Towanda tops Athens to claim NTL East title
SAYRE - It took the Black Knights a few extra days than they expected, but the result was exactly what they had dreamed of.
After a loss to Troy on Friday forced the Black Knights into a playoff for the NTL East title, Towanda came out on top Tuesday defeating Athens 50-45 to capture the crown.
"There response after how they played on Friday was great," Towanda coach Ryan Napp said. "You don't get many second chances and we were fortunate to get a second chance and proved we belong as champs."
The Black Knights jumped out early, leading 15-13 after the opening tip and took a 25-21 lead into the half. A Brandon Fauver three with 2:23 left in the third gave Athens its first lead of the second half.
No one led by more than six in the second half. With 6:22 left in the fourth Noah Huff hit the second of back-to-back threes to take a 40-37 deficit and put Towanda up 43-40.
Athens was up 45-43, when Tristan James hit one of two free throws and with 1:12 left Lij Griffin hit a three from the corner to put Towanda up 47-45.
"I was open and I took it," Griffin said.
Athens didn't score on their next possession. Griffin took a shot for Towanda, it was off the mark but Garrett Mosier tipped it in to put the Black Knights up 49-45 with under 30 seconds to go and that sealed it.
"It's amazing," Towanda senior Joel Miller said. "After the game against Troy we didn't know if we would play again and then we found out we would and it's great."
"All the hard work we put in went to good use," added Dave Rodenhizer.
After their loss to Troy the Knights knew they had to respond.
"We just had to move on and take it one game at a time," Noah Huff said.
They wanted to start strong out of the gate.
"We knew if we were able to get the lead we would be able to hold it," Huff said.
"We knew what we needed to do," Miller added.
Napp credits the team's success this year to the growth of their young players.
"I've been telling you all year we play a lot of kids the whole year and they are just getting better and better each day," Napp said. "It helps that we have the numbers and they are able to go hard in practice in game like situations and push each other."
That growth continued with the loss to Troy.
"It's all about playing with the pressure," Napp said. "We got that tonight and we got that Friday night. Even though we lost I thought we grew because we got a chance to feel what it's like to play in championship games."
Griffin and Tristan James were two younger players that stepped up this game.
"We played as a team today, everyone played well," Rodenhizer said.
Rodenhizer led the Knights with 15 points and six boards while Huff netted 11 points and three assists. Griffin chipped in with nine points, Miller had eight, James scored five while Mosier had two.
Curt Moore led Athens with 18 points while Brandon Fauver added nine. Garrett Clark scored seven, Robert Fauver added six and Luke Wright scored five.
Both teams will have to transition quickly as district play has already start.
Napp believes this game will help them later this week when Towanda faces East Juniata.
"This was a lot like districts," Napp said. "In that there was no JV and it was a great atmosphere and there was a lot of pressure."
They also hope to keep the fans coming out.
"It's good to have the support from the student section," Rodenhizer remarked.