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NTL BOYS BASKETBALL: BALANCED SCORING HELPS ATHENS TO 67-55 WIN OVER CANTON (16 PHOTOS) (2021-02-19)

Valley Sports Report
ATHENS — Athens used a balanced offense, including four scorers in double-figures, to outlast Canton here Friday night in a 67-55 win in NTL boys basketball action.

“Offensively, we followed the game plan,” said Athens coach Jim Lister. “It’s always a good thing when you have four players in double digits.

“And, I was very happy with our defensive effort tonight,” added Lister. “It’s a nice team win.”

Junior J.J. Babcock and sophomore Mason Lister knocked down 3-pointers, sandwiched around a bucket by Canton’s Isaiah Niemczyk, to give Athens a 6-2 lead with 5:55 remaining in the first quarter.

Niemczyk knocked down a 3-pointer and scored seven points in less than two minutes to pull the Warriors within one point, at 10-9, with 3:55 remaining in the opening stanza.

After the two teams traded buckets, sophomore Chris Mitchell and Babcock scored back-to-back buckets to give the Wildcats a 16-11 lead after the first eight minutes.

Canton closed the gap to within two points at point midway through the second quarter, but a 3-pointer by senior James Benninger-Jones gave Athens a 28-22 lead with 2:30 remaining in the first half.

Moments later, junior Tucker Brown knocked down a pair of free throws to make it 30-22.

After a bucket by Canton’s Cooper Kitchen, Brown slashed down the lane on his way to an old-fashioned three-point play that extended the lead to nine points, at 33-24, with 1:15 left in the first half.

Brown answered a NIemczyk bucket with one of his own with 10 seconds left in the half, but Niemczyk had the final say in the first half with a putback of his own miss to cut the Athens lead to 35-28 at the half.

The teams traded buckets in a fast-paced third quarter until Tyler Jannone scored back-to-back buckets with 3:22 left in the third quarter to trim the deficit to 46-43.

After an Athens turnover, Canton was poised to cut further into the deficit, but Lister came up with a blocked shot in the low blocks, and moments later Brown was fouled on his way to the bucket on the fast break.

Brown made his first attempt to make it 47-43. He missed the second, but junior Troy Pritchard chased down the long rebound, and found Benninger-Jones open for a 3-pointer to make it 50-43 with 2:45 left in the stanza.

After a bucket by Niemczyk, Babcock registered a steal in the backcourt for an easy lay-up to trigger a 6-0 run that gave the Wildcats a 56-45 lead entering the final eight minutes. Pritchard scored both buckets on nice low-post moves.

Canton closed the gap to seven points, at 62-55, on a bucket by Conner Foust with 1:45 remaining in the contest, but Babcock scored the final five points to seal the victory.

Babcock led Athens with 18 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, and two blocked shots, while Brown had 14 points, five rebounds, three assists, and one blocked shot, and Pritchard had 12 points, six rebounds, and four assists.

Lister had 11 points, four assists, three boards, and one blocked shot in the win, while Benninger-Jones added eight points and five boards, and Mitchell chipped in with four points.

Niemczyk led Canton with 19 points, while Caiden Williams scored 14, Jannone added 11 points, and Kitchen chipped in with seven points.

Athens, now 10-7, travels to Northeast Bradford Saturday afternoon.

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IN PHOTO 1: Athens junior Troy Pritchard.

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