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BAKER'S SPORTS PEN: THOUGHTS ON WEEK 1 OF THE NTL BASKETBALL SEASON (2021-01-18)

The first big Northern Tier League match-up of 2021 went the way of the Troy Trojans as Steve Renzi’s squad flexed its muscles in a big, 70-53, win over Athens.

Troy’s experience and solid defensive play was too much for a young Athens team.

After jumping out to a 7-0 lead, Troy led by double-digits throughout the latter part of the second quarter. The closest the Trojans would let the visiting Wildcats get the rest of the way was nine points, midway through the third. Troy stretched its lead to 15 with two minutes to play – round one to the Trojans.

Ty Barrett scored a league-best 30 points in Troy’s big win over Williamson. Ethan VanNoy and Nick Williams each had 20-point efforts during the week as the Trojans start the season with a pair of victories.

•  Brock Kitchen’s Canton Warriors are off to a strong start with NTL wins over Sayre, Cowanesque Valley and Northeast. Bradford. Isaiah Niemczyk (13), Cooper Kitchen (13), Tyler Jannone (12) and Caiden Williams (11) all averaging double-figures in the Warriors’ 3-0 start.

•  Ryan Napp’s Black Knights presented him with a win in his re-debut on the Towanda sidelines. Napp and the Knights look to have a real scoring threat in Nate Parker, who had 19 points in Game 1. The Black Knights host Northeast on Monday and then welcome Troy on Wednesday.

•  Sayre’s Lucas Horton, a sophomore, hit for 20 points in the Redskins’ season-opening win over Northeast. Coach Devin Shaw received some nice play from 6-5 senior Connor Young. After the win over the Panthers, Sayre dropped its next two decisions, but was competitive in both contests as it will be throughout the campaign.

•  Northeast looks to be ready to put some points on the board as North Rome Christian standout Nick Beers has been added to the roster. Beers went for 25 points in his Panther debut, to go with 18 from Dan Seeley. Lucas Crown netted 20 points in a loss to Canton. The Panthers are looking to get Dan Williams back in the line-up this week.

“Nick is going to be a nice player,” noted Panther coach Paul Burgert. “Right now, he is just looking to get comfortable playing on the floor with everyone else.”

•  I’m not sure if all schools are doing this, but at the Wyalusing girls’ game last week, officials would switch basketballs during breaks and wipe down the one taken out of the game. Every little bit helps in this day and age.

•  Northeast girls coach Ben Beebe might change his team’s nickname to the “Road Warriors” after the Panthers packed their bags for four road games last week – winning two of them.

Nice to see the rest of Western side of the NTL getting into action.

•  The Wellsboro boys dropped a tough season opener to Athens – giving away a 16-point, fourth-quarter lead. The Green Hornets did put four players in double-figures while Isaac Keane and Liam Manning both had double-digit rebounds.

•  North Penn-Liberty put four players in double-digits in its season-opening win over Cowanesque. Noah Spencer leading the way with 22 points.

•  Athens with consecutive wins over Wellsboro and Northeast Bradford on back-to-back evenings. The Wildcats rallied from down 16 points in the fourth – yes 16 – for the win over the Green Hornets.

Things went more their way against the Panthers as they led by double-digits most of the way. Coach Jim Lister’s Wildcat bunch plays some nice team basketball as they shared the “rock” throughout the game.

J.J. Babcock and Mason Lister make a good one-two scoring punch along the baseline, and both can slide out and shoot the three-ball. Tucker Brown controls the action from the point and missed just once against the Panthers in a 12-point outing.

•  Paige Manchester is averaging 17 points for the Towanda girls in the Knights’ opening two games. Rob Gentile’s Towanda squad put together a pair of defensive clampdowns in wins over Williamson and North Penn-Liberty – allowing just 40 total points.

•  Maisie Neuber had her second 20-plus point effort as Northeast took a dominating win over Wyalusing. Neuber, Julie Brown and Kate O’Connor all had double-digit rebounds. The Panthers host Towanda in a Monday match-up of last year’s Division II and Division I champions.

•  Emme Tymeson and Molly Ward both netted double-digits as Canton ends the week with a winning record following a victory over NP-Mansfield.

•  Troy presented coach Marshall McNeal with his first win as director of the Trojans. Troy allowed just 20 points against Williamson. McNeal’s young squad hustles for a full 32 minutes and gives an all-out effort for the entire game.

•  Athens coach Brian Miller even admitted his team’s win over Wellsboro wasn’t pretty, but good teams will find a way to win when their offense isn’t clicking … they play solid defense. That’s exactly what the Wildcats did – allowing only 22 points in spoiling Wellsboro’s season opener. Athens made just nine field goals, but turned up the defensive pressure throughout the contest.

A Baker’s Dozen
BOYS TOP SIX
1. Troy (2-0)
… Trojans with a solid win over a good Athens team. Coach Steve Renzi has depth on his bench and some balanced scoring that later in the week led to 80 against Williamson.

2. Canton (3-0) … The Warriors opened the season strong with a trio of wins, including Northeast and Sayre. Cooper Kitchen with 20 points vs. Northeast ... Warriors averaging 57 points a game in the early going. Canton hosts Troy on Friday; will they both be undefeated at that time?

3. Wyalusing (1-0) … Rams tipped off with a four-point win over Sayre on the road … Had the lead, gave it away and re-grouped for the win ... A nice team comeback.

4. Athens (3-2) … Wildcats with solid back-to-back wins against Wellsboro and Northeast … Youthful Athens squad gaining confidence in itself with every outing.

5. Towanda (1-0) … Black Knights allowing just 31 points in season opener – nearly doubling up Williamson.

6. Sayre (1-2) … Dom Fabbri averaging 15 points and Lucas Horton 11 for Devin Shaw’s young Redskins.

GIRLS TOP SIX
1. Athens (3-1)
… Kayleigh Miller and Cayden Macik look to be an excellent one-two punch for coach Brian Miller. Miller with 25 against Northeast and Macik 23 in a win over Cowanesque.

2. Northeast (3-1) … Maisie Neuber leading the Panthers and the NTL in scoring, averaging 19 points per game. She’s nearly been a double-double in the early going.

3. Towanda (2-0) … The Black Knights opened their season with a defensive gem against Williamson … defending NTL Division 1 champs look ready to rock-and-roll for new coach Rob Gentile. They did the same against NP-Liberty.

4. Wyalusing (1-1) … A good mix of offense and defense in season-opening win against Troy … Rams scored 60 with three players in double-figures.

5. Canton (2-1) … Warriors were looking for some offensive punch after splitting their opening two games while averaging only 25 points per game. They found it in a win over NP-Mansfield netting 44.

6. Troy (1-1) … Troy fans have a couple of up-and-coming players to watch in Hannah Zimmerman and Sydney Taylor.

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