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NTL GIRLS BASKETBALL: NEB TAKES ATHENS TO THE LIMIT, DROPS OVERTIME THRILLER (24 PHOTOS) (2020-01-11)

By TIM BIRNEY
Northern Tier Sports Report
ATHENS — Junior Maisie Neuber scored two of her game-high 30 points with 23 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime, but Athens scored the first seven points in the extra period in a 58-53 win here Monday night in NTL girls basketball action.

The Lady Wildcats, a 69-14 winner over Cowanesque Valley Saturday, improve to 2-0 on the season.

NEB coach Ben Beebe was impressed with his team’s performance.

“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 late, setting up Neuber’s late-game heroics.

“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 added.

Athens coach Brian Miller had similar sentiments.

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

“It was a game of momentum,” said Miller. “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.”

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 Athens junior Caydence Macik, to give the Lady Panthers a 7-4 lead.

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

Neuber then 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 senior Megan 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 sophomore Karlee Bartlow cut the Athens deficit to one point heading into the final eight minutes.
 
Lauryn 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, 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.

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, Kate O’Connor added four points,  and Jones chipped in with three points.

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, and Macik added 12 points, 10 rebounds, five blocked shots, and three assists.

Beebe believes the loss will pay dividends for the Lady Panthers in the long run.

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

NEB returns to action Thursday at Canton.

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IN PHOTO 1: NEB’s Maisie Neuber shoots over Athens’ Caydence Macik. … PHOTOS BY DAVID ALLIGER — TRAVELING PORTRAITS.

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