Athens girls top Towanda to win NTL Showdown.

By: Garrett Carr | Towanda Daily Review | February 16, 2020

Athens girls top Towanda to win NTL Showdown.

Towanda finally was making their run. Things looked grim for the Lady Knights when Athens took a 31-19 lead mid third quarter and Towanda standout Porschia Bennett picked up her third foul. But, The Knights responded. Paige Manchester closed out the quarter with six straight points, and with Bennett back in the game to start the fourth quarter, Towanda cut the Wildcat lead to 3. That's when Kayleigh Miller made the shot of the NTL season. Miller caught a pass on the right wing, and when Athens was searching for offense, she gave it to them. Miller's catch-and-shoot three hit nothing but net, Athens extended the lead to 6, and prevailed as NTL Showdown Champions, staking their claim as the best team in the NTL this year, 43-38.

"I wasn't making anything in warmups," said Kayleigh Miller. "But when I got in the game my shots started to fall and it really helped me to feel confident taking that shot in the fourth quarter."

Athens is not an explosive scoring team and relies on executing in the half court, and Miller's 14 points, including four makes from behind the arc, was the spark.

"I tell people we are like an old school football team," Athens Head Coach Brian Miller said. "We like to slow the game down, run our offense and play great halfcourt defense. I couldn't be prouder of this group."

It's been quite the ride for Athens this year. They were not one of the preseason favorites in the league; most people would've named Towanda, Northeast Bradford and North Penn-Mansfield above them. But, according to Coach Miller they worked hard all year and kept their focus.

"We used that as inspiration," he said. "We knew what we were capable of all year long and we relished the underdog role. These girls worked so hard all year and this is quite the payoff for that hard work."

Towanda started out the game on an 11-4 run, but Athens scored the last fourteen points of the first quarter to take a 14-11 lead. More importantly, they got Towanda in foul trouble. Bennett and fellow standout Erin Barrett battled fouls all game, and both had three fouls in the first half. Some may have thought the larger court at Mansfield University would benefit the longer and faster team in the Black Knights, but it actually benefitted Athens, according to Coach Miller.

"We thought that the bigger court would help us tonight and it did," he said. "Towanda loves to trap but it gave us more room to run our offense and made it harder for them to trap us."

Caydence Mack got going after a slow start for Athens, providing 15 key points inside, taking advantage of the foul trouble Towanda was in. Her scoring in the third quarter was key to the 12 point lead Athens built.

Bennett led Towanda with 15 points. Both teams will await District IV pairings, times, and locations to be announced Sunday.