ATHENS - The first time these two teams met Towanda took a big first half lead only for Athens to rally for the win.

This time the Knights took the first half lead and kept it.

Athens had no answer for Towanda guard Noah Huff whose dribble penetration, especially in the second half, wreaked havoc on the Wildcat defense. Huff had 17 of his 26 points in the second half to lead the Knights to a 58-46 win in the NTL East match-up of the two top teams.

"It was pretty intense," Huff said. "High intensity throughout the game."

The win moves Towanda ahead of the defending champions by virtue of their one league loss (to Athens). Athens is currently second with two league losses (one to Canton and this one).

Towanda also got a key contribution from Garrett Mosier. The forward had 14 points, all in the second half and usually off feeds from Huff's penetration, along with six rebounds and two blocks.

"If I got open looks I knew I just had to put it in," Mosier said.

Every big game win for the Knights this season a player outside of their big three has stepped up and Mosier was excited this time it could be him.

"It feels great."

After last time against the Wildcats Towanda coach Ryan Napp wanted to keep his young kids focused in the second half.

"We wanted to control the tempo," he said. "In the first game we tried to break the press with speed. This time we spread it out and were strong with the ball."

Huff believes the pressure may have gotten to them last game.

"We tried to stall alot," he explained. "Tonight we tried to get into the box and take smart shots."

Joel Miller had eight points and eight boards along with three blocks and two steals while Dave Rodenhizer added eight points. Tristan James rounded out the Towanda scorers with two.

Garrett Clark tried to keep the Wildcats close scoring inside and out for 17 points while adding five boards. Brandon Fauver added 13 points, all in the fourth quarter, with two steals while Luke Wright added eight points, nine boards, two steals and two assists.

Curt Moore chipped in with seven points, six boards and three assists.

The two teams went back and forth in the first quarter. Huff started the scoring off with a jumper followed by a Wright jumper knotting the game at 2-2. A Clark basket made it 4-2 followed by Rodenhizer hitting a three to put the Knights up 5-4.

After a Robert Fauver free throw the Wildcats tied it at 5-all.

After back to back buckets by Wright and Huff a Joel Miller three of a Huff assist put Towanda up 10-7. Moore cut it to 10-9 off an offensive rebound and put back but a James jumper late put the Knights up 12-9 after the opening quarter.

Clark cut it to 12-10 off a free throw to start the second quarter but a Huff three made it 15-10 Towanda. Back to back baskets by Clark cut it to 15-14 but Rodenhizer bucket followed by a two free throws from Huff pushed Towanda's lead back to 19-14 at the half.

Robert Fauver was in foul trouble late in the second quarter, forcing Athens to check Huff with their younger players in the third quarter.

That's when Huff got going.

After trading early buckets, Huff began his big run with a three to put Towanda up 26-18. Wright cut it to 26-20 but another Huff lay-up made it 28-20 Knights.

Moore laid in a put back for Athens but Huff found Mosier for two at the other end to make it 30-22. After a Clark free throw Huff scored four straight points, a free throw followed by a three, to extend the Towanda lead to 34-23.

Mosier hit a jumper followed by Huff hitting a lay-up and and-1 to push the lead to 39-23.

Back to back buckets by Clark cut it to 39-27 but a buzzer beating three from Miller off a Rodenhizer assist pushed Towanda's lead 42-27 going into the fourth quarter.

The teams started the fourth like they did the first, trading buckets. Huff found Mosier to start the quarter followed by Moore hitting a free throw.

Mosier added a lay-up off an offensive rebound while Brandon Fauver hit a three at the other end to cut the lead to 46-31.

Huff found Mosier again for a bucket while at the other end Brandon Fauver got a steal and lay-up.

Mosier followed that up with a free throw while Brandon Fauver remained hot, hitting another jumper to make it 49-33.

But time was against the Wildcats as they couldn't get the stops they needed to cut into the lead.

Back to back buckets by the Knights pushed the lead to 53-35.

After trading baskets, Athens went on a 5-0 run off a Wright lay-up and Clark three to cut it to 54-43 but that's as close as they got.

The Black Knights were 4-of-8 from the line down the stretch, good enough to secure the win.

Despite his success on offense, Mosier knew defense was going to be the difference.

"I knew we had to play great defense," he said.

While Clark had some success inside the Knights were able to keep everbody's elses scoring down and did a good job on the defensive boards against the big frontline of the Wildcats.

It also helped that Huff had a lot of success last game against Athens, scoring 26 in that match up too.

"It certainly helps," he said. "I did it once, you can do it again. But I knew that they were going to try and defend that."

Napp believes his young players have come a long ways from the beginning of the year.

"Any young team may not be as good in the beginning of the year," he said. "But we've gotten stronger, faster and gained more confidence. A veteran team, you know what you're going to have but a young team, you have the potential to get better."

For his part Napp has kept his team focused on each individual game and believes this has led to their rapid development.

"We focus on the game ahead of us," he said. "Absolutely, it's helped us in getting better."

In the JV game Athens won 38-28. Jarrett Priester had eight for the Wildcats while Dylan Bates scored eight for Towanda.

Looking ahead Towanda knows there is still work to be done but they can also feel that NTL title in their hands.

"It's kind of unreal right now," Huff said. "But we still have to finish this off."