March 11, 2022 Tim Birney

MOKIN — Archbishop Carroll used an early 19-2 run to take control, and end Athens’ season with an 83-38 win in the “Sweet 16” of the PIAA, Class 4A boys basketball playoffs here Friday night.

“I’m so proud of this team,” said Athens coach Jim Lister.  “There is nothing for them to hang their heads about.”

Senior Troy Pritchard scored off a feed from junior Mason Lister to tie the game at 3-3  less than a minute into the game, but Archbishop Carroll scored the next 12 points in a 16-2 run to close the opening stanza with a 19-5 lead.

Moses Hipps knocked down a 3-pointer in the opening moments of the second quarter to extend the Patriots’ lead to 22-5.

“We came out and had some good looks, we just didn’t make the shots,” said Lister. “Archbishop Carroll is an excellent basketball team. Take nothing away from them, they made the shots.

“And Moses (Hipps) was excellent,” added Lister. “Even with two guys in his face, he was draining 3s from everywhere.”

Hipps, who finished the game with 31 points and six 3-pointers, knocked down a trio of 3-pointers and scored 12 points in the second quarter to fuel a 25-16 run that gave Archbishop Carrol a 44-21 led at the half.

The Patriots continued the onslaught in the second half, outscoring Athens 2011 in the third quarter, and 13-6 in the final eight minutes.

“I’m not taking anything away from (Archbishop Carroll) at all, but the private Catholic schools and the charter schools in Pennsylvania are just at a different level,” said Lister.

“I think we got to see that tonight,” he added.

Brown led Athens with 15 points, three assists, and one blocked shot, while senior J.J. Babcock had eight points, six rebounds, four blocked shots, and three steals, and Pritchard had six points and two rebounds.

Junior Chris Mitchell added four points and a team-high eight rebounds, while senior Nalen Carling chipped in with three points, and Lister had four boards and two assists.

The Wildcats graduate five seniors in Babcock, Carling, Carling, Pritchard and Ryan Thompson.

“I’ve been with these kids for 10 years,” said Lister. “They’ve shown the way on what you need to do to be successful in the game of basketball.

“They’ve been playing since a very young age. They played in leagues, they played AAUs, and they played in summer league,” he noted.

“They were always working on their game, and they played together. They were always a team, it was never a bunch of individuals.

“I’m so proud of them, and so happy for them. They are a great bunch of kids, and I have no doubt they will be extremely successful in life,” he added. “I could not be happier about how their final season went.”

Lister knows his seniors will be tough to replace, but he believes he has plenty of talent returning.

“I told the underclassmen after the game … I hope they learned from our seniors, and what it takes to be successful because they have some pretty big shoes to fill.

“Mason (Lister) is our only starter returning, but Chris Mitchell improved tremendously,” said Lister. “I think he’ll be pretty dominant underneath for us next year.

“Lucas Kraft got some experience and will be a senior next year, and we have some really good under classmen,” noted Lister. “Korey Miller will be able to handle the ball, and Xavier Watson and Kolsen Keathley will play huge parts in our program starting next year.

“There’s no reason we can’t make a pretty good run next year. I think we’ll have all the tools — we’ll have kids who can score, we’ll have size, and we’ll have guards.

“We’ll put the time and work in to see that they’re ready come November,” he added.

Athens wraps up the 2021-22 campaign with a 21-8 reco

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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

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 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 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 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 18, 2022 Tim Birney

WYALUSING — The Wyalusing Rams came out firing in the NTL Showdown on Thursday night, but Athens had the answer every time in a 74-69 win.

Wyalusing hit 11 threes in the game, but the Wildcats had four players in double figures, and were led by a 29-point, 10 assist effort from J.J. Babcock in the win.

“First, congratulations to Wyalusing for one of the best shooting performances I have seen in a long time,” Athens coach Jim Lister said. “I am very proud of our kids. They stuck to the plan tonight and got us a big win. Wyalusing is not an easy place to play.”

Wyalusing hit five first-quarter threes, with Isaiah Way hitting three of them, on his way to 11 first-quarter points, and Grady Cobb knocking down two in the quarter.

But, Athens kept the game tied at 19 after one as Nalen Carling had seven points, including a three, and Babcock had six points. Tucker Brown finished with four in the quarter and Mason Lister scored a basket in the quarter.

In the second quarter Babcock started to take over with eight points, and Lister drained two from distance as the Wildcats outscored the Rams 20-12 in the quarter to take an eight-point lead into the half.

“J.J. Babcock was outstanding tonight, once again,” Lister said. “I keep saying he has become the complete player and he proved it again tonight.”

Wyalusing went inside in the third as Blake Morningstar scored 13 points in the quarter and the Rams outscored the Wildcats 22-18 in the third to cut the deficit to 57-53 heading into the fourth.

Babcock led the Wildcats in the third quarter with nine points, including a three.

In the fourth the Wildcats sealed the win by going 11-for-15 from the free throw line.

“The entire team all hit big foul shots at the end of the game to keep us ahead,” Lister said. “I am very proud of all of them. Freshmen Kolsen Keathley stepped up again on the defensive end in a big way and Mason Lister took a big time charge at the end of the game to secure the win.”

Babcock was 11-for-18 from the field in the win and he was 7-for-10 from the free throw line to help seal the win.

Along with his 29 points and 10 assists, Babcock added three steals, a blocked shot and six rebounds.

Carling finished with 16 points for the Wildcats and Brown had 13 points with four assists. Brown was 5-for-8 from the field in the game.

Lister had 12 points and four rebounds, with three assists and a steal.

Troy Pritchard and Keathley each finished with two points in the game.

Athens shot 52% from the field in the game and they hit 16-of-23 from the free throw line in the win.

Cobb led Wyalusing with 22 points and four assists and Morningstar had a double-double with 20 points, 18 in the second half, and 12 steals, along with seven rebounds.

Nolan Oswald and Abram Bennett had two points each for the Rams.

Athens will face Troy for a third time this year in the NTL Showdown Final. Troy won the other semifinal 78-54. The game is at 4 p.m. Saturday at Sayre.

“Another terrific team win by the Athens Wildcats,” Lister said. “We are looking forward to another war with the awesome Troy Trojans on Saturday afternoon, especially with a days rest this time.”

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February 16, 2022 Tim Birney

TIOGA JUNCTION — Athens took command early, and cruised to a 67-42 win over Williamson here Wednesday night to clinch a berth in the NTL Boys Basketball Showdown.

The Wildcats, who finish the regular season at 16-6, travel to Wyalusing for a Showdown semi-final match-up Thursday, while Troy hosts Canton in the other semi-final game.

The game was also highlighted by another career milestone for Athens senior J.J. Babcock. After scoring his 1,000th point last week, Babcock hauled down his 500th career rebound Wednesday night.

Senior Troy Pritchard, and junior Mason Lister scored buckets in the opening minutes to give Athens a 4-0 lead, but the Warriors rallied to tie the game at 6-6.

Babcock knocked down a short jumper to make it 8-6 and the Wildcats never relinquished the lead.

Senior Nalen Carling turned a steal into a lay-up, then fed Babcock for a bucket to make it 12-6.

Babcock scored in transition to make it 15-8, then Lister drained a 3-pointer to extend the lead to 18-8 with 2 1/2 remaining in the first quarter.

Williamson trimmed the deficit to 18-10, but Athens answered with 10 straight points, including four by Babcock and four by senior Tucker Brown, to make it 28-10 with 15 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

Williamson drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer, and outscored Athens, 11-10 , in the second quarter to close the gap to 38-24 at the half.

Any thoughts of a Williamson comeback were vanquished quickly as Athens started the second half with a 9-0 run, capped by a 3-pointer by Lister, to make it 47-24.

The Wildcats extended their lead to 63-35 in the closing seconds of the third quarter on a 3-pointer by sophomore Korey Miller, then took their biggest lead of the game, at 65-35, in the opening minute of the final stanza on a putback by freshman Kolsen Keathley.

Williamson closed the game with a 7-2 spurt.

Babcock led Athens with 19 points and five rebounds, while Brown scored nine points, and Carling had eight points, eight rebounds, and four steals.

Junior Chris Mitchell had eight points and seven boards for the Wildcats, while Lister added seven points, four rebounds, and six assists, Miller chipped in with six points on a pair of 3-pointers and three rebounds, Pritchard pulled down five rebounds, senior Ryan Thompson had four boards and two steals, and Keathley grabbed three boards and recorded two steals.

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February 16, 2022 Tim Birney

TIOGA JUNCTION — Athens displayed offensive firepower in the first quarter, and shutdown defense in the middle two en route to a season-ending 52-19 win over Williamson here Wednesday evening in NTL Large School junior varsity boys basketball action.

Korey Miller pumped in eight points and Troy Rosenbloom added six points in the first quarter, while Davin Spencer and Connor Mosher each canned 3-pointers, and Jase Babcock converted an old-fashioned three-point play to fuel a 27-8 blitz in the opening seven minutes.

Spencer scored six points in the second quarter, and Noah Hobday and Jase Babcock each scored five to power a 16-0 second-quarter run that pushed the lead to 43-8 at the half.

The Wildcats held the Warriors scoreless again in the third quarter, and Matt Aquino’s 3-pointer were the only tally of the stanza as the lead free to 46-8 entering the final seven minutes.

Spencer led Athens with nine points, three rebounds, and three steals, while Miller had eight points, four rebounds, two assists, and four steals, and Babcock had eight points, three boards, and one blocked shot.

Rosenbloom added six points and two assists in the win, while Mosher scored five points and dished out three assists, Hobday scored five points, and Peter Jones contributed three rebounds and four steals.

All 11 Wildcats that played put their name in the scoring column in the win.

Under coach Cody White, Athens wraps up the season with a 19-3 record.

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February 14, 2022 Chris Manning

TOWANDA - Athens’ J,J, Babcock inched closer to his 500th rebound in a 79-45 win over Towanda during NTL Boys’ basketball action Monday.

He needs just four boards Wednesday against Williamson to reach 500, which would be his second milestone in less than a week. He scored his 1,000th point in a win over Wellsboro Friday.

“That’s actually very nice,” Babcock said about getting two milestones his senior year. “It’s something I’ve been working toward for a long time.”

The Wildcats led by just five points at the half, but rattled off a 45-16 run in the second half to get the win, playing their fourth game in six days.

“We knew Towanda was going to bring it,” said Babcock. “Coach (Landon) Henry is a really good coach. We just had to fight through the adversity, and come out on top.”

Mason Lister led Athens with 22 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, five steals, and two blocked shots, while Nalen Carling had 13 points to go with six boards and one blocked shot, and Babcock had a double-double with 10 points and 10 assists, to go with six steals and two blocked shots.

Tucker Brown had nine points and three boards, while Chris Mitchell added seven points and four rebounds, and Korey Miller, Kolsen Keathley, and Troy Prtichard had six points each. Pritchard chipped in with four boards, and three steals

Dante Ottaviani and Teagan Irish had 11 points each to lead the Knights, while Justin Schoonover added nine, and Mason Hartmann chipped in with eight.

Towanda led 8-6 early but a 5-0 run from Athens saw them take an 11-8 lead.

Irish would respond with a lay-up, but a Carling jumper, followed by a Keathley putback pushed Athens’ advantage to 15-10.

An Ottaviani 3-ball cut it to 15-13, but another Carling bucket pushed it back to a 4-point lead for the Wildcats.

However, Towanda ended the quarter on a 6-2 run, thanks to threes from Wheaton and Irish, to knot things up at 19-19 at the quarter break.

Athens came out strong in the second, going on a 6-0 run as they turned three straight steals into three straight lay-ups — two by Babcock.

Towanda would get a lay-up from Hartmann, followed by a 3-ball from Ottaviani, to cut it to 25-24, but a Lister 3-pointer made it 28-24, and Babcock would score off a Carling assist to make it 30-24.

Ottaviani would answer with a 3-pointer to trim the deficit to 30-27.

Carling, though, would go on a 4-2 spurt for Athens, to give them a 34-29 lead at the half.

In the third quarter, the Wildcats blitzed Towanda with a 10-0 burst, led by six points from Lister, to take a 44-29 lead.

Hartmann would get a lay-up to stop the bleeding, but it started over again, as Athens went on an 8-2 run, as four different players scored, to make it 52-33.

The Knights would cut it to 53-37, but Athens would extend it to 57-37 on a Lister lay-up, followed by a Babcock dunk.

Towanda ended the quarter on a 3-0 spurt to make it 57-40.

However, Athens pretty much ended it with a 5-1 run to start the fourth, to take a 62-41 lead.

“We definitely amped up the intensity,” said Babcock. “We knew we had to bring it.”

Athens will need to beat Williamson on Wednesday to advance to the NTL Showdown, where they would travel to Wyalusing, a match-up they look forward to, as the Rams beat them earlier this season.

If they beat Wyalusing, they could likely face Troy again in the NTL Showdown finale, so they still have plenty play for, including some revenge.

“We can’t wait to play them again,” said Babcock. “Those are the two great games for sure.”

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February 14, 2022 Tim Birney

ATHENS — Athens earned three wins in four nights over NTL Large School Divisional opponents, including a victory over Troy to avenge a loss earlier this season, to improve to 18-3 on the season.

Athens 41, Towanda 28
At Towanda, Athens gradually pulled away for a 41-28 win over Towanda Monday night.

Kolsen Keathley scored four points in the first quarter to help the junior Wildcats to an 11-7 lead after the first seven minutes.

Troy Rosenbloom scored six points in the second quarter, and Keathley added an old-fashioned three-point play in an 11-7 run that pushed the Athens lead to 19-14 at the half.

Jase Babcock and Korey Miller scored four points apiece in the third quarter as Athens outscored Towanda, 12-8, to take a 31-22 lead into the final seven minutes.

Xavier Watson and Keathley scored four points apiece in the fourth quarter as Athens added to its lead with a 10-6 spurt.

Keathley led Athens with 11 points and six rebounds, while Rosenbloom had eight points, two assists, and two steals, and Watson had eight points, five boards, two steals, and one blocked shot.

Miller had four points, seven rebounds, four assists, and two steals in the win, while Jack Cheresnowsky had four points, three rebounds, and one blocked shot, Jase Babcock chipped in with four points, Davin Spencer had three rebounds and two steals, and Peter Jones grabbed three boards.

Athens 61, Troy 51
At Troy, Athens rallied from seven points down at the half to pull out a 61-51 win over Troy at the Commons Building Saturday.

Korey Miller buried a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter, while Xavier Watson also had six points, and Troy Rosenbloom added four points to help Athens to an 18-6 lead after the first seven minutes.

Troy outscored Athens, 18-9 in the second quarter to take a 34-27 lead into the half, but the Wildcats answered with a strong third quarter.

Kolsen Keathley scored nine points to fuel a 13-2 third-quarter blitz that gave Athens a 40-36 lead heading into the final seven minutes.

Watson scored eight points in the fourth quarter, and Miller added six points, including four free throws, as Athens made 7 of 10 free throws down the stretch to preserve the win in a 21-15 fourth-quarter run.

Watson scored 17 points and Miller had 16 points, three rebounds, six assists, and four steals to lead Athens, while Keathley had 13 points, seven rebounds and four steals.

Rosenbloom had six points and two assists in the win, while Jase Babcock had four points and two assists, Jack Cheresnowsky grabbed three rebounds, and Conner Mosher dished out three assists.

Athens 40, Wellsboro 23

At Athens, the junior Wildcats used a 12-2 second quarter blitz to build an 11-point halftime lead on its way to a 40-23 win over Wellsboro Friday.

Matt Aquilio buried a 3-pointer in the first quarter, and three of his teammates put their name in the scoring column to help Athens to a 9-8 lead after the first seven minutes.

Korey Miller canned a 3-pointer, and Kolsen Keathley converted an old-fashioned three-point play as Athens extended its lead to 21-10 at the half.

Keathley scored six points in the third quarter, and Xavier Watson finished off a three-point play as Athens used a 15-11 advantage to take a 36-21 lead into the final seven minutes.

Keathley led Athens with 11 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, three steals, and three blocked shots, while Watson scored seven points, and Miller had five points, three rebounds, three assists, seven steals, and one blocked shot.

Aquilio scored five points for the Wildcats, while Connor Mosher had four points, four boards, and one blocked shot, Jack Cheresnowsky had four points and three rebounds, and Troy Rosenbloom added three rebounds.

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February 12, 2022 Chris Manning

TROY — Athens came within a rimmed out lay-up of possibly taking hold of the NTL Large School title chase, but ultimately ran out of gas as it fell to Troy, 70-64, in boys basketball action here Saturday at the Commons Building.

The Wildcats, who trailed for most of the game, rallied from 14 down in the third, to a 2-point deficit with a little more than a minute to go when that shot rolled out. In the final 67 seconds, the Trojans used the free throw line to out score Athens, 6-1, to preserve the win, and clinch their second straight division championship.

“First, I want to say I’m going to give Coach Renzi and Troy all the credit in the world,” said Athens coach Jim Lister. “They really played hard tonight, they won the game.

“I’m very proud of my kids. This was a hell of a gauntlet we had to go through here, (NP-Mansfield) Wednesday night, Wellsboro last night) and to come here and play Troy tonight, we were asking a lot of our kids, and they never quit,” noted Lister. “They came back, and they showed me a lot of heart tonight, and I’m extremely proud of them.”

The Wildcats rolled past NP-Mansfield mid-week, but had to hold off Wellsboro on Friday before facing the league leading Trojans.

“I thought our legs were a little tired in the first half,” said Lister. “I think that’s why they got a good lead on us. But, just my kids, man, they got a ton of heart, they fought back.”

Babcock certainly put it all out on the court as he had one of the best games of his career with 30 points, eight boards, four assists, four steals, and three blocked shots. In the first half, he helped carry the load with nine points in the opening quarter to keep Troy from getting too far out in front, then scored 13 in the final frame during Athens’ rally.

“I’m thrilled with JJ, and his effort tonight,” Lister remarked. “I mean, he just wanted to take over the game, he wanted to win.”

Mason Lister added 15 points, and five boards, as he was money with his mix of baseline jumpers and runners.

Nalen Carling scrapped for 10 points, and six rebounds, while Tucker Brown had four points, and four assists, Troy Pritchard finished with three points, and Kolsen Keathley added two points, four boards, and some tough defense on Troy’s Ty Barrett.

“I’m going to give a big shout out to my freshman Kolsen Keathley,” said Lister. “He came in in that quarter and he busted his tail, and he worked hard, and he got us back in that game.”

Mason Imbt led Troy with 24 points, while Barrett finished with 23. Zeb Oldroyd netted eight, Justice Chimics scored seven, Jackson Taylor and Ethan VanNoy had three points apiece, while Colin Loveland rounded things out with two.

Barrett came out of the gates on fire, hitting back-to-back 3-balls in Troy’s first two possessions to put the Trojans up 6-0. Their lead would get to 8-0 on an Imbt lay-up from a VanNoy pass, but a Lister jumper stopped that run.

Imbt would make it 10-2 with another lay-up at the 4:17 mark of the first quarter, but the Wildcats came back with jumpers from Babcock and Lister.

Imbt’s third bucket of the game made it 12-6, but after that the Wildcats went on a 9-2 run to take a 15-14 lead. Babcock scored seven of the night points, while Lister had a lay-up.

However, Barrett’s third 3-pointer of the quarter with 16 seconds on the clock would put the Trojans back up 17-15.

Troy came out strong in the second, with getting back to back lay-ups from Barrett and Imbt to take a 21-15 lead in the first minute.

Another Babcock ‘And-1’ cut it to 21-18, followed by the two teams trading bucket to make it 23-20 at the 4:49 mark.

The back-and-forth continued for the next three minutes, as both teams had five points apiece, until Lister hit a baseline jumper at the minute mark to cut it to 28-27.

Oldroyd would answer with a 3-ball, followed by a Barrett dump off to Imbt down low that put the Trojans back up 33-27 with 21 seconds left to play.

Pritchard would get a lay-up with a 6.6 seconds for a 33-29 halftime score.

Troy came out of the half like a shot, beginning with buckets from Imbt and Barrett to take a 37-29 lead.

A Carling jumper cut it to 37-31, but Oldroyd answered with a 3-ball to go up 40-31.

Babcock would get another old fashioned 3-point play, but the Trojans followed with a 6-0 run — Barrett had a lay-up, Oldroyd finished a put back, and Chimics scored on a transition lay-up – to build their biggest lead yet, 46-34.

A Babcock steal and lay-up at the 2:52 mark made it a 10-point game, but two more Trojans baskets — one from Chimics, the other from Imbt, and both off Barrett assists — gave the Trojans a 50-36 advantage with 2:00 left in the third.

Athens answered with a 4-0 spurt as Babcock found Lister for a lay-up, and Brown had a steal and bucket.

Then, with 1:18 left on the clock, Barrett found Imbt for a lay-up, plus the foul, to make it 53-40.

Babcock would continue to make plays for his team, though, as he found Brown for a bucket, then had another steal and lay-up, to cut it to 53-44.

The final basket of the quarter belonged to Barrett, though, as he hit a runner to make it a 55-44 Trojan lead going into the final frame.

“You know, when we were up going into the fourth, I said to the guys, this ain’t over,” said Troy coach Steve Renzi. “Athens was a champion two years ago, they know. They know what they got to do to comeback, and they did.”

It began on the defensive end for the Wildcats, as they held Troy scoreless for nearly four minutes to start the fourth. That allowed them to chip away, going on an 9-0 run, with seven of them from Babcock, to cut it to 55-53.

A pair of Imbt free throws extended the lead back to four points, but a Babcock driving lay-up made it a 2-point game again.

Barrett answered with a driving lay-up of his own with 3:57 on the clock for a 59-55 lead.

Athens would get a turnover on their next possession, with Chimics getting fouled and going to the line for a 1-and-1. He made the first, but missed the second, giving the Trojans a little more breathing room at 60-55 with 3:15 left.

The Wildcats would have another turnover, but Troy missed at the other end.

It was Keathley cutting it to 60-57 for the Wildcats with a lay-up at the 2:41 mark.

Troy, though, would get a big 3-ball from VanNoy — nothing but net — off an Imbt assist to push their lead to 63-57.

Lister, though, was able to erase that with a lay-up plus the foul, making the freebie for a 63-60 score with just over two minute to play.

Taylor would get fouled at the other end, making both, to once again push the lead to four points.
The two teams would then trade misses, followed by Babcock getting his seventh And-1 of the game, making the free throw to cut it to 65-63 with 1:46 left.

After getting the ball back, Athens had a good look at a lay-up, but that’s when it rolled out.

Barrett ended up with the ball, and at the free throw line, making both, to push it to 67-63 with 1:07 left to play.

Babcock would get to the free throw line at the other, making 1-of-2, to cut it to 67-64 with 43.5 left to play.

Those would be the final points Athens would score, though, as their final three possessions ended with two turnovers, and a miss.

Troy would go 3 of 6 down the stretch — Imbt himself was 2-for-4 — to secure the win.

“We were a lay-up away from tying this game up with a minute left,” Lister said. “It was a fantastic basketball game in front of a packed house. It’s the way it’s supposed to be. We just came up on the short end of it.”

The Wildcats have two league games left, beginning with a trip to Towanda on Monday, and, if they win out, will be in the NTL Showdown where they could meet Troy for the third time this season.

“We have a lot of basketball left,” Lister remarked. “And we will be back. I promise you that.”

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February 11, 2022 Tim Birney

ATHENS — Senior Nalen Carling fueled a strong first half, and his classmate J.J. Babcock netted his 1,000th career point in Athens’ 48-40 win over Wellsboro here Friday night in NTL Large School Division boys basketball action.

However, Athens coach Jim Lister said it was his team’s defense, employing 1-3-1 half-court pressure, that was the difference.

“Defensively, I thought we played awesome in the first half,” he said. “We only gave up 15 points to a very good Wellsboro team … if we continue to play defense like that, we should be OK.

“I went back over the last 48 hours and I watched our game (at Wellsboro) three times,” noted Lister. “I realized (Wellsboro’s) guards are very good shooters, but I thought we could put some more pressure on them, which we did not do the first game, and make it a little more difficult for them.

“Our length and athleticism created a lot of problems for them,” added Lister. “I don’t think they saw that coming.”

The 6-3 Carling, matched up against a 5-10 defender, scored 10 points in the first quarter, including a pair of feee throws that gave Athens the lead for good at 6-4.

“We didn’t have Nalen (Carling) at Wellsboro, he was very ill and did not make the trip,” said Lister.

“Watching film and looking at the match-ups … I thought we’d have a size advantage with Nalen,” added Lister. “I thought Nalen would be the x-factor, and dominate in the paint, and that’s exactly what he did.”

After a 3-pointer by Wellsboro’s Connor Adams closed the gap to 8-7, Lister drained a long 3-pointer from the right wing to trigger a 13-1 run that put the Wildcats ahead 21-8 with 2 1/2 minutes remaining in the first half.

Carling and Lister scored buckets to give the Wildcats their biggest lead of the first half, at 27-13, with 40 seconds remaining in the half, but Liam Manning scored on a putback at the buzzer to make it 27-15.

Peyton McClure, who scored a game-high 21 points on seven 3-pointers in the first Athens-Wellsboro game, canned his second 3-pointer of the game to close the gap to 29-20 with 5:29 remaining in the third quarter. McClure finished the game with two 3-pointers and eight points.

“We had Mason (Lister) on (Peyton McClure) in the second half, and his job was to make sure he didn’t hurt us,” said Lister. “We did a good job on him.”

Adams knocked down a jumper in the lane to make it 29-22 with 5:16 remaining, but senior Troy Pritchard and Babcock scored in the low blocks to make it 33-22 with 3:08 remaining.

The teams traded buckets, with Liam Manning scoring in the post with 50 seconds left to close the gap to 35-26 heading into the final eight minutes.

Carling scored on a nice drive down the lane with 6:25 remaining, but Adams drained a 3-pointer just 10 seconds later to make it 37-29.

Drew Manning scored on the offensive boards midway through the final stanza to make it 39-33. After a defensive stop, the Hornets had a chance to cut deeper into the Athens lead, but Babcock came up with a steal and coast-to-coast drive for an old-fashioned three-point play to make it 42-33 with 3:22 remaining.

Babcock made 2 of 5 free-throw attempts over the next two minutes, but the Wildcats kept Wellsboro off the board.

With Athens up 44-33 with 1:15 remaining in the contest, Adams drained a pair of 3-pointers in a 17-second span to close the gap to 44-39.

“That was probably my mistake,” said Lister of Adams’ consecutive 3-pointers. “I switched us into man-to-man, and I probably should have stayed with the half-court press a little longer because (Wellsboro) was struggling to get the ball up the court.

“We stayed in man, and we packed it too deep,” noted Lister. “We let (Adams) get to the top-of-the-key, and he hurt us.”

“We called timeout, and fixed that real fast,” added Lister. “Then, they had no choice, but to foul us.”

The Wildcats, who made just 8 of 19 free throws in the game, made 3 of 6 free throws, including Babcock knocking down one from the charity stripe with 20 seconds remaining in the game for his milestone point.

“We didn’t shoot fouls shots very well tonight,” said Lister. “If there’s one thing that bothered me tonight, it was our foul shooting. We can’t do that (Saturday) night at Troy, we have to make those shots.

“We’ll spend some time on the foul line (Saturday) before we go to Troy, I guarantee you that,” Lister added.

Lister also lauded Babcock for his 1,000th point.

“He’s turned into a complete player … for him, it wasn’t about the 1,000th, it was about the win,” he said. “To get both tonight, I’m so happy for him.

“I’ve been coaching J.J. since the third-grade, so I’ve watched him grow and develop over the years.

“Does it help that he’s 6-foot-6? Yes,” said Lister. “But, it’s the other parts of the game that make him the player he is … he has an incredible basketball IQ, and he has the frame to go with it.

“It’s an awesome accomplishment. I’m very happy for him,” he added.

Carling led Athens with 19 points and four rebounds, while Babcock had 15 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and three blocked shots, and senior Tucker Brown added five points and six rebounds.

Pritchard chipped in with four points and six rebounds in the win, and junior Mason Lister had five points, three boards, three assists, three steals, and one blocked shot.

Adams led Wellsboro with 14 points and four 3-pointers, and Liam Manning added eight points.

With the win, Athens remains 1 game behind Troy in the Large School standings. The Wildcats travel to Troy Saturday night.

“We’ve been taking it one game at a time,” said Lister. “If we get through the Troy game (Saturday), we still have to go to Towanda Monday, and we still have to go to Williamson Wednesday night.

“We just have to keep our foot on the gas, and keep going.

“Troy is a big one tomorrow night, I’m sure that’s going to be a packed house,” added Lister. “We have to bring it, and be ready.”

Lister continues to be impressed with the support his teams has received from the student body.

“A huge shout-out to the student section, they were awesome again tonight,” he said. “The school spirit is incredible, and I hope they all come to Troy (Saturday) night.”

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February 10, 2022 Tim Birney

ATHENS — Athens used balanced scoring to pull away from North Penn-Mansfield for a 45-24 win here Wednesday night in NTL junior varsity boys basketball action.

Four different Wildcats put their names in the scoring column in the first quarter, helping them to a 9-8 win.

Six Wildcats scored in the second quarter, including Nicholas Jacob and Korey Miller who connected on 3-pointers, in a 15-5 run that extended the Athens lead to 24-13 at the half.

Peter Jones and Xavier Watson scored four points apiece in the third quarter in a 13-6 run that pushed the lead to 37-19 entering the final seven minutes.

Ten different Wildcats scored in the win, led by Watson and Kolsen Keathley, who had nine and eight points, respectively

Jase Babcock had seven points and three rebounds in the win, while Jack Cheresnowsky had four points and four rebounds, Miller had four points, rebounds, four assists, and one blocked shot, Jones had four points and five rebounds, and Troy Rosenbloom had four rebounds, three steals, and one blocked shot.

Athens returns to action Friday when it hosts Wellsboro.

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February 9, 2022 Tim Birney

ATHENS — Fueled by its full-court pressure, Athens used a 28-2 run in a 12-minute span that extended from the first to the third quarters on its way to a 63-25 win over North Penn-Mansfield here Wednesday night in NTL Large School Division boys basketball action.

“We came out in our 1-3-1 just to get the boys warmed up,” said Athens coach Jim Lister. “We switched to the full-court press, and played some of our best defense of the season.

“We forced turnovers, and turned them into a boatload of points in transition,” noted Lister.

Lister was especially pleased with his team’s performance considering it had been off since Jan. 29.

“This was a group of kids who have been cooped up for 11 days, and they were able to release a lot of frustrations tonight,” said Lister.

“And, I’ve been saying since Day 1 that our second five could start for a lot of teams in the area,” noted Lister. “I think it helped us to beat up on each other for the last 11 days.

“I was very pleased with our intensity tonight,” added Lister. “The boys played extremely hard, and our defense was outstanding.”

Karson Dominick knocked down a 3-pointer to give NP-M a 5-2 lead then added a pair of buckets in the paint to make it 9-6 with 4:40 remaining in the first quarter.

After a lay-up by senior J.J. Babcock of an in-bounds play cut the deficit to 9-8, Dominick, who scored nine points in the stanza, made a pair of free throws to give the Tigers an 11-8 with 3:11 remaining in the first quarter.

On the Wildcats’ next possession, they hit the offensive boards. On their fourth shot of the possession, Lister canned a 3-pointer from the win with 2:45 remaining in the first quarter to tie the game at 11-11.

With 1:30 remaining, Lister scored in transition to make it 13-11. Moments later, Athens forced a turnover with its press, and Babcock knocked down an 18-foot jumper to make it 15-11.

Senior Nalen Carling drained a runner with 1 second remaining to give the Wildcats a 17-11 lead after the first eight minutes.

The second quarter was all Athens. Its pressure defense resulted in 14 NP-M turnovers in the stanza, including in each of its final 10 possessions of the half. The Tigers did not get a shot off in the final 4 1/2 minutes of the second quarter.

After a blocked shot by Babcock, Lister scored in transition to make it 19-11 with 7:30 remaining in the first half.

Dominick scored off an in-bounds play with 6:45 left in the half to close the gap to 19-13, but that was NP-M’s only bucket in Athens’ 19-2 seconds-quarter run.

After Carling scored on a putback, Brown scooped up a loose ball and found Babcock for a dunk to make it 23-13 with 5:28 remaining in the half.

Lister knocked down another 3-pointer with 3:32 remaining in the half to make it 26-13. Moments later, after another NP-M turnover, Lister dropped a behind-his-back pass to Babcock for an emphatic dunk with 3:10 remaining to extend the lead to 28-13.

A driving lay-up by senior Tucker Brown with 9 seconds remaining gave the Wildcats a 34-13 lead at the half.

Senior Troy Pritchard capped the 26-2 run with a drive down the lane with 6:50 left in the third quarter to make it 36-13.

After a putback by Dominick closed the gap to 36-15 with 6:40 remaining, the Wildcats went on a 15-0 blitz to take a 51-15 lead with 3:10 remaining in the third quarter. Lister scored six points in the run, and Brown added five points, including an old-fashioned three-point play.

Lister led Athens with 18 points, while Babcock scored 12 points, Brown had 11 points, Carling had eight points, sophomore Carson Smith added six points, and freshman Kolsen Keathley chipped in with four points.

Dominick led NP-M with 14 points, and Brody Burleigh added seven.

Lister was not only pleased with his team’s performance, but also by the support from the student section.

“The student section was out in force,” he said. “They were awesome, they were loud, and I hope to see them Friday and Saturday night.”

Athens, now 13-5, returns to action Friday when it hosts Wellsboro. The Wildcats travel to Troy Saturday.

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