Sayre tops Athens, 31-27, in defensive struggle

Sayre tops Athens, 31-27, in defensive struggle

By: Tim Birney | NTL Sports | January 11, 2019 | Photo courtesy Tim Birney

ATHENS - The game was in doubt until senior Stephanie Klovekorn sank a pair of free throws with 9.7 seconds remaining to seal Sayre's 31-27 win over Athens here Thursday night in NTL girls basketball action.

"It was a typical Sayre-Athens basketball game," said Sayre coach Eileen Sparduti. "I'm six years into this, and I can't think of one that wasn't like this.

"Both teams just bring a different level of energy to this game," she noted. "It never disappoints.

"When two teams come in and play that hard, the empath in me says 'it's too bad one of us has to lose,'" added Sparduti.

"We were in the game until the very end," said Athens coach Brian Miller.

"In four out of our five losses, we've been winning or down a point or two with a minute to go," added Miller. "We just need to find a way for players to make plays at the end of the game to win the game."

The game was a defensive struggle, with both teams suffering through long scoring droughts. Sayre made 31 percent (12 of 39) of its shots from the field, and committed 18 turnovers, while Athens also shot 31 percent (13 of 42) from the field, and turned the ball over 19 times.

"Athens' defense had a lot to do with our struggles," said Sparduti.

"The Athens defense is very good, and one of the things they do really well is packing it in, so you're not going to get to the rim very often," she said. "We had to be satisfied with with a different shot selection, and we didn't take advantage of those shots.

"(Athens) is just so quick to recover. If you try to play an inside-outside game, they're right there. They cover from the lane out to the arch quickly," added Sparduti. "The disruption that defense creates really had a lot do with it."

"I thought we played great defense," said Miller. "To me (Sayre) is the best team in the league.

"They have three really good scorers, and we did a pretty good job against them," he noted. "Stephanie (Klovekorn), Camry (Lane), and Emily Sutryk can really shoot the basketball, and score in a variety of ways.

"If you told me we were going to hold them to around 30 points, I would take that every single time because they can score," added Miller.

Klovekorn scored 20 seconds into the game to give Sayre a quick 2-0 lead, but the Lady Redskins wouldn't find the scoring column again for more than six minutes.

In the interim, junior Haley Barry scored to tie the game, and freshman Caydence Macik scored twice in the low post to give the Lady Wildcats a 6-2 lead with 3:29 remaining in the first quarter.

Junior Maddie Wilson scored on a putback on the offensive board to end Sayre's drought with 1:30 left in the first quarter to trim the deficit to 6-4.

With 37 seconds remaining in the first quarter, junior Emily Sutryk drained a 3-pointer from the top-of-the-key to give Sayre the lead at 7-6, and with 9 seconds remaining Sutryk scored in transition extend the lead to 9-6 at the end of the first eight minutes.

Neither team scored for more than four more minutes to start the second quarter, until Lane scored on a coast-to-coast run to make it 11-6 with 3:51 remaining in the half.

With 2:05 left in the half, sophomore Gabbi Randall found Klovekorn with a nice feed on a back-door cut to give the Lady Redskins a 13-6 lead.

With 1:42 remaining, senior Emma Adams scored for the Lady Wildcats' first points in 9 minutes and 47 seconds to trim the deficit to 13-8.

Just 14 seconds later, Macik converted an old-fashioned three-point play to close the gap to 13-11.

With 20 seconds remaining in the first half, sophomore Meghan Collins penetrated, and dished to Macik in the paint for a short jumper to tie the game at 13-13 at the half.

The Lady Redskins got off to a quick start in the second half with buckets by Klovekorn and senior Amber Merrill to take a 17-13 lead with 6:40 left in the third quarter.

Collins knocked down a 15-foot jumper a minute later, then fed sophomore Kayleigh Miller on a nice give-and-go with 3:10 remaining in the third quarter to tie the game at 17-17.

After a Klovekorn free throw, Athens took its first — and only — lead, at 19-18, since midway through the first quarter on a short baseline jumper by Adams, off a nice feed along the baseline from junior Avery Priester.

With 1:05 remaining in the third quarter, Klovekorn knocked down a short jumper to give Sayre the lead for good, at 20-19.

After a free throw by Sutryk, Lane knocked down a 3-pointer to make it 24-19 with 6:38 left in the game.

"That shot gave us a little bit of separation, and that's all you're going to get in a game like this," said Sparduti.

The teams exchange buckets over the next five-plus minutes until Adams banked home a jumper in the lane to close the gap to 28-25 with 1:29 remaining.

The Lady Wildcats then forced a turnover with the press, but turned the back over to Sayre in its half-court set.

After a Klovekorn free throw with 1:00 remaining, Sayre missed the front end of a one-and-one with 25 seconds left in the game to keep the score at 29-25.

Macik then cut the deficit to 29-27 with a putback on the offensive glass with 11.6 seconds remaining.

After a Sayre timeout, the Lady Redskins turned ball over on the baseline, giving the Lady Wildcats the ball under their own basket.

Athens failed to take advantage, however, turning the ball over on a five-second call.

Moments later, Klovekorn stepped to the line and sealed the win with a pair of free throws. Sayre had made just 3 of 11 free-throw attempts before Klovekorn's game-clinching shots.

"It was a big win for us in (District 4) power points, with Athens being a Class AAA team," said Sparduti.

"Also in terms of the league, we're staying right with Mansfield and they come to town Saturday," added Sparduti. "We're going out of the frying pan and into the fire Saturday."

"We played great in all facets of the game, except on the offensive end, where we've struggled this season against the elite teams," said Miller.

Klovekorn led Sayre with 12 points, four steals, three rebounds, and one blocked shot, while Lane had nine points, five rebounds, five steals, and one block, Sutryk added six points and two blocked shots, and Randall chipped in with five assists and four rebounds.

Macik led Athens with 11 points, seven rebounds, three steals, and two blocked shots, while Adams had six points, nine rebounds, and three steals, and Priester dished out five assists and grabbed three boards.

Barry had four points, three rebounds, and one blocked shot for the Wildcats, and Miller chipped in with four points.

Sayre, now 7-4, hosts North Penn-Mansfield Saturday afternoon in a key NTL Small School match-up, while Athens, now 5-5, will be on the road at division-leading Wellsboro.

Tim Birney Author Bio

Tim Birney

Tim Birney is the founder / owner of River Road Media Group. He was born and raised in the Valley, graduating from Waverly High School in 1984.

Birney earned an Associate's Degree in Journalism from SUNY Morrisville in 1986 and a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism / Public Relations from Utica College of Syracuse University in 1988. He began his newspaper career at The Daily Review in Towanda in 1989, before moving on to The Evening Times in 1995. He spent more than 10 years at the Times, the last four as Managing Editor.

River Road Media Group includes five sites in "The Sports Reports" family that cover 24 school districts in five counties: Valley Sports Report (launched Aug. 10, 2009), Tioga County (NY) Sports Report (Aug. 13, 2018), and Northern Tier Sports Report (Aug. 31, 2020); Northern Tier West Sports Report (March 15, 2021) Southern Tier Sports Report (Aug. 16, 2021).