Northern Tier Sports Report
ROME — This was a game Northeast Bradford had circled on their calendar. They dropped their season opener in overtime to Athens last month, and, for senior Lauryn Jones, this would be her last chance to get a win over the Wildcats.

The Panthers came out strong, and held on late as they got that legacy win, beating Athens 38-27 in non-league girls’ basketball action Saturday.

“It feels amazing,” said Jones. “I’ve never beat them in my career, so it is a really good feeling.”

The Panthers led throughout, being up by as much as 18 points late in the third quarter.

“We definitely had all the energy, and all the momentum,” Jones said the contest. “And it gave us quite the head start.”

Athens tightened things up late, cutting it to six points with a couple minutes to play, but NEB didn’t panic. Jones would hit a pair of free throws to end a big Wildcat run, then nabbed a steal with 30 seconds to play to secure the victory.

“I just knew we had to slow it down, and not turn the ball over,” explained Jones. “Keep it under control, because they’re too good to keep give them too many offensive opportunities.”

Maisie Neuber led the team with 16 points, including a late driving lay-up in the fourth that gave them some much needed cushion. She also had 13 rebounds for the double-double, and four steals. 

Kayleigh Thoman had seven points and four assists, while Jones finished with six points and four steals. Julie Brown had six points, four boards and two steals with Alena Beebe netting three points to go with five boards.

“The improvement on us has been on the defensive end,” NEB coach Ben Beebe said. “Kayleigh played phenomenal on (Kayleigh) Miller tonight, and, all-in-all, the defense tonight has been so much better this time around than it was the first time.”

Athens had just three players score - Caydence Macik with 13 points to go with eight boards and three steals, Karlee Bartlow stepped up with nine points and five boards and Miller had five points, all on free throws - as the Panthers shut them down for long stretches of the game.

“Kudos to them, because they played really good defense,” said Athens coach Brian Miller.

Neuber had NEB’s first seven points as she pushed the Panthers out to a 7-2 lead in the first four minutes of the game. They would extend it to 11-2 off a Jones 3-pointer, but a Bartlow old fashion 3-point play cut it to 11-5 late.

Neuber netted her ninth point of the first quarter with a put back, but Macik came back and hit a lay-up at the buzzer to cut it to a 6-point deficit.

NEB went on a 3-0 run to start the second, finished off by a Thoman driving lay-up. Bartlow came back with another lay-up, plus the foul, to keep it a 6-point deficit, 16-10.

Neuber followed with a lay-up, but a pair of free throws from Miller kept it at 18-12. A Brown jump shot gave the Panthers a 20-12 lead at the half.

NEB came out in the third and scored the first seven points - Neuber went 1-for-2 from the charity stripe, Brown had a put back, Thoman had a lay-up, and then Neuber had a bucket to bring their lead to 27-12.

Bartlow stopped the run as she went 1-for-2 from the free throw l one, but back to back lay-ups by Brown and Thoman extended their advantage to 18 points.

Macik would cut it to 31-16 with a lay-up, plus the foul, at the end of the third quarter.

NEB’s offense dried up early in the fourth, allowing Athens to stage a comeback. The Wildcats would score the first nine points, beginning with a Bartlow lay-up. Miller then hit two freebies, followed by five straight points from Macik to cut it to 31-25.

A pair of Jones free throws ended the run, making it 33-25 with 3:15 left to play. A driving Macik lay-up cut it to 6-points again with 3:05 to play, but that’s as close as it got.

Neuber came through with a lay-up at the 2:25 mark to extend their lead to 35-27. Athens followed that up with a miss as the two teams then traded turnovers with under two minutes to play.

Athens' Hannah Blackman had a steal in the backcourt but couldn’t convert the lay-up. NEB would get the rebound, but then turned it over again, giving the Wildcats another shot.

They missed their two looks as Beebe got the rebound and was sent to the line. She missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but Athens lost the ball out of bounds.

No matter as they got the turnover they needed, but with time ticking down Jones came up with the big steal as the clock got down to half a minute.

“That was a really good feeling that I could keep the ball in our possession,” remarked Jones. “Pull it out and they were forced to follow us.”

She got the ball to Beebe, who was fouled, and went 1-for-2 from the line. Beebe would then add two more free throws for the 38-27 final.

“I got some learning to do as a coach,” Beebe said about his team’s fourth quarter drought. “This is only my second year, but I could have done some other things differently. And I’ll go home and watch this game a couple times to try to figure this out.”

Going forward NEB is focusing all on the districts, with big games against Loyalsock and Towanda.

“Hopefully we get some more practices in,” said Beebe. “We really want to work on our defense, our defense is our saving grace. We have shooters and scorers, so our defense is really going to have to play like they did tonight.”

CUTLINE: NEB’s Maisie Neuber goes up for a shot against Athens…PHOTOS BY CHRIS MANNING

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