Northern Tier Sports Report
ROME — The Towanda girls’ basketball team faced their first big test of the season and passed with flying colors. The Lady Knights used a hot shooting first half combined with a long armed defense to beat Northeast Bradford 66-58.

Towanda avenged a loss against NEB last season, when both teams ended up NTL division champions.

“They had a little bit of a bad taste in their mouth, and we knew it was going to be competitive,” said Towanda Robert Gentile. “Fortunately, we got off to a big enough lead that missing foul shots in the end didn’t hurt us.”

The Knights had six 3-pointers in the first half, three of them by Amanda Horton, and finished with eight for the game.

“It was nice for us, because a lot of teams are probably going to attempt to play zone,” said Gentile. “I was pleased we got a lot of kids in the scorebook. We told them from day one, ‘if you’re open, shoot it.’ We have to have five kids on the floor that can score at any point, and they’re not afraid to do it.”

They had seven different girls score, led by Paige Manchester’s 22 points, seven assists, five boards and four steals. Porschia Bennett chipped in with 19 points, 11 of them in the first quarter, to go with five boards, three steals and two assists.

Horton’s hot hand netted her 13 points on the day while Bella Hurley knocked in two 3-pointers to finish with six. Saige Greenland, Kenadie Packard and Erin Barrett had two points apiece as Barrett and Gracie Schoonover both nabbed five boards each.

Their size, especially in the backcourt, made it tough for NEB to maneuver. The Knights forced them into 10 turnovers and out rebounded them 28-14.

That allowed Towanda to build a 22 point lead late into the third quarter, but NEB didn’t go away. They used a run from the late third quarter into the fourth to whittle it down to 10 points with 2:36 left as Manchester got in foul trouble, leaving the Knights without their point guard. 

Towanda wasn’t able to execute offensively during that stretch as NEB pressed them for turnovers.

“It’s not their fault, it’s our fault,” Gentile remarked. “We spent a lot of time the last few months working Paige at the one, so we haven’t really given other people opportunities to do that. I guess it was wishful thinking that she would never get in foul trouble, but it doesn’t always work that way, so we have to do our job and get kids prepared for those situations.”

Once Manchester got back in she was able to get to the free throw line, and hit enough to keep the Panthers at bay.

“It is a loss, but I’m proud of my team,” said NEB coach Ben Beebe. “We were down 20 in the second half and we brought it to eight to finish the game off. The intensity of my girls never let up.”

Maisie Neuber had a game high 22 points, including 10 in the first quarter, to go with two blocks. Lauryn Jones finished with 14 points, 11 of them coming at the free throw line, while Kayleigh Thoman had 12 points, four boards, two steals and two assists.

Kate O’Connor finished with 10 rebounds and three boards as the Panthers saw four different girls hit double figures - but those were the only four girls to score for NEB.

Both teams came out on fire as they had two buckets each in the first minute to knot the game at 5-all.

That’s when Neuber hit her second 3-pointer of the game to put the Panthers up 8-5. A Bennett steal and lay-up cut it o 8-7, Neuber’s hot had continued, making it 11-7 in favor of NEB.

A Manchester to Bennett full court pass cut it to 11-9 followed by Neuber’s 10th point of the quarter, a free throw, it was 12-9 NEB.

That’s when things turned Towanda’s way as they went on a 10-0 run, sparked by four points from Manchester and Bennett each, to go up 19-12. 

Late in the quarter Thoman found O’Connor for a lay-up to cut it to 19-14 at the break.

Two more Neuber free throws made it a 3-point game early in the second but that’s when Towanda’s Horton took over.

She had back to back 3-pointers after that to make it 25-16 Knights. After another Neuber bucket, Horton hit her third 3-pointer of the quarter to push the lead back to 10 points, 28-18.

With 2:40 to play in the second Thoman made a pair of free throws but the Knights followed that up with a 6-0 run, sparked by a Manchester 3-pointer, to take a 34-20 lead.

A Jones free throw ended the run, making it 34-21, but Bennett came back with another jumper. Jones hit two more free throws late in the quarter to cut it to 36-23.

Then, just before the half, Hurley knocked in a 3-pointer off a Manchester assist for the 39-23 lead at the break.

Thoman hit a bucket to open the third quarter, cutting the deficit to 14 points. After a Bennett free throw Neuber went on a 4-0 run to make it 40-29.

Horton ended that with another 3-pointer, followed by a Bennett steal and lay-up to push the lead back to 16 points.

Jones hit a pair of free throws to cut it to 45-31 halfway through the third quarter, but Towanda followed with an 8-0 burst as Manchester had three of the points and assisted Hurley’s second 3-pointer.

The two teams then traded 3-pointers as Towanda led 56-43 late in the third quarter.

NEB would end the quarter strong with a 5-2 run, punctuated by a Neuber buzzer beating lay-up, but still found themselves down 57-39 with just eight minutes to play.

Barrett opened the fourth with a nifty post move to nab her only bucket of the game, making it a 20 point lead again.

That’s when the Panthers began their final rally as Manchester went to the bench with four fouls.

Jones started things with a pair of free throws, followed by Neuber getting in the lane for a lay-up. O’Connor followed with a short jumper and Thoman ended the 8-0 run with a lay-up to cut it o to 59-47 with four minutes left to play.

That’s when Manchester came back in and immediately made her presence known with a driving lay-up.

Jones followed with two free throws, then assisted on a Thoman bucket to cut it to 61-51 with 2:36 left to play.

Manchester countered by getting fouled on a drive at the other end, hitting both free throws to make it a 12 point lead.

With less than two minutes to go Jones found Thoman for another bucket, but the Panthers were running out of time. The two teams traded defensive stops, then, with 1:03 left Manchester got the line again, hitting 1-of-2.

On the ensuing rebound O’Connor was fouled and hit both of her freebies to cut the deficit to nine points with 1:02 left to play.

Manchester went to the line again, but missed both. However, Towanda’s Ally Hurley nabbed the offensive rebound as the ball found Horton, who was fouled. She hit 1-of-2 to make it 10 points with 51 seconds to go.

The Knights got a stop, followed by Bennett getting intentionally fouled with 30 seconds to play, and that secured the win.

Even though it’s a good win for Towanda Gentile knows there is still room to improve. They held NEB to just 11 field goals, but sent the Panthers to the line 24 times. Sometimes that’s things teams live with when they have an active defense. They also put up shots they might liked to have had back.

But, three games in, their new coach is pleased with where they’re at.

“We’ll get there,” he said. “They’re learning.”

The Knights (3-0) will travel to Troy on Tuesday with a 6 p.m. start while this kicks off a week long home stand for the Panthers, who welcome NP-Liberty Tuesday for a 6 p.m. tip-off.

CUTLINE: Towanda’s Paige Manchester (left) congratulates teammate Bella Hurley after she hit a 3-pointer against Northeast Bradford Monday…PHOTOS BY CHRIS MANNING.

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