WAVERLY GRABS LEAD EARLY IN 54-42 WIN OVER ATHENS IN VALLEY CHRISTMAS TOURNAMENT TITLE GAME
By: Tim Birney | Waverly Athletics | December 30, 2022
WAVERLY — Waverly jumped out early, and then did a good job keeping
Athens at arm’s length much of the game en route to a 54-42 win to claim
the boys’ Valley Christmas Tournament title Thursday night.
“We knew we had to make it an up-tempo pace game, we had to make it a full-court game,” said Waverly coach Lou Judson. “We couldn’t go and play a half-court game, because with their length that was to their advantage.
“In postseason and championship games our motto is good defense, and we held a very good basketball team to 42 points,” noted Judson.
“We didn’t play our best, and neither did they, but I would like to think that had to do a lot with our defense,” he added.
It was an offensive struggle at times, for both teams, especially in the first half for Athens, who missed quite a few point blank lay-ups, but also couldn’t seem to break Waverly’s half-court defense.
Both teams went scoreless for four minutes in the first quarter, and even had some dry spells in the second half.
“Let me just say congratulations to coach Judson and the Waverly Wolverines,” said Wildcat coach Jim Lister. “They played hard tonight, I’m taking nothing away from them.
“Defensively, we played very well, I thought, all game long, and we didn’t quit in the fourth quarter, which was great,” noted Judson. “I’m happy that we showed some heart.
“Offensively, we were just terrible tonight. We just missed lay-up after lay-up, and you can’t do that against good teams — you just can’t,” added Lister. “And that’s what got us tonight.”
Joey Tomasso led Waverly with 21 points, seven boards, and three assists — scoring his team’s first seven points of the game.
“I was trying to spread the ball as much as I can,” said Tomasso. “And, really in the second half, I realized how open everybody was, and I needed to start pushing the ball. So, we started doing that, and a bunch of guys started making a ton of shots.”
“Joey (Tomasso) really got us going in the first quarter,” said Judson. “He was huge early on.”
Athens held Waverly to just three 3-pointers on the day, but two of them came at big moments in the fourth quarter — daggers that broke up Wildcat rallies.
Isaiah Bretz added 14 points, including a 10-for-12 performance from the line, to go with six boards, as Jay Pipher finished with eight points — including two 3-balls — plus three steals.
Jacob Benjamin had four points, and five boards, while Nate Delill added three points and four rebounds, and Jake VanHouten had two points and seven boards. Hogan Shaw chipped in with two points.
“Our offense struggled at times, but guys stepped up in the moment,” said Judson. “Isaiah Bretz was huge, making free throws, and Nate Delill’s three in the corner (in the fourth quarter) was huge.”
Mason Lister led Athens with 15 points and eight rebounds, as he battled not only the Waverly defense but also the flu.
“I’m going to give a shout out to my kid, here, which I don’t normally do, but he had the flu bug,” said coach Lister. “He’s had the flu bug all week, and he was sick, and he just could not get his rhythm tonight. He gutted it out, and I’m proud of him.”
Xavier Watson added 10 points and seven boards, while Chris Mitchell had five points, Korey Miller also scored five points, to go with two steals and three assists, and Lucas Kraft added three points.
Lucas Horton and Kolsen Keathley had two points each, with Keathley grabbing five boards.
After Tomasso got his team out to a 7-0 start, Athens would get seven straight points of their own off a put back, a lay-up, and a Watson 3-ball to make it 7-7. Pipher then hit a 3-pointer late in the first to give Waverly a 10-7 lead.
That sparked a 6-0 Waverly run to start the second quarter, putting them up 16-7 a minute-and-a-half into the frame.
A Lister driving lay-up ended that spurt, but Tomasso came back with a bucket of his own. The two teams would trade baskets, until Waverly went 2-for-4 from the line midway through the quarter to up its lead to double-digits, at 22-11.
A pair of Mitchell freebies cut it to a 9-point deficit, but a Shaw bucket made it 24-13. Two more Athens free throws got it to 24-15, but a pair of Bretz freebies, followed by a Benjamin putback saw Waverly take their biggest lead of the game — 13 points, at 28-15.
At the buzzer, though, Kraft’s 30-footer banked in, giving Athens a much-needed jolt as it cut the deficit to 28-18.
Watson scored off a Miller pass to start the second half, but Waverly got four straight points from Tomasso to take a 32-22 lead.
The Wildcats responded with a 3-0 spurt during a three minute dry spell for the Wolverines, cutting it to 32-25.
However, Tomasso’s answered with back-to-back jumpers to put Waverly back up by double-digits. A Miller 3-ball to end the quarter saw the Wildcats cut it to 36-28.
The two teams would trade lay-ups to start the fourth, but in the span of a minute Waverly scored seven straight, punctuated by Delill’s 3-ball, to take a 45-32 lead.
Another Pipher 3-pointer saw the Wolverines take a 16-point lead with 5:40 left to play. Athens would whittle it down to 48-37 with 3:43 left, but never got any closer than that.
“They’re a good basketball team, we knew that they were going to have runs, so we just tried to stay connected,” said Tomasso. “I think that led us past those big runs.”
This has been a good two games for the Wolverines as they look towards their IAC schedule at the start of January.
“I know one thing, we’re tough,” said Judson. “We’re resilient. We were hard-nosed, played defense, we rebounded very well for as small as we can be at times, and that’s going to win basketball games.
“We need to get a little bit more poised under pressure,” he noted. “We need to be able to run a half-court offense when it demands it, but we’re going to enjoy this for sure.”
As for Athens, they have a week off before they travel to Troy next Friday for a match-up with the NTL Large School defending champions.
“That’s not going to be an easy game,” said Lister. “So we’ve got to get ready for that. So, the good news is we get a week, and we’ll be ready to go next Friday.”
About the Author
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).