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Northern Tier Sports Reports
ROME — One of the best rivalries in the NTL had another classic on Thursday. It had a large crowd, raucous student sections, and a thrilling end, as Northeast Bradford rallied from a 12-point deficit late in the third quarter to edge out a 44-40 win over Wyalusing during NTL boys’ basketball action on Thursday.

The Rams led for much of the game, with NEB not taking their first lead until 25 seconds left to play. However, they made the plays down the final stretch - getting stops and getting to the free throw line - to go up 43-40. Wyalusing’s Blake Morningstar got a good look at a 3-pointer with under 10 seconds to go, but the ball hit every part of the rim before bouncing out. NEB’s Josh Stanton got the rebound and made the front end of a 1-and-1 with 2.7 seconds left to secure the win.

NEB coach Paul Burgert thought Wyalusing’s man-to-man defense did a good job of slowing them down.

“We haven’t seen man to man defense since the Troy game back in December, and Wyalusing always plays a really good man to man,” Burgert remarked. “I think that had something to do with it.”

He also felt his team didn’t fully work out their jitters until the fourth quarter.

“Wyalusing is a big game for us every year,” Burgert said. “Wyalusing just played so hard - I give them credit.”

In the fourth NEB scored on four of their first five possessions to make it a 1-possession game. The two teams then went back and forth until the Panthers’ 6-0 run in the final 1:25 for the win, out scoring Wyalusing 20-6 in the quarter.

“They settled in,” Burgert said. 

They were missing the majority of their lay-ups through the first three quarters, and also struggled with turnovers - especially in the first quarter. At halftime Burgert challenged his point guard, Josh Stanton, to pick up his play.

“Josh did not play well in the first half,” he said. “We kind of go with him, and I told him at the halftime, ‘you’re the best point guard in the NTL, and you’ve got to start playing like it,’ and I thought Josh Stanton was really fantastic in the second half.”

Josh finished with 15 points, nine of them in the second half, and six in the fourth quarter, to go with five boards and two steals. With the game on the line in the fourth he went 4-for-5 from the charity stripe, and kept the Panthers alive in the quarters before then with his 3-point shooting, going 3-for-7 on the night.

He had the play of the night, getting a steal on a Wyalusing inbound play with 18.6 seconds to go. Josh was fouled, went to the line and made both freebies to take it from a 1-point game to a 3-point game.

Brayden Miller also had a big night, with nine points, nine boards, and four assists. He tied the game twice in the fourth quarter - once with a 3-pointer to make it 38-38, and then with a driving lay-up to make it 40-40.

“He’s coming on,” Burgert said about his sophomore. “He’s coming on with the opportunities, he’s making the most of it.”

Cayden McPherson added seven points with four boards, as Joe Stanton had six points, and 11 rebounds. Dillon Donnelly added five points and two steals, as Cooper Brown finished with two points.

Morningstar continued to play well for Wyalusing, finishing with a game high 20 points - including eight in the first quarter. 

Parker Petlock had a big game for the Rams, scoring eight points - all in the third - while Nick Vanderpool finished with four. Brody Fuhrey and Hunter House had three points each, with Trehnon Hugo scoring two.

They did a good job slowing the game down offensively, keeping NEB from getting out in transition even through the fourth quarter. They got some big shots from their role players - Petlock, in particular, fueled their third quarter run - but just couldn’t find enough offense down the stretch in the fourth.

“I thought we executed alright in the fourth quarter, we just didn’t make anything,” said Wyalusing coach Brent Keyes. “Then in the final minute we had two possessions in a row that we went to the same action that we scored on we settled for a three, when we absolutely didn’t need to.”

Wyalusing came out strong as Morningstar got them on the scoreboard with a jumper two minutes into the game. Josh Stanton found Miller for a bucket on the following possession, but back to back baskets from Morningstar and Vanderpool put the Rams up 6-2 halfway through the first quarter.

A Morningstar jump hook with 2:05 left on the clock made it 8-2, but Joe Stanton ended the drought with a cutback to cut it to 8-4.

Morningstar’s fourth bucket of the quarter saw the Rams take a 10-4 lead, but Josh Stanton halved their advantage on a 3-ball off some flare action.

Hugo had the final say of the quarter, though, with a jumper in the final seconds to make it 12-7 Rams at the first horn.

NEB would tie it up on back to back possessions of the second thanks to another Josh Stanton 3-ball, followed by a Donnelly driving lay-up.

A House 3-ball ended that Panther run, but NEB came back again, thanks to another Joe Stanton put back followed by a McPherson freebie.

With the team game tied 15-15 Morningstar took over, hitting back to back baskets to put Wyalusing up 19-15. Fuhrey then hit a 3-ball off the bench for the 22-15 lead at the break.

A Vanderpool jumper coming out of the half saw Wyalusing extend their lead to 24-15. NEB kept pace as McPherson hit two freebies, but the Rams kept the pressure on with a Petlock driving lay-up.

Josh Stanton hit a 3-pointer to make it 26-20 halfway through the third, but Petlock came back with a 3-ball of his own. That was followed by a Morningstar jumper to give the Rams their biggest lead of the game, 31-20.

Coming out of a timeout Brown had a lay-up off an inbounds play to make it 31-22, but Petlock answered with another 3-ball, one that got his whole team fired up, for the 34-22 lead.

Miller answered with a jumper at the other end and it was 34-24 Rams going into the final quarter.

The Panthers came out strong in the fourth, beginning eight seconds in as Miller found McPherson for a lay-up. On their next possession Joe Stanton hit a high arcing floater to cut it to 34-28, and Wyalusing called a timeout.

It didn’t help as Donnelly followed with a 3-ball, while a McPherson jumper off a Joe Stanton pass made it 34-33.

Morningstar ended the Panther run with a foul line jumper at the 4:10 mark to put the Rams back up 36-33.

At the other end Josh Stanton used a hesitation move on a fake dribble hand-off to get to the win for a lay-up to cut it to one again.

With three minutes to go Thomas Oliver hit Morningstar for a bucket off an inbounds play for the 38-35 lead, but that’s when Miller hit a 3-ball to tie things up.

Morningstar would get a jump hook at the 2:20 mark to retake the lead 40-38.

NEB tried to keep pace but a Joe Stanton lay-up rolled out, giving the ball back to Wyalusing. The Rams, though, would miss a shot with 1:40 left to play.

That’s when Miller hit his driving lay-up at the 1:25 mark to knot the game up at 40-all. The Rams’ next possession was another miss, giving the ball back to NEB.

The Panthers went to their point guard, and he answered by getting to the line, where he went 1-for-2 to put them up 41-40 with 25 seconds to play.

The Rams called timeout and drew up a play, but Josh Stanton stepped in front of the inbounds pass and was fouled by Petlock, his fifth. Stanton made both this time for the 43-40 lead.

Wyalusing had one more chance to tie. Morningstar used a pump fake to get open, and got a good look from the left wing, it just went every direction but down for the Ram.

Josh Stanton got the rebound, was fouled, and hit a free throw with 2.7 seconds left to secure the win.

Despite the setback Keyes feels his young team is improving.

“We were working,” he said. “We’ve cut down on the turnovers, and we’ve improved the defensive rebounding, and we’re getting better shots. We’re not always making a high percentage of them, but we’re getting better shots. The kids played really hard again tonight but we just need to get mentally tough.”

For the Panthers, who are in a 5-way battle for the NTL Small School title, every win matters. Sayre lost to Athens on Thursday, while the rest of the league cancelled due to icy conditions.

The Panthers lost a 1-point game at CV last week, but may have made up for it here.

“Obviously, we’re rooting for Wyalusing to knock off some of the other small schools,” Burgert said. 

Northeast, 4-3 in the NTL, leads the division but still has quite a few of cross-over games to get to with NP-Mansfield, Towanda, Athens, and then Wellsboro at the end of the year.

Sayre is now 4-6 with just one cross-over game left: at Wyalusing next Tuesday. NP-Liberty is 4-5 in the league, with Troy and Wellsboro left to play.

Canton is 3-5 with NP-Mansfield, Athens, and Wyalusing left for cross-overs, while CV is 2-7 with Wellsboro and NPM left on the docket.

And that doesn't even get into the second half of the divisional season, which begins next Thursday.

NEB won the JV game 52-32 as Eli Stanton had 17 points. Tanner Herb finished with 13, and Cooper Brown had 11. Hunter House led the Rams with 18 points.

Both teams will be in action on Saturday, with Wyalusing heading to Troy and NEB going to NP-Mansfield.

“We’ll be focused on taking care of the ball, we’ll have a game plan for that,” Keyes said. “We’ll work on just keep getting good shots. We’ll have to rebound good against them, they play so hard with Bob (Woodward). We’ll have to rebound and take care of it, and if we do get some good shots, and some shots go in - we certainly feel like we can compete, but we’ve been competitive most nights but we need to get mentally tougher.”

Due to them being in different divisions this is the only time they’ll meet up this season, but it was another good one to add to their rivalry, one that is not just made with competitive spirit but also mutually respect between their coaches.

“I want to give a shout out to coach Keyes,” said Burgert. “He’s an amazing coach, and no one prepares a team better than he does. I feel like he knows our plays better than we do, and it’s fun to play against him because you have to bring your best, and tonight was no different.”

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PHOTO CAPTION: NEB's Brayden Miller goes up for a shot against Wyalusing...PHOTOS BY CHRIS MANNING

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