By TIM BIRNEY
Valley Sports Report
TIOGA CENTER — Junior Olivia Ayres knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers late in the first quarter to give Tioga its first lead of the game on its way to a 56-31 win over Marathon here Tuesday night in IAC Small School Division girls basketball action.
Tioga improves to 8-11 on the season with the win, and clinches a berth in the upcoming Section IV, Class C playoffs.
“The win gets us into Sectionals for the first time in three years,” said Tioga coach Joe Robinson. “It’s a good accomplishment.
“This is one of the funnest teams I’ve had in the last 10 years,” he noted. “If these girls don’t make you laugh, no one will, but they come out here and play hard.
“We’re not the greatest ball handlers, and we have a couple other shortcomings, but these girls are great teammates, and they play well together,” added Robinson.
Marathon’s Kristi Walley scored eight points in the paint early in the game to help the Lady Olympians to an 8-5 lead, but Ayres drained 3-pointers on consecutive trips down the floor to give the Lady Tigers an 11-8 lead with 1:25 remaining in the first quarter.
Ayres finished the game with six 3-pointers, and a game-high 20 points, to go along with four rebounds.
“Right now, Liv’s on a bit of tear shooting 3s,” said Robinson. “When she’s alone, and standing still, I’m pretty confident they’re going to go in. She had another good game tonight.”
Moments later, senior Chloe Bellis drained a 3-pointer to give Tioga a 14-8 lead.
“When Chloe (Bellis) hits a 3-pointer, good things are going to happen,” laughed Robinson.
After a bucket by Abbey Ensign trimmed the Tioga lead to 14-10, junior Eve Wood bombed in a 3-pointer from just inside the mid-court line at the first-quarter buzzer to make it 17-10.
“That was quite a shot,” said Robinson. “We went on quite a run at the end of the first quarter.”
Senior Giovanna Rossi scored the first bucket of the second quarter on an offensive rebound with 6:15 remaining to give Tioga a 19-10 lead, then she knocked down a turn-around jumper in the lane about a minute later to make it 21-10.
The Lady Olympians trimmed the lead to 23-16, but Wood drained a 3-pointer to make it 26-16.
Brooke Tillotson knocked down a 3-pointer with 1:35 left in the half to make it 26-19, but Ayres answered with a trey 15 seconds later, then buried another 3-pointer with 42 seconds remaining to give the Lady Tigers a 32-20 lead it would carry into the halftime locker room.
Just 59 seconds into the second half, Ayres buried her fifth 3-pointer of the game to make it 35-22
Marathon cut the lead to eight, at 37-29, but Ayres canned another 3-pointer to make it 40-29 with 1:54 left in the third quarter.
“(Marathon) would cut the lead to seven or eight points, and bang we’d knock down another 3-pointer,” said Robinson.
Wood drained her third 3-pointer of the game with 57 seconds remaining in the third quarter to give Tioga a 44-30 lead.
The Lady Tigers led 46-31 heading into the final eight minutes, and closed the game with a 10-0 run.
Wood had 11 points, including a trio of 3-pointers, four rebounds, and two assists, while Rossi had 10 points and 15 rebounds, including six offensive boards, Chloe Bellis had 10 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, and two steals, sophomore Julia Bellis added six rebounds and two steals, and junior Ari Manwaring chipped in with three boards.
Walley led Marathon with 14 points, and Tillotson added 13.
“(Brooke Tillotson) is a pretty good player,” said Robinson. “We knew we had to contain her, and I think we did a decent job on her.”
Tioga wraps up the regular season Wednesday night when it hosts NTL Large School champion Towanda.
IN PHOTO 1: Tioga’s Olivia Ayres. … PHOTOS BY TIM BIRNEY.
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