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BAKER'S SPORTS PEN: ROLE PLAYERS STEPPING UP BIG IN NTL PLAY (2021-02-09)

Most area basketball teams are privileged to have that one special player to count on night after night or game after game – that one player a coach can depend on at crunch time who’s not afraid to take the “big shot.”

It could also be that one player who hits the nets for 20 points a game, dishes out a team-high number of assists or pulls down double-digit rebounds. There are plenty of these players dotting rosters throughout the Northern Tier League – they fill up scorebooks or stat sheets every night.

However, ask any area coach and they will tell you there are certain “role players” worth their weight in gold and on any given night they step up to provide that one special game.

We saw some outstanding examples of that kind of player this past week in a number of spotlight games.

On Thursday, we all anticipated a battle between Troy’s Ty Barrett and Mansfield’s Carson Dominick – they did not disappoint. Barrett ripped the nets for his usual 25 markers – including his 1,000th career point. The freshman, Dominick, was good for 19 points as the Tigers pulled off the 68-64 upset at home.

However, it was a couple of co-stars that nearly stole the show. As the evening wore on, Barrett and Dominick were joined center stage by the Trojans’ Ethan VanNoy and the Tigers’ Curtis Craig. One almost completed the miracle comeback; the other sparked the upset.

Turning the page to Saturday, at Towanda, it was the play of the Black Knights’ Erin Barrett and Porschia Bennett against Athens that everyone was talking about afterward.

We all anticipated their teammate Paige Manchester and the Wildcats’ Caydence Macik to match each other bucket-for-bucket – and they did. As usual, Macik hit the nets for a team-high 18 points. Manchester played a vital role with 14 points in the Black Knight victory.

However, it was Barrett stepping up with a game-high 21 points and 15 rebounds as she rallied the Knights during a 17-5 fourth-quarter run. Her play in the paint allowed the Knights to command a dominating advantage on the boards.

Bennett, despite scoring just half her usual average, hounded the Athens offense throughout the afternoon. She chased the Wildcats’ Kayleigh Miller all over the court – never letting the Athens sharpshooter out of her site. Bennett was also relentless in the trapping defense the Knights applied when Athens was bringing the ball up court. Towanda forced the Wildcats into 18 turnovers and a number of tie-ups.

In the end, Bennett’s efforts limited Miller to just five points – well below her double-digit average.
Add, in the play of fellow starters Amanda Horton and Ally Hurley and a fan of the game can easily see how a total team effort has lifted the Knights to their 10-0 start.

Circling back to Mansfield, both VanNoy and Craig came off the bench to spark their respective teams.

Craig, who was averaging about six points a night coming into the game, provided a team-high 19 markers, including a number of key second-half baskets for Mansfield as the Trojans attempted to steal away the game’s outcome.

VanNoy, an important member of coach Steve Renzi’s rotation was averaging about eight points a game. He accounted for 15 markers as Troy attempted to come back from a second-half deficit of 11 points.

Although they never took the lead, the Trojans did even the score at 64-all on a three-point play by Barrett with 1:30 remaining. However, at the game’s end it was the host Tigers escaping with their fourth win of the season as they put themselves back in the playoff chase.

Another outstanding defensive effort that won’t show up in the box score, but was well noted by Wyalusing coach Ricky Lindblad, was the play of Hailey Jayne. She only scored two points, but came away with three steals in the Rams’ big win over Athens.

Jayne hounded the Wildcat guards throughout the contest as Athens scored just 29 points in a two-point loss.

These are just a few examples of little plays that don’t show up in the box scores of high school basketball games, but to area coaches, they are big parts of any victory.

Towanda’s Kolby Hoffman (15 points), Danti Ottaviani (10 points) and Octavious Chacona (10 points) all with season highs against Canton. Hoffman, stepping up as a solid offensive threat for the Knights, is averaging 13 points in Towanda’s last three games.

Northeast’s Lucas Crown canned 13 of 15 free throw attempts in the Panthers’ victory over Canton. He’s also averaging 17 points in his last five games.

Wyalusing’s Grady Cobb is averaging 16.6 points in Rams’ last three games.

Wyalusing’s Catherine Brown totalled nine rebounds in the Rams’ win over Athens and Madison Putnam collected eight. The Rams committed just nine turnovers and came away with 10 steals.

Troy’s Makenna Mathews and Rachel Kingsley each scored a season-high 12 points against Liberty.

A BAKER’S DOZEN      
Boys Top Six
1. Troy (9-2) …
Dropped a tough four-point decision on the road to an improving Mansfield squad.

2. North Penn Liberty (7-0) … Spencer netting 16 free throws in the Mountaineers’ big win at home over Athens.

3. Wellsboro (6-1) … Liam Manning’s 18 points a game setting the pace of a well-balanced scoring attack for the Green Hornets – winners of six straight games since a season-opening loss to Athens.

4. Athens (8-4) … The Wildcats, after a tough loss to undefeated Liberty, step right back into the fire by hosting 9-2 Troy on Wednesday.

5. Wyalusing (5-3) … The Rams stop a three-game skid with wins over Cowanesque and Northeast.

6. Canton (5-4) … The Warriors keeping things close with a one-point loss to Northeast and a two-point win over Towanda.

Leading scorers:
Ty Barrett, Troy (26.0); Noah Spencer, Liberty (21.6); Karson Dominick, Mansfield (17.5); Lucas Crown, Northeast (17.4); Liam Manning, Wellsboro (17.4); J.J. Babcock, Athens (16.2); Dom Fabbri, Sayre (16.1); Nick Beers, Northeast (15.4); Darryn Callahan Wellsboro (15.2); Isaiah Niemczyk, Canton (14.4); Isiah Way, Wyalusing (14.1); Brody Burleigh, Mansfield (13.3).

Girls Top Six
1. Towanda (10-0)
… Black Knights secured a solid win over Athens, rallying from a third-quarter deficit, in their biggest game of the season.

2. Athens (9-3) … Dropped a pair of tough decisions on the road to Wyalusing and Towanda.

3. Northeast Bradford (7-3) … Panthers got the week off thanks to Punxsutawney Phil and Mother Nature.

4. Wyalusing (6-2) … Rams only game of the week was a defensive gem against Athens – shutting down Wildcats’ offense.

5. Troy (3-6) … Troy allowing only 12 points to Liberty.

6. Canton (3-5) … Warriors drop just a three-point decision to Montgomery.

Leading Scorers: Caydence Macik, Athens (18.2); Maisie Neuber, Northeast (17.7); Paige Manchester, Towanda (17.4); Kayleigh Miller, Athens (15.1); Lauryn Jones, Northeast (12.2); Taylor Rae Jones, Williamson (12.1); Lateisha Peterson, Williamson (11.5); Abby Ackley, Cowanesque (11.3); Porschia Bennett, Towanda (11.0); Erin Barrett, Towanda (9.6); Sydney Taylor, Troy (9.3); Bailey Monks, Wellsboro (8.6); Emma Coolidge, Wellsboro (8.1).

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Bob Baker was the longtime sports editor of The Daily Review. More recently, he has been a radio voice of NTL high school sports on several Bradford County radio stations. He is currently a regular contributor as a columnist for River Road Media Group’s Northern Tier Sports Report and Valley Sports Report.


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