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There were high hopes for the North Rome boys’ basketball team this year.

Unfortunately, Covid spoiled those hopes.

The NYPENN canceled their regular season, and coach Dave Jennings wanted to make sure some of his players got a chance to play.

As a non-PIAA school, and with many of them being home-school students, North Rome players were able to move on to public schools where they live.

Four players ended up at Northeast Bradford, and the timing was perfect as the Panthers numbers were pretty low before their arrival.

One of the four additions for the Panthers was senior Nick Beers.

The 6-foot, 4-inch senior has established himself as one of the best players in the league this year, and on Monday he had a 19 points, 21 rebound game in a win over Towanda.

“Nick Beers is an outstanding young man who has a passion for basketball and is a hard worker,” NEB coach Paul Burgert said. “He’s fit in with the guys very well personally, and we’re working everyday to better our on court chemistry. Nick is obviously a talented scorer, but I challenged him to go out and try to dominate the game in other ways, such as defense and rebounding, and he’s taken on that challenge. I think you saw that the other night with the 21 rebounds. More than anything, he wants to win, and as a coach you have to love that.”

While Beers is the one making the headlines, the other three players are all helping out as well.

Three other players, freshmen Andrew Beers and Josh Stanton and sophomore Joe Stanton, also all joined Northeast Bradford.

The addition of the other three players added a lot of depth to the Panthers lineup, and it’s allowed them to play JV games this year, something they weren’t sure they would be able to do.

“We were able to pick up three younger players from NRCS, and that has been huge for us,” Burgert said. “Without them, we were most likely going to have to cancel all, or many JV games. Now, our younger guys are getting invaluable court time this season. Having to cancel JV games would have been a big detriment to our program, so we’re very thankful things worked out the way they did.”

All four of the newcomers at NEB have a family connection.

Andrew and Nick are brothers. Josh and Joe’s older brother Nick Stanton, himself a 1,000 point scorer at North Rome, is married to Lauren Beers, Nick’s older sister, a former All-American gymnast at Albama.

For Jennings there may not be game days to coach the boys right now. But, he is enjoying watching their success.

“Although I had little to do with how talented Nick is, I am sitting back like a proud peacock seeing the success he is having,” Jennings said. “I knew he would be successful if given the chance. He gives 100% all the time and that is all you can ask from a player. I love seeing him help out his new team at NEB.

“On our team at NRCS he was the tallest and would get lots of attention on defense, where at NEB they have some kids with height that matches him, so Nick may blend in a bit more.”

Nick is one of five Beers boys, his sister Rachel also played at North Rome, who played basketball, and Jennings always knew he was special.

“I coached all five of the Beers brothers (even though Andrew was only in ninth grade this year) and loved them all. Every one of them were talented, but there was a drive I saw in Nick early on that I knew he was going to try and be the best at basketball. he is now hoping to leave a legacy, among new teammates, but the younger squad that followed him to NEB from North Rome have been watching him for a while.

“I am sure with these two families playing on a new court, they still are playing for the same goal; play for God’s glory and give 100% and you will be successful no matter what the score is when the buzzer sounds.”

EMERGING SUPERSTAR

At 6-foot tall and capable of playing anywhere on the court, there were high expectations for Paige Manchester last year.

As a freshman at Towanda the basketball standout helped her team to a league title and showed flashes of the brilliance she was capable of.

This year, she is playing like an unstoppable force for the Black Knights.

Through four games Manchester had 66 points, 22 rebounds, 22 assists and 18 steals for Towanda. She showed Saturday what she could do against perennial D4 powers as she had 20 points, five boards, four assists, three steals and two blocked shots against Montoursville in a victory.

“I think there are two main keys to Paige’s success,” Towanda coach Rob Gentile said. “First, Paige and her parents committed a long time ago to become the best possible player she can be. She travels all over the East Coast and Mid-West and plays with and against some of the top talent around, along with getting elite coaching with the BNY Select and Elmira Fusion programs from Early March through September. Basketball is just a way of life and her and her family, and I know how grateful she is for her parent’s support because not everyone gets those opportunites.

“Her versatility we get to see as a player is a result of all of these opportunities combined. She plays just about every position on the floor (1-5) in these AAU programs, and on her high school team she gets to blend them all together to make her a threat wherever she is on the floor. She has tremendous skills, can score at all three levels, superior basketball instincts, and an unmatched work ethic. All keys for success in this sport, or any sport, and it certainly doesn’t hurt to have the size and athleticism she has to go with it.”

While her own work has been a big key to her success, Gentile knows the players around her at Towanda are why this year has been so special.

“The second factor, and probably the key factor for her great start, is that Paige gets to play with some extremely talented teammates on her high school team as well,” Gentile said. “She would be the first to tell you how important they are to her success. When you have athletes like Porschia Bennett running the floor and finishing plays and really good shooters like Amanda Horton and the Hurley sisters, along with good post players like Erin Barrett and Gracie Schoonover that can catch difficult passes and finish plays inside, all that has a tendency to make you look better.

“Right now, things are just clicking for her. She has been extremely efficient in her play. Everyone gets caught up in the overall numbers and rightfully so. She is a stat stuffer, but the two numbers that are most impressive to me are her assist to turnover ratio (3:1) and her field goal shooting % (over 52% overall and 33% from 3). She has 22 assists and only 7 turnovers in 4 games. I would have to say that’s not too shabby for a stretch 4 that’s been converted to a point guard.”

A year ago Manchester was the youngster on the team. This year, she is taking on a bigger role in helping to lead the Black Knights.

“She has also taken on much more of a leadership role on this team and she knows taht she is the straw that stirs the drink, so to speak,” Gentile said. “Her main focus every trip down the floor is to get the ball to her teammates in positions they can be successful and ultimately make everyone around her better. She is locked into being the best she can be each and every night and wants to be great at this, but she also knows she still has a ton of room for growth and that’s what makes her special.”

COMEBACK CATS

Twice in the past week it looked like the Athens Wildcats would lose games on their home floor.

And, twice, the Wildcats came roaring back in the second half.

A 16-point comeback against Wellsboro was the first, but Friday may have been the most dramatic.

Athens edged Wyalusing on Friday 52-51 as a last-second shot for Wyalusing looked like it would go in, hanging on the rim, before falling off.

It was a game Athens trailed by seven after one quarter and nine at the half, before mounting a big comeback in the fourth quarter.

The biggest thing for Athens is the balance they have shown in the stretch.

Every night it seems to be a different leader for the Wildcats, as just in the past week four different players have led them in scoring in a game.

Against Wellsboro the Wildcats got two big threes in the final minute by sophomore Mason Lister, including the game winner with five seconds to go in the game.

In a win over Northeast Bradford junior Tucker Brown came off the bench with a game-high 18 points to help the Wildcats pick up the win.

Junior Shayne Reid had his best game of the season on Wednesday night against NP-Mansfield, scoring eight points in 50 seconds, leading to an 18-point game.

Junior J.J. Babcock has averaged over 18-points a game in the past five games, and scored 11 of his game-high 21 points in the fourth quarter on Friday to help the Wildcats to their second fourth-quarter comeback of the week.

Athens is now 6-2 on the year as they head into this week.

YOUNG HORNETS

After leading scorer Joe Grab left the area for prep school, the Hornets became much younger this year.

That youth is starting to grow up really quick on the court as the team with no senior starters are off to a 2-1 start.

Darryn Callahan, Liam Manning and Peyton McClure have all scored in double figures every game this year for the Hornets.

Callahan had 19 points and 11 boards against Canton and 14 points, four boards and six steals against Williamson.

McClure had 21 points in the win over Canton and in the opener Manning and Isaac Keane each had double-doubles in points and rebounds, while Conner Adams had seven assists in the game.

Four of the five starters scored in double figures in that opener against Athens, with all of them being underclassmen.

TEAMS OF THE WEEK

The Towanda girls and Troy boys both had high expectations entering the season.

Both teams have met the expectations at this point in the season.

Both teams lead the NTL Division I standings, and both are undefeated in league play.

And, both teams already have a key league win.

The Troy boys beat Athens, one of the biggest threats in the Division I standings, and a team that defeated Troy in the NTL Showdown a year ago.

The Towanda girls beat Northeast Bradford, a team that won the Division II NTL title while Towanda won Division I last year.

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

GIRLS:Maisie Neuber has established herself as a force for Northeast Bradford to start this season.

You won’t find many more improved players, as Neuber has come out this year and is averaging nearly 20 a contest, while shooting nearly 80% from the free throw line.

It isn’t just the offense this year as Neuber has 39 rebounds in five games, and she also has six assists, 13 steals and 13 blocked shots this year, leading the league in block shots.

BOYS: Ty Barrett is showing why he is such a dominant force.

The Troy junior leads the region at 23.5 points a game through four games this year.

In four games the Troy star had 10 three-pointers and he is shooting 80% from the free throw line.

All of that came before his biggest performance of the young season as Barrett hit for 35 points with four threes in a game against 6A power Williamsport on Saturday.

MATCHUP TO WATCH

On Saturday, Jan. 30, the Wyalusing Rams travel to Troy.

Where we are record wise in a week remains to be seen.

But, at this moment Troy leads the NTL Division I standings, while Wyalusing is tied atop the Division II standings.

Last year both teams were in Division I and they were two of the teams in the hunt all season long.

This year Ty Barrett is off to his usual dominant start for Troy, leading the region in scoring at more than 20 points a contest. But, Barrett has plenty of help.

Mason Imbt has been a force inside, and Jake Deitrick and Morgan Madigan, among others, have added depth in the front court.

Nick Williams and Ethan VanNoy have had big moments on the perimeter, hurting teams that try and key on Barrett.

For Wyalusing, a year ago Isaiah Way wasn’t on the team, now he is back and putting up a lot of points, leading the Rams in scoring.

Way is hardly alone as Grayden Cobb is having another big year, picking up where he left off in his first year as a starter last year, and the Rams have shown great depth this year with Abram Bennett, Kashawn Cameron, Mitchell Burke, Blake Morningstar and Hunter Moss among others making the bench a lot deeper than it was at times a year ago.

COLLEGE TRACKER

Wyalusing grad Trevor Woodruff and the Bucknell women’s basketball team are off to another dominant start.

A year ago they won the Patriot League Regular Season title and were well on their way to winning the conference tourney and making the NCAA Tournament when things shut down.

While they lost a pair of games against Navy so far that got postponed, the team entered Saturday with six games played this year, and they have won them all.

Not only is Bucknell unbeaten, they have dominated, they have won every game by eight or more points, and only one time this year have they been within 14 points in a game.

Woodruff is in his second season as head coach, and was Patriot League Coach of the Year a season ago.

Former Troy star Morgan Gentile, who finished her career at Elmira and is the daughter of Towanda girls’ basketball coach Rob Gentile, is playing for Division I St. Bonaventure.

The freshman has appeared in two of the teams eight games, playing three minutes.

Former Notre Dame standout Mary Foster transferred from Division I New Hampshire to Division II Daemen College this year.

Foster played in Daemen’s first, and only game thus far this season, scoring two points with two rebounds in eight minutes.