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Valley Sports Report
ROME — Athens dug themselves a big hole through the first three quarters, and while they rallied in the fourth, it was just too much to overcome as they fell to Northeast Bradford, 38-27, in non-league girls’ basketball action Friday.

NEB led 13-7 after the first quarter and extended that lead to as much as 31-13 late in the third quarter. The Wildcats would cut it to 33-27 with three minutes to play, but were out scored 5-1 in that final stretch.

“We struggled offensively most of the night,” said Athens coach Brian Miller. “They pressured the basketball, and we couldn’t turn the corner at all.

“We turned the ball over way too many times. We started to score a little bit in the fourth quarter, I think our intensity picked up a little bit, but if you told me we were going to hold Northeast to that amount of points before the game I would take that,” noted Miller.

Only three Athens players scored, led by Caydence Macik’s 13, to go with eight boards and three steals, while Karlee Bartlow stepped up with nine points and five boards as she was aggressive going to the basket.

Kayleigh Miller had five points — all on free throws as she was 5-for-6 — to round out Athens’ scorers.

“Kayleigh only got six shots off, and that hurts our chances to win,” explained Miller. “Kudos to them, because they played really good defense.”

However, he was pleased with Bartlow’s performance.

“Obviously they’re going to focus on Kayleigh and Caydence, so we need other girls to step up and score, and she’s capable of doing that,” said Miller. “She’s at the end of the sophomore year, so it’s nice to see her step up and have a game like that.”

Also for Athens, Megan Collins and Rachel Stephens had four rebounds each, while Hannah Blackman picked up three steals.

For NEB, Maisie Neuber led the way with 16 points, 13 rebounds and four steals, and Kayleigh Thoman had seven points and four assists.

Lauryn Jones had six points and four steals, Julia Brown had six points, four boards and two steals and Alena Beebe netted three points to go with five rebounds.

Neuber had NEB’s first seven points as she pushed the Panthers out to a 7-2 lead in the first four minutes of the game. They would extend it to 11-2 off a Jones 3-pointer, but a Bartlow old fashion 3-point play cut it to 11-5 late.

Neuber netted her ninth point of the first quarter with a putback, but Macik came back and hit a lay-up at the buzzer to cut it to a 6-point deficit.

NEB went on a 3-0 run to start the second, finished off by a Thoman driving lay-up. Bartlow came back with another lay-up, plus the foul, to keep it a six-point deficit, 16-10.

Neuber followed with a lay-up, but a pair of free throws from Miller kept it at 18-12. A Brown jump shot gave the Panthers a 20-12 lead at the half.

NEB came out in the third quarter and scored the first seven points — Neuber went 1-for-2 from the charity stripe, Brown had a putback, Thoman had a lay-up, and Neuber had a bucket to bring the lead to 27-12.

Bartlow stopped the run as she went 1-for-2 from the free throw l one, but back to back lay-ups by Brown and Thoman extended their advantage to 18 points.

Macik would cut it to 31-16 with a lay-up, plus the foul, at the end of the third quarter.

NEB’s offense dried up early in the fourth, allowing Athens to stage a comeback. The Wildcats would score the first nine points, beginning with a Bartlow lay-up. Miller then hit two freebies, followed by five straight points from Macik to cut it to 31-25.

A pair of Jones free throws ended the run, making it 33-25 with 3:15 left to play. A driving Macik lay-up cut it to six points again with 3:05 to play, but that’s as close as it got.

Neuber came through with a lay-up at the 2:25 mark to extend their lead to 35-27. Athens followed that up with a miss as the two teams then traded turnovers with under two minutes to play.

Blackman had a steal in the backcourt but couldn’t convert the lay-up. NEB would get the rebound, but then turned it over again, giving the Wildcats another shot.

They missed their two looks as Beebe got the rebound and was sent to the line. She missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but Athens lost the ball out-of-bounds.

No matter as they got the turnover they needed, but with time ticking down, Jones came up with a big steal as the clock ticked down to 30 seconds.

Jones got the ball to Beebe, who was fouled, and went 1-for-2 from the line. Beebe would then add two more free throws for the 38-27 final.

Despite the setback, Athens chugs on as they host Central Columbia Saturday, a tough contest that begins a final gauntlet to end the season.

“We got to get better at the offensive end,” said Miller. “We’re just discombobulated, whether it was off the dribble or we made passes to girls who were double-teamed. It just seemed like we were out of sync offensively; I don’t know if it was the lack of practice time, or just because Northeast played good defense and we were uneasy with it.”


IN PHOTO 1: Athens sophomore Karlee Bartlow drives to the basket against NEB. … PHOTOS BY Chris Manning.

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