Big defensive effort lifts Sayre girls past Athens
ATHENS - In the past few games, Sayre's shooting has struggled.
So, as they faced Athens on Tuesday night Sayre relied on their defense to carry them.
The Redskins held Athens to 19 points in a 35-19 victory which left four NTL East teams: Sayre, Athens, Northeast Bradford and Wyalusing, each with one loss in league play.
Sayre got off to a fast start on Tuesday as Mollie Robinson and Elyse Skerpon hit threes in the opening minutes to give the Redskins a quick six points.
That total was as many as the Redskins defense allowed in the first half, taking a 14-6 lead into the break.
"It feels great," Kelly Villanti said of Tuesday's win.
The Sayre players were really proud of the way they played on the defensive end on Tuesday.
"It was awesome," Robinson said. "They average over 50 points a game, to hold them to under 20 is amazing."
The Redskins knew that this game was crucial. After dropping an NTL East game to Wyalusing already, they knew they couldn't afford to fall two games back in the league.
"It was important, we needed to keep up with them," Robinson said.
After struggling offensively the past few games, Sayre felt like they did a better job on Tuesday.
"We haven't been playing what we know we are capable of, like we did last year," Skerpon said.
"Our shots haven't been going in the last three games, it felt better today," Robinson added.
In the third quarter Robinson got to the basket to put Sayre up 10, before Monica Dougherty hit a jumper for Athens to cut the deficit to 20-12.
Kelsey Young scored for Sayre to make it 22-12, but a pair of baskets by Christin Dunkling had Athens within six at 22-16 after three quarters.
In the fourth Dunkling hit a free throw to cut the deficit to five. Adrienne Malorzo hit two free throws to make it 24-17, before Dunkling scored to cut the deficit to 24-19 with 3:16 left. That's as close as Athens would get as Sayre hit 11-of-12 free throws in the fourth with Skerpon going 4-for-4 to seal the victory.
"We made our free throws very well and that helped us," Skerpon said.
While Sayre hit their free throws and got balanced scoring with all five starters scoring five or more points, they know it was the defense that was key.
"Defense is what won it for us," Villanti said.
"When our defense is going good, it helps our offense," Robinson said.
Playing with the lead, the Redskins slowed the pace of the game and made it hard for Athens to come back.
"We slowed it down, they wanted us to speed up and make mistakes, but we just slowed it down," Skerpon said.
The Redskins know it was big to get out to an early lead on Tuesday.
"We are usually the ones who are coming from behind," Villanti said.
Malorzo led the Redskins with nine points and Young had eight points, while Skerpon had seven, Villanti had six and Robinson finished with five.
Athens was led by Dunkling with 11 and Danielle Stopper had four. Dougherty and Mackenzie Warner each finished with two points for Athens.
Athens won the JV game 38-26. Morgan Westbrook led the Wildcats with 12 and Sarah Cuno had eight, while Allie Peet led Sayre with 10.
Athens is at Northeast Bradford on Thursday and Sayre is at Canton.