and it did tonight.”

Babcock pumped in 12 points, and junior Nalen Carling added a pair of buckets as Athens jumped out to an 18-9 lead, but Alex Stein scored seven of his 12 first-quarter points in a 13-0 Tiger run to end the quarter.

Freshman Carson Dominick gave NP-M a 24-18 lead on its first possession of the second quarter, but it would be nearly five minutes before they scored again. By that time, Athens led 32-24.

Carling triggered the Athens run with a putback on the offensive boards, then added a lay-up in transition, as well as a free throw to convert the old-fashioned three-point play that trimmed the deficit to 24-23.

Babcock, off a feed from Lister, gave Athens the lead for good with a fast-break bucket, and a Carling steal moments later turned into a lay-up by junior Tucker Brown to give the Wildcats a 27-24 lead.

Reid then scored on a driving lay-up in transition, and drained a 3-pointer to cap the run.

After a 3-pointer by NP-M’s Curtis Craig, Reid answered with another 3-pointer to make it 35-27.

“If someone’s feeling it, get him the ball,” said Lister. “Shayne (Reid) was feeling it today.

“It was his best game of the season so far,” he noted. “He was pushing the ball hard, he was making things happen, and his jump shot was there today.

“I keep saying it about this team: it could be anyone,” added Lister. “I have nine or 10 kids who can play basketball, and on any given night one of those kids can step up and deliver, and tonight was Shayne Reid’s night.”

A pair of free throws by Stein cut the lead to 35-29, but junior Troy Pritchard answered for the Wildcats with two free throws, and Lister and Reid followed with back-to-back buckets to make it 41-29.

Dominick scored on a shot jumper to make it 41-31, but Brown and Reid scored on drives to the bucket in the final 30 seconds of the half to give the Wildcats a 45-31.

Brown, off a feed from Carling, and Carling, off a feed from Brown, scored in transition in the opening minute of the second half, and moments later Lister buried a 3-pointer to make it 52-31.

The teams would trade buckets, with Tucker Brown’s lay-up giving the Wildcats a 60-41 lead, until the Tigers reeled off nine straight points to make it 60-50 with 20 seconds left in the third quarter.

Reid stopped the bleeding with a driving lay-up off the glass to give the Wildcats a 62-50 lead heading into the final eight minutes.

Athens kept it going in the opening minute of the fourth quarter with buckets by Carling, Reid and Babcock to make it 68-50.

The closest NP-M would get the remainder of the game is 13 points, at 74-61.

Babcock pumped in 21 points — on 10 of 14 shooting from the field — and had six rebounds, five steals, three assists, and one blocked shot for the Wildcats, while Reid tallied a career-high 18 points on an 8 of 12 shooting performance, and Brown scored 15 points on 7 of 7 shooting from the field, with three rebounds and three assists.

Carling contributed 13 points, five rebounds, and four assists in the win, while Lister added seven points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists, and senior James Benninger-Jones grabbed four boards.

The Wildcats shot 49.3 (34 of 69) percent from the field.

Athens, now 5-2, has won four straight after losing two of its first three.

“I’m gonna go back to Tucker Brown’s 3-pointer against Wellsboro when we were down 16 in the fourth quarter,” said Lister. “Whatever was in that shot was magic, and the guys have responded ever since.”

Dominick led Mansfield with 20 points, while Stein scored 16, and Craig added 11.

Athens returns to action Friday when it hosts Wyalusing in a game that will be broadcast on Choice 102.1.

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ATHENS JVs BLOW GAME OPEN EARLY IN 55-17 ROUT OF NP-MANSFIELD

ATHENS JVs BLOW GAME OPEN EARLY IN 55-17 ROUT OF NP-MANSFIELD

January 20, 2021 Tim Birney

ATHENS — Athens raced to a 20-point first-quarter lead, stretched it to 33 at the half, and cruised to a 55-17 win over North Penn-Mansfield here Wednesday night in NTL Large School Division junior varsity boys basketball action.

Seven different players put their name in the scorebook in the first quarter for the junior Wildcats, led by six points from Carson Smith, and four apiece by Chris Mitchell and Lucas Kraft in a 24-4 blitz.

Smith scored five more points in the second quarter, and Mitchell and Connor Mosher added four apiece in a 15-2 run that put Athens ahead 39-6 at the half.

Smith led Athens with 11 points, while Nicholas Jacob scored 10 points, Mitchell had eight points, Mosher had seven points, Daven Spencer added five points, and Kraft, Korey Miller and Ryan Thompson chipped in with four points apiece.

Athens returns to action Friday when it hosts Wyalusing.

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ATHENS KNOCKS OFF SAYRE, 54-41

ATHENS KNOCKS OFF SAYRE, 54-41

January 18, 2021 Tim Birney

SAYRE — Athens used a 15-5 run that bridged the third and fourth quarters to blow open a close game en route to a 54-41 win over crosstown rival Sayre here Monday night in NTL boys basketball action.

The Wildcats were successful getting out in transition and converted several breakaway lay-ups throughout the contest.

“We really talk about pushing the ball, and attacking every time we have the ball,” said Athens coach Jim Lister.  “We have the speed and we have the size. We need to take advantage of that and use it … we did that at times tonight.

“It helps having kids who are 6-3, 6-4, 6-5,” added Lister. “It helps us get down the court, it helps us see over the defender, the press isn’t really bothering us.”

Sayre coach Devin Shaw also pointed to Athens’ fast-break success as the difference in the contest.

“I think our biggest problem was, we got beat on the fast break a lot tonight,” he said. “(Athens) got a lot of leak-out points, and I think that was the big difference.

“They built a lead, and it’s hard to come back, especially against a good team that can do that,” added Shaw.

Lister also pointed to his team’s performance on the defensive end of the floor, especially his big men getting out on Sayre’s shooters.

“I thought we had a good defensive night tonight,” he said. “Holding a team to 40 points is going to win you a lot of ball games.

“You have to look at the match-ups. Sayre likes to shoot the ball from the outside,” added Lister. “We had to take that away, and I thought we did a pretty good job of that tonight.”

Sayre’s Lucas Horton buried a 3-pointer to give Sayre a 3-2 lead about 90 seconds into the game, and the teams traded buckets for the next 2 1/2 minutes.

Sayre senior Connor Young’s short jumper in the lane gave Sayre a 7-6 lead with 4:02 remaining in the first quarter. It was the Redskins’ last lead of the game.

Moments later, junior Mason Lister scored on a driving lay-up to give the Wildcats an 8-7, and sparking an 8-0 spurt.

Junior J.J. Babcock made it 10-7 with a putback on the offensive boards, then scored back-to-back uncontested lay-ups in transition to push the lead to 14-7 with 2:20 left in the first quarter.

“I thought we did a good job of attacking the rim in the first quarter, and played some really good basketball,” said Lister. “Then, we got a little complacent in the second quarter.”

After the teams traded buckets to end the first quarter at 18-11, Sayre junior Dom Fabbri drained a 3-pointer to start the second quarter and trim the deficit to 18-14.

Babcock then blocked a shot on the defensive end, and then finished off the fast break on the other end. Moments later, junior Nalen Carling scored in transition to make it 22-14.

Sophomore Jackson Hubbard scored on the offensive boards for the Redskins to spark a 7-0 spurt that was capped by senior Connor Young’s putback to trim the Athens lead to 22-21 with 2:31 remaining int he first half.

After a defensive stop, the Redskins had a chance to take the lead, but missed an open jumper. Athens junior Troy Pritchard rebounded the miss, and found junior Tucker Brown open downcourt with a baseball pass for an easy lay-up to make it 24-21.

Junior Shane Reid scored with 1.2 seconds remaining to give Athens a 28-23 halftime advantage.

Shaw took note of the play of Hubbard and Young.

“You need guys to be able to come of the bench and play a role, do their job when their number is called,” said Shaw. “(Jackson Hubbard) gave us a spark, and helped keep us in the ball game.

“And, Connor (Young) did a great job in the post,” added Shaw. “He’s getting better every day.”

The Redskins held Athens scoreless for nearly four minutes to start the second half, and again trimmed the deficit to one point, at 28-27, but Reid’s runner in the lane with 4:07 sparked a 6-0 spurt that ignited the decisive run.

Young scored from point-blank range with 1 second remaining in the third quarter, but Pritchard and Lister scored buckets in the first minute of the fourth quarter to give the Wildcats a 38-29 lead.

After Sayre senior Matt Lane knocked down a 3-pointer, the Wildcats used an 8-2 spurt that featured a pair of old-fashioned three-point plays by Brown to stretch their lead to 46-34 with 4:12 left in the game.

The Redskins had one final run in them as Fabbri made four consecutive free throws, and Lane added two to trim the Athens lead to 46-40 with 2:37 left in the game.

On Athens’ ensuing possession, Babcock popped open in the paint on an in-bounds play under the bucket for an easy score with 1:57 left in the game to make it 48-40.

After Sayre made 1 of 2 free throws 12 seconds later, Athens put the game away, scoring the final six points of the game.

Lister was pleased with the win, but notes there’s is room for improvement.

“I would just like to see us attack the basket a little bit more,” he said. “We just need to be more efficient on offense, and a little bit sharper, and attack the rim.

“Was it a perfect game? No, we still have to work on getting better,” added Lister. “This league is way too good, you just can’t take a night off.”

Babcock led Athens with 18 points, four rebounds, six assists, and four blocks, while Carling had 10 points and nine rebounds, and Pritchard added with points, three rebounds and three assists.

Brown had eight points and two steals in the win, while Lister had four points, four rebounds, and five assists, and Reid chipped in with four points and five boards.

Fabbri led Sayre with 12 points, while Young posted a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, Hubbard added nine points and five rebounds, and Lane chipped in with five points.

Athens improves to 4-2, and has won three straight, while Sayre falls to 1-3, and has lost three in a row.

Shaw remains positive despite the losses.

“They were all winnable basketball games,” he said. “Obviously, Athens is a good team, but we’re still competing.”

Athens returns to action Wednesday when it hosts North Penn-Mansfield, while Sayre hosts Cowanesque Valley.

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ATHENS JVs FALL TO SAYRE, 33-29

ATHENS JVs FALL TO SAYRE, 33-29

January 18, 2021 Tim Birney

SAYRE — Sayre used a 14-5 second-quarter run to rally from an early deficit, and then held on for a 33-29 win over crosstown rival Athens here Monday evening in NTL junior varsity boys basketball action.

Connor Mosher knocked down a 3-pointer and scored five points to help Athens to a 7-5 lead after the first eight minutes.

In the second quarter, Kannon VanDuzer scored six points, and Josh Arnold added four points as the junior Redskins rallied for a 19-12 halftime lead.

Jackson Hubbard scored four points in the third quarter as Sayre used a 9-6 spurt to stretch its advantage to 28-18 heading into the final eight minutes.

Carson Smith, who knocked down a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter, scored four points in the fourth quarter, and Lucas Kraft canned his second trey of the game, but Arnold scored five points in the fourth quarter to help Sayre preserve the victory.

Arnold led Sayre with 17 points, while VanDuzer and Hubbard aded six points apiece.

Smith led Athens with 10 points, while Mosher scored seven, Kraft added six, and Chris Mitchell chipped in with four points.

Sayre improves to 4-0 on the season, while Athens falls to 2-4.

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