January 13, 2021 Tim Birney

BLOOMSBURG — Bloomsburg raced out to a big lead early, an cruised to a big win over Athens here Wednesday night in non-league junior varsity girls basketball action.

Maize Aikey scored 12 points in the first quarter to fuel a 23-2 Bloomsburg blitz. Abby Champion scored Athens’ only bucket.

Braelynn Wood scored four points in the second quarter, and Karlee Bartlow added a pair of free throws, but Bloom used a 17-6 run to stretch the halftime advantage to 40-8.

The junior Panthers outscored Athens, 22-0, in the second half for a 62-8 win.

Wood led Athens with four points, and Mya Thompson had four rebounds, while Aikey led four Bloom scorers in double-figures with 17 points.

Athens, now 1-2, returns to action Saturday at Wellsboro.

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January 11, 2021 Tim Birney

ATHENS — After a back-and-fourth four quarters of action, Athens scored the first seven points in overtime to pull out a 58-53 win over Northeast Bradford here Monday night in NTL girls basketball action.

The Lady Wildcats improve to 2-0 with the win, and coach Brian Miller said Saturday’s game paid dividends Monday night.

“It was nice to have a game under our belt,” he said. “I needed it as a coach to see how some of my younger girls — meaning Emma (Bronson) and Karlee (Bartlow) — would react at the varsity level.

“As the game went on, you see their confidence level grow, and you could see them feel their way into the game.

“We held Lauryn Jones to three points, which is a great accomplishment, and that was mostly Karlee and Emma,” added Miller.

Junior Maisie Neuber picked up the slack for Jones, scoring 30 points and hauling down 11 rebounds.

“Next time, we have to do a better job on (Maisie) Neuber, she had a great game,” said Miller. “She was good last year … she has turned into an elite player.”

Opening the season at Athens was a tough chore, noted Beebe.

“I feel awesome about how our girls played. They never gave up,” said Beebe. “Coming into this gym on the first night of the season … with just five practices and you draw Athens, that’s tough.

“I couldn’t ask for anything else, well a win, I guess,” laughed Beebe, “The girls played great.”

Athens led by as many as five points three times in the first half, but Northeast fought back to take the lead each time.

Conversely, the Lady Panthers built a six-point lead early in the fourth quarter, but Athens rallied to take the lead before the game went into overtime.

“We’ve played Northeast three times since the start of last season, and two of the three have gone to overtime,” said Miller.

“It was a game of momentum. We’d take a five-point lead, and they’d come back to tie it. They would take a five-point lead, and we came back to tie it.

“It shows you what type of teams both of us have,” noted Miller. “We can get our backs against the wall, settle in, and battle back.”

“It’s a great win,” added Miller. “I told the girls (Northeast) is the best team by far (in the Small School Division), maybe the best team in the league, along with Towanda, if you take us out of the equation, so that’s a good win.”

NEB coach Ben Beebe expressed similar sentiments.

“One thing I love about playing one of Brian Miller’s team, is that it’s always good basketball,” said Beebe. “Both teams went on runs, and both teams answered.

“Both teams played good defense, you can’t really ask for a better game,” he noted.

“Tough games like this make you better,” Beebe added. “I’ll take a game like this any day of the week. I can’t wait to play Athens again in a month.”

Miller, who canned four 3-pointers, paced Athens with 25 points, including a 7-for-7 effort from the free-throw line. four steals, and four assists. She scored 17 points, including all seven free throws, in the fourth quarter and overtime.

Macik added 12 points, 10 rebounds, five blocked shots, and three assists in the win, while Stephens had seven points, seven rebounds, and three steals, Bartlow added six points and three steals, and Collins chipped in with five points and three assists.

Alena Beebe banked in a 3-pointer from the top of the key to open the scoring and Neuber added a pair of buckets, sandwiched around scores by Macik, to give the Lady Panthers a 7-4 lead.

Stephens then scored back-to-back buckets — the first off a nifty high-low assist from Macik, and the second on a fast-break assist from Miller — to trigger an 8-0 spurt that put the Lady Wildcats up 12-7.

Neuber scored five straight points on a long two-point jumper and a 3-pointer to tie the game at 12-12 with 1:02 remaining in the first quarter.

Macik banked in a runner with 6 seconds remaining to give Athens a 14-12 lead after the first eight minutes.

NEB scored the first five points of the second quarter, but Miller and Collins knocked down consecutive three-pointers, and Macik added a bucket on a textbook screen-and-roll assist from Miller in an 8-0 spurt that put the Lady Wildcats up 22-17 with 1:20 remaining in the first half.

Neuber scored with 2 seconds remaining in the first half to cut the NEB halftime deficit to 24-21.

Beebe, Kayleigh Thoman, and Neuber scored consecutive buckets to open the second half, giving NEB a 27-24 lead with 6:21 left in the third quarter.

After the teams traded buckets, Collins canned a 15-foot jumper, and Miller drained a 3-pointer to give Athens a 31-29 lead with 1:21 remaining in the third quarter.

Neuber made four straight free throws to give NEB a 33-31 lead with 33 seconds left in the third quarter, but a free throw by Bartlow cut the Athens deficit to one point heading into the final eight minutes.
Jones drained a long 3-pointer on NEB’s first possession of the fourth quarter, and moments later Neuber gave the Lady Panthers their biggest lead of the game — at 38-32 — after turning a steal into a fast-break lay-up with 7:25 left in regulation.

Athens answered with six straight points — the last five coming on a pair of free throws and an old-fashioned three-point play by Miller — to tie the game at 38-38 with 4:44 left in the fourth quarter.

The teams traded points until Beebe drained a 3-pointer with 3:01 remaining in the fourth quarter to give NEB a 45-42 lead.

After a free throw by Macik, Miller banked in a 3-pointer with 2:12 left in regulation to give the Lady Wildcats a 46-45 lead.

Neuber, off a feed from Thoman, gave NEB its final lead of the game, at 47-46, with 59 seconds left in regulation.

Athens’ ensuing possession nearly ended in disaster when a low-post entry pass intended for Macik went off her hands. As she fell out-of-bounds, she deftly batted the ball back in-bounds, where Miller fielded it cleanly near the top of the key, and buried a 3-pointer to give Athens a 49-47 lead with 38 seconds remaining.

After Neuber tied the game with a shot from the low block, Miller’s potential game-winner was blocked with 5 seconds remaining, sending the game into overtime.

Neither team was able to score on its first two possessions in overtime, but Bartlow put Athens ahead with a free throw, following her steal in the paint under the NEB bucket and subsequent coast-to-coast drive.

Following another NEB turnover, Miller drove baseline for a lay-up with 1:47 remaining in overtime to make it 52-49.

After a defensive stop, Athens made six of eight free throws, including three by sophomore Emma Bronson, to seal the win.

Miller was pleased with the contributions of every player that stepped on the floor.

“After Kayleigh banked in the three, Karlee had a nice drive for a basket, and Emma made three out of four free throws in overtime,” he said. “We had girls get some big rebounds and loose balls down the stretch.

“It’s a team game,” Miller added. “We’re more than just two girls, we have to play five girls on the floor — they all have to rebounds, they all have to communicate and play defense, and we did that tonight.”

Neuber added 11 rebounds to go along with her 30 points for the Lady Panthers, while Thoman and Beebe, who knocked down a pair of 3-pointers, scored eight points apiece, and Kate O’Connor added four points.

Athens returns to action Wednesday at Bloomsburg.

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January 11, 2021 Tim Birney

ATHENS —  Northeast Bradford used an 18-7 second-period run to take control on its way to a 35-12 win over Athens here Monday night in NTL girls junior varsity basketball action.

The junior Panthers led 4-2 after the first 10-minute period, but Emma Neuber scored six points and Alena Beebe, Julia Brown and Meg Russell each added four points in the decisive run that extended the lead to 20-9. (The game was played in three 10-minute periods.)

Neuber scored seven more points in the final period, and finished with a game-high 13 points. Beebe added six points in the win.

Karlee Bartlow led Athens with six points, and Abby Champion added a 3-pointer.

Athens, now 1-1, returns to action Wednesday at Bloomsburg.

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January 9, 2021 Tim Birney

WESTFIELD, Pa. — Athens held Cowanesque Valley scoreless for more than 17 1/2 minutes and scored 44 consecutive points on its way to a season-opening 69-14 win here Saturday morning in NTL girls basketball action.

“It’s always good to get the first win under your belt,” said Athens coach Brian Miller. “We knew we were playing a young and inexperienced opponent. We just wanted to get sharp with the things we do because we’re playing a good Northeast (Bradford) team Monday night.

“It was good to get out there and play against someone else besides ourselves at practice.

“I thought we played an all-around good game,” added Miller. “We played good half-court defense, and we executed offensively against their man-to-man defense.”

The Lady Wildcats recorded 19 assists as a team and only 12 turnovers.

“We made the extra pass, and got some girls some easy baskets with that extra pass,” said Miller. “I thought we shared the ball very well.”

Seniors Megan Collins and Kayleigh Miller gave Athens an early 4-0 lead, then Paisley Nudd scored CV’s only bucket of the first half with 6:02 remaining in the first quarter to trim the deficit to 4-2.

Athens created several turnovers and easy buckets in transition, and pounded the offensive boards to scored the final 18 points of the opening stanza to take a 22-2 lead.

The run included the first varsity points for sophomore Karlee Bartlow and freshman Mya Thompson, as well as six points by junior Caydence Macik.

The onslaught continued in the second quarter as Macik scored six more points, Collins added four points, and Miller knocked down a 3-pointer in a 17-0 blitz that made it 39-2 at the half.

The Lady Wildcats scored the first nine points of the third quarter to extend the lead to 48-2 before Jana Quick ended the CV drought with a free throw with 4:24 remaining.

Miller drained a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter to finish with three in the game, giving her 173 for her career, which puts her tied for second on the program’s all-time list with MaryEllen Onofre, who is her father’s cousin. Mallory Hafer is the school’s all-time leader with 203.

Macik led Athens with 23 points, seven rebounds, five steals, and one blocked shot, and Miller pumped in 20 points, to go along with seven rebounds, four steals, and three assists.

Collins stuffed the stat sheet with 10 points, seven assists, five rebounds, and five steals, while Bartlow added 10 points and four assists, Thompson chipped in with four points, three rebounds, and one blocked shot, and senior Rachel Stephens grabbed nine boards and had three steals.

Abby Ackley led CV with seven points.

Athens returns to action Monday evening when it hosts NEB. The varsity games tips off at 6 p.m., with the junior varsity game to follow.

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January 8, 2021 Tim Birney

ATHENS — The Athens Lady Wildcats rode defense to an NTL Championship last year, and with a great deal of experience returning in 2021, coach Brian Miller said this year’s team will look to use the same formula.

“We are very good in half-court man-to-man defense — we are known for that,” said Miller. “We talk very well, we switch on screens, we hedge on screens … if you’re going to score on us, you’re going to earn the two points. We don’t make many mistakes in our half-court defense.

“We’re also known for running our sets in the half-court very well to get the best scoring opportunities.

“We’re not a run-and-gun team, and we’re not a pressing team, although with with (newcomers Emma) Bronson and (Karlee) Bartlow being so athletic, it gives us more speed on the floor, which may allow us to get out and press,” noted Miller. “We will trial-and-error that throughout the year, where we will pick our spots to press, but it’s not going to be 32 minutes of full-court pressing and fast-break offense.

“The reason we won last year is we were very, very good defensively,” Miller added. “We kept the score low, and we executed offensively.”

The Lady Wildcats, coming off a 22-6 season, return seniors Kayleigh Miller, who was NTL Player of the Year last year, and Megan Collins at guards, and senior Rachel Stephens and junior Caydence Macik, who is a two-time all-league performer, at forwards.

Senior Hannah Blackman, and sophomores Karlee Bartlow and Emma Bronson are battling for the fifth starting spot.

“The fifth starter will probably rotate throughout the year, depending on match-ups,” said Miller.

“Bronson and Bartlow are point guards who play good defense, and Blackman is a shut-down defender,” he noted. “If we need Hannah to start and shut someone down, it’s a good option to have.

“We’ll be down two girls the first few games — one is quarantined and the other is injured,” added Miller. “The girls further down the bench will have to step up the first few games.”

Miller’s varsity numbers are down a bit, but says it hasn’t effected his team’s depth.

“I’m happy with the girls we have. I think we can go 10 deep.

“Some of the girls are inexperienced,” said Miller. “Hopefully, the girls we have back are experienced enough, and I’m smart enough as a coach not to put those (inexperienced) girls in situations that are uncomfortable for them, until they start gaining confidence.

“I think our depth is fine,” added Miller. “We have scorers — and I think girls like Rachel Stephens and Megan (Collins) that really didn’t score in the past will step up their game. I’ve already seen them in practice look to be more offensive minded.”

Miller expects freshman Mya Thompson and sophomore Braelyn Wood to see time as well in their first varsity season.

“Both girls are in the tweener position — not really guards or post players,” said Miller. “But they can do a lot of good things. I feel comfortable putting them in to play defense, get some rebounds, and to run our plays and set screens for our scorers.”

Sophomore Natalie Watson will also vie for time in the low post.

“Natalie should give us some quality minutes in the paint,” said Miller. “She’s a presence and a good rebounder.”

One area that has Miller’s attention is point guard.

“I think right now point guard is my biggest source of concern,” he said. “I think we would have ironed that out over the spring and summer, but unfortunately Covid hit, so we really couldn’t figure out what was the best fit for the offense.

“It would have been nice to see how Emma Bronson and Karlee Bartlow progressed over the summer as varsity point guards. We’ll slowly get them in there and see how they do,” noted Miller. “If we have issues, we can always slide Kayleigh (Miller) to the point, but the best thing for the team is to keep her at the 2-guard.

“She’s a scorer, we want the ball in her hands,” continued Miller. “We want her to come off screens, run screen-and-rolls with Caydence (Macik) because (opposing teams) won’t double down on her with Kayleigh and Megan (Collins) on the perimeter, so that will give Caydence a lot of opportunities to score for us.”


“I would say it’s a three-team race in the Large School, and a one-horse race in the Small School,” said Miller.

Large School Division
“I would say Towanda returns the largest core of players from last year’s team,” said Miller. “They have a new coach in Rob Gentile, who has a great deal of experience, and a new system.

“Wyalusing is probably next in line,” he noted. “They have a good core group back.”

Small School Division
“Northeast Bradford is going to be the team to beat again with Lauryn Jones and Maisie Neuber,” said Miller. “I think Canton is the next best team in the division, and they lost their best player.

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