Northern Tier Sports Report
ROME — Early in the fourth quarter the young Northeast Bradford squad had Wyalusing on upset watch with a 34-33 lead, but the veteran Rams showed their experience as they ran off 18 straight points to pull away for the 51-34 win in NTL Division-II boys’ basketball action Saturday.

“I said to the guys, ‘they’re going to play way above what they’ve been,” said Wyalusing coach Brent Keyes. “I talked to (coach) Paul (Burgert) before the game, and they weren’t making anything, and they made some shots, and when you make shots, you have a little more energy. You’ve heard me say that before, but we knew they would. We knew that they would have a lot of energy, it was a nice crowd for a Saturday afternoon. Once they made some shots I thought their kids played really inspired, I thought we played hard, we just couldn’t make any shots.”

The Rams were just 1-for-12 from 3-point land - 0-for-8 in the first half - though NEB didn’t shoot much better, just 3-for-18 from deep, but their shots came at opportune times. Throughout the game, just when it looked like Wyalusing was going to pull away, NEB had a bucket, or a little run themselves, to stay in it.

“We wanted to speed the game up, we were able to speed the game up at times, and then we finally started making a few shots, got a little momentum, and our guys have executed a lot better in the fourth quarter than we were last year in the beginning of the year.”

For the Panthers, add this to another long line close losses where they struggled in the fourth quarter. In the final frame Wyalusing was hounding Dan Seeley down low, so NEB had some good looks from outside, they just didn’t go in.

“The shooting has plagued us all year,” said Burgert. “I honestly don’t know. I don’t think any team plays harder than we do. We’re becoming an elite defensive team, we just can’t sustain offensive.”

Blake Morningstar continued to have a standout season for the Rams, with a double-double of 19 points and 12 boards to go with two steals. He carried their offense with post moves and put backs inside.

Grady Cobb had a strong finish for Wyalusing, with 13 points, seven of them in the fourth quarter, to go with six boards, and four steals.

Isaiah Way added 11 points with six rebounds, and two assists, as Abram Bennett had six points, and Nolan Oswald netted a jumper. Kashawn Cameron chipped in with five rebounds.

Seeley led NEB with 10 points and three boards, while Josh Stanton added eight points, six assists, and three rebounds.

Joe Stanton had five points with five rebounds, and two assists, as Dylan Donnelly chipped in with five points, and two assists.

Shakei Smith came in off the bench with four points, and four rebounds, while Andrew Beers netted two points. Sam Abell chipped in with a team high eight rebounds.

The Panthers led early, as back to back Seeley buckets saw them go up 4-2. Baskets from Way and Morningstar put the Rams on 6-4, but another Seeley basket made it 6-6 with 2:10 left in the opening frame.

Two more Ram baskets, though put them up 10-6, however, NEB had the final say in the quarter, as Beers hit a runner from the baseline to cut it to 10-8 at the first horn.

One notable feature of the first quarter was that no team was whistled for a foul.

Smith hit two freebies early in the second to make it 10-10, but Wyalusing answered with baskets from Bennett and Cobb. A Josh Stanton lay-up cut it to 14-12, but a Morningstar fueled run for the Rams had NEB fans on edge.

Morningstar started it with two free throws, then had a steal and a lay-up to take their lead to 18-12. A Bennett lay-up made it 20-12, and NEB called a timeout.

Coming out of the break Donnelly finally got a 3-pointer to go, the first of the game with 3:28 left in the half. Way would go 1-for-2 from the free throw line, but a Josh Stanton pass Smith cut it to 21-17.

Morningstar answered with a jumper, but the Panther Josh Stanton put the team on his shoulders - first hitting a 3-ball, then getting to the line, where he made 1-of-2.

“He’s blossoming into a pretty darn good point guard,” Burgert remarked. “He did a great job tonight controlling the tempo, pushing it when they needed to push it, slowing it when we needed to slow it.”

Wyalusing put Cameron, one of the area’s better defenders, on him all night.

“He held up,” said Burgert. “I don’t think he had, maybe, two turnovers.”

It was a 2-point game with time winding down, but the Rams ended the half on a high, as Oswald hit a buzzer beater from the baseline to give them a 25-21 lead at the midway point.

It was a low scoring third quarter, but one that went back and forth, beginning with Josh Stanton hitting Joe Stanton for lay-up right off the bat.

Morningstar would go 1-for-2 from the free throw line, but the Panthers answered with a 4-0 run to take their first lead, 28-26, since early in the game. Seeley had a bucket, followed by Josh Stanton finding Joe, again.

Way finally ended the Wyalusing 3-point drought, hitting a 3-ball with 4:40 left in the quarter, putting the Rams back on top 29-28. A Morningstar basket followed, pushing their lead to 31-28.

NEB, though, ended the quarter on a 4-0 run, as Josh Stanton had a basket, followed by Seeley getting a put back to give the Panthers a 32-31 lead going into the final frame.

In the fourth Way and Donnelly traded baskets, keeping it a 1-point NEB lead.

That’s when Wyalusing’s championship experience showed through.

They would tie it up on a Way free throw, then Cobb began to exert himself, beginning with a fadeaway jumper - where he shouted ‘And-1’ after - to give them a 36-34 lead with six minutes to play.

Bennett then hit Morningstar for another bucket with 4:40 to go, putting NEB in danger. On their next possession they missed a put back that would have cut it to 2-points.

Immediately after, Cobb got a breakaway lay-up plus the foul. He hit the free throw, and Wyalusing had all the momentum with a 41-34 lead with 3:45 left in the game.

“He’s your senior point guard,” said Keyes. “Played in a lot of big games, and he’s been playing a lot better. He didn’t shoot the ball great to start the year, and wasn’t finding his shot enough, and he’s really, really stepped up the last couple of games.”

From thterebaskets by Morningstar and Way made it 45-34 with 1:57 left in the game. After that it was four more free throws, and a Morningstar put back for the 51-34 final.

The Rams have dealt with Covid-19 issues recently - they were missing some key players, including Way, when they went 0-2 at the Hughesville Christmas Tournament over break - but Keyes feels they’re starting to turn a corner.

“We’re getting some more practice time in, and, I think we get better every time we practice, which is obviously a good thing,” he said.

As for Burgert, he’s going to be finding ways to get his team some easier looks, and have them continue to work on shooting.

“We have to do a better job of offensive rebounding,” he said. “We did not dig out second chances tonight. I think it was 5-to-1 at half time on offensive rebounds… I keep telling the guys, if we can’t shoot the ball well, we got to find a way. We also don’t get to the foul line. Now there’s two areas that would help us if we could dig out second chances, and get to the foul line, and that’s what we’re trying to work on, and hopefully scooch our scoring up a little bit.”

NEB won the JV game 26-24 as Beers had 11 points for the Panthers, and Nicholas Vanderpool Jr. scored eight for the Rams.

PHOTO CAPTION: Wyalusing’s Grady Cobb goes up for a lay-up against NEB…PHOTOS BY CHRIS MANNING.

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