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Valley Sports Report
ATHENS - Waverly weathered an early storm, and rode another monster double-double from 6-8 senior Scott Woodring in a wild 64-63 win over Athens here Saturday night in the championship game of the annual Valley Christmas Tournament.

The Wildcats led by 13 early in the second quarter, but the Wolverines rallied to tie the game at the half. Athens led by five early in the third quarter, but Waverly used a 17-2 blitz to take a 10-point lead, only to see the Wildcats rally to take a two-point lead late in the fourth quarter.

"It was a game of runs," said Waverly coach Lou Judson. "Fortunately, we made a small one at the end to find a way to win. It could have gone either way depending on certain calls down the stretch.

"Athens is a good basketball team, they have very good guards, good big men, and they're young," noted Judson. "It's tough beating them on their home floor, so I'm really proud of our guys tonight.

"What a gritty performance by both teams, and what an atmosphere," added Judson. "I'm just a small part of it, but I really enjoy it."

"At times, both teams shot the ball very well," said Athens coach Bob Woodward  "Both of us were tough to defend tonight, we just needed about three more seconds."

Sophomore J.J. Babcock scored five points in the first 3 1/2 minutes of the game, while senior Aaron Lane added four, and sophomore Tucker Brown had three to stake the Wildcats to a 12-3 lead.

Senior Brady Smith knocked down a 3-pointer with 1:54 remaining in the first quarter to give Athens a 16-8 lead, and Lane scored the first five points of the second quarter to extend the lead to 21-8 with 6:53 left in the first half.

At that point, Woodring, who had just two points in the first quarter, took over, scoring 14 points, including three old-fashioned three-point plays and a top-of-the-key 3-pointer, in a 23-10 blitz to close the quarter and send the game into the halftime intermission tied at 31-31.

"We haven't been down like that since the U-E game early in the season," said Judson. "We didn't play well at the start, but I'm really proud of the guys for being able to tie it up heading into halftime."

"We played with some emotion tonight, especially at the start" said Woodward. "This is an exciting game for kids to play in. It was a great environment."

After Woodring and Babcock scored four points apiece to start the second half, sophomore Troy Pritchard scored on an offensive rebound, and Lane buried a 3-pointer to put the Wildcats up 40-35 with 4:58 remaining in the third quarter.

Woodring scored five straight points for the Wolverines to tie the game at 40-40 with 3:09 left in the third quarter, but Pritchard scored again on a putback to put the Wildcats back ahead, at 42-40, with 2:48 remaining.

After a jumper by 8th-grader Joey Tomasso tied the game at 42-42, Woodring made one of two free throws with 2:25 left in the third quarter to give Waverly its first lead of the game.

After an exchange of turnovers, junior Griffen Stein, Tomasso, and Woodring knocked down 3-pointers in a 46-second span to give the Wolverines a 52-42 lead with 1:13 left in the third quarter.

Babcock stemmed the tide with a driving lay-up in the closing seconds of the third quarter, and a short jumper in the opening minute of the final stanza to cut the deficit to 52-46.

After another conventional three-point play by Woodring upped the Waverly lead to 55-46, Athens scored nine straight points to tie the game. The run featured a pair of buckets by Babcock, sandwiched around a 3-pointer by Lane and a 15-foot jumper by senior Damian Hudson.

Tomasso canned a 3-pointer with 4:16 left in the game to give Waverly a 58-55 lead, but Pritchard scored a pair of buckets, sandwiched around a Woodring free throw to tie the game at 59-59 with 3:10 left.

After Lane gave Athens a 61-59 lead with a pair of free throws with 2:52 remaining, Tomasso answered with two free throws just 21 seconds later to tie it at 61-61.

Lane put Athens ahead with a baseline runner over Woodring with 2:52 remaining, but junior Aidan Westbrook answered for Waverly with a baseline jumper just 14 seconds later to make it 63-63.

After a defensive stop, Woodring made one of two free throws with 32.4 seconds remaining to put Waverly up 64-63.

After calling a time out, Athens milked the clock for the last shot, but Woodring came up with a blocked shot and controlled it. He was fouled with 1 seconds remaining.

After missing the first free throw, Woodring intentionally missed the second, and Athens rebounded and called time out just prior to final horn.

However, after a brief meeting between the officials, the clock was restored to 1 second, and Athens in-bounded the ball from under its own hoop. Freshman Mason Lister made a perfect full-court pass to Babcock, but a Waverly defender, who made contact with Babcock, got a hand on the ball as the final horn signaled the end of the game.

Woodward was unhappy with the lack of a call on the final play.

"I've been at this long enough ... sometimes it's just the game, and you're going to take one on the chin," he said. "Although I'm in total disagreement of two situations at the end of the game, it doesn't mean I'm right.

"We were in a position to win the game at the end, which is a credit to our kids - we played hard," added Woodward.

Woodring led Waverly with 34 points, 19 rebounds, and three blocked shots, but it was Tomasso, who had a career-high 13 points, including a trio of 3-pointers, that caught Judson's eye.

"Joey hit some big shots and clutch free throws tonight when we needed them late in the game," said Judson.

"He was taking those shots earlier in the game, and maybe forcing a few of them, but I kept telling him those shots are going to be there," added Judson. "He has the confidence to keep taking those shots, and that's what I like to see."

Stein added five points, five rebounds, and one blocked shot for the Wolverines, while Westbrook chipped in with four points and six rebounds, junior Peyton Bowen grabbed four boards, and senior Jalen McCarty dished out four assists.

Woodward said Woodring presented a big challenge.

"Playing against Scotty, what a test that is for us.

"We did a really good job on him at times," said Woodward. "I'm sure he had a pile of points, but he did have to work for them tonight.

"When you're playing them, you better have a game plan for him," he added. "Our kids bought into what we were trying to do."

Babcock had 22 points, 12 rebounds, and one blocked shot, and Lane had 22 points and two steals to lead the Wildcats, while Pritchard added eight points and nine rebounds, Brown had four points, 10 rebounds, five assists, and two steals, and Hudson chipped in with four points and four rebounds.

Judson was impressed with Babcock's play

"I think his length and quickness bothered Scotty in the first half, but I think Scotty started to get a feel for it in the second half.

"J.J. is one heck of a player," said Judson. "He hurt us tonight on the boards, and taking the ball to the basket."

Waverly, winners of six straight, improve to 6-1 on the season, while Athens falls to 4-2.

"I hope this win will lead us into league play," said Judson. "It's another step in the right direction for this basketball team."

"We learned a bunch from tonight," said Woodward. "Win or lose, this game will make us better down the road, and I'm thankful we played it.

"We played hard tonight, we played our hearts out," he added.

Athens returns to action Jan. 6 when it hosts Thomas A. Edison, while Waverly travels to Trumansburg Jan. 7.


IN PHOTO 1: Waverly's Scott Woodring. ... PHOTOS BY TIM BIRNEY.

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