The Port Allegany boys basketball team picked up its first North Tier League win of the season at Austin on Dec. 16, then dropped close games to Kane and Otto-Eldred later in the week to round out the 2019 section of the schedule.

“Great effort from everyone tonight,” Gator coach Kyle Babcock wrote via text message following his squad’s nip-and-tuck 42-36 win over the Panthers. “Carter Moses, Ty Guilds and AJ Edgell did a great job crashing the offensive boards.”

Backcourt mates Howie Stuckey and Jordan Card each scored 12 points and Edgell finished with seven, while Jackson Glover (13), Skylar Crawford (11) and Parker Glover (10) led the Austin effort.

At Kane, the Wolves crafted a 30-16 halftime lead, celebrated Chad Greville’s 1,000th point early in the third quarter, then held the Gators off down the stretch to secure the 63-55 non-league win.

Grevile led Kane with 17 points, with Zuke Smith (16) and Carson Whiteman (11) also hitting double digits, while Stuckey, Card (17 each) and Ty Guilds (13) paced the Gators.

“Slow start again,” Babcock wrote. “We were down by almost 20 at one point. Battled hard. Cut it down to four or five, but just couldn’t close the gap any further.”

Against Otto-Eldred on Thursday, three consecutive Port turnovers led to an early 8-2 O-E lead and a quick time out by Babcock. The Gators settled in after that and chipped away at the margin, closing within 16-14 by the end of the first quarter and taking a 19-18 lead early in the second on a bucket from Ty Guilds.

From there, though, the Terrors went on another run, leading by double digits at one point before taking a 32-24 cushion into the break.

“I thought the first quarter was the best first quarter we’ve had this season. Usually we’re chasing eight, 10, 15,” Babcock said. “We came out and played great. Down the road, mental mistakes. Tough shots, shots that we shouldn’t be taking. Instead of working our offense and getting a good shot, a couple of times we just forced it. It’s just frustrating. We were in the game, we took the lead for a minute or two, and then just mental breakdowns.”

The third quarter belonged to the Gators, who held the visitors to a single basket while knotting the game at 34-all on a pair of deep three-pointers by Stuckey.

“Our defense was much better. We started working the ball, and when we worked the ball, we got open shots,” Babcock said.

The score seesawed through the first few minutes of the final frame, with the Gators taking their final lead at 41-40 on a Card trifecta and tying it at 43-43 on a pair of free throws by Dominic Guerrero. O-E scored the next six points to take control, though, then went 5-for-7 from the line in the final minute to hold on for the hard-earned 57-51 win.

“I think we turned it over three times right in a row. They didn’t switch defenses, it was just mental breakdowns. I think we get excited and get in a hurry and just try to rush things,” Babcock said. “I told the guys, ‘You’ve got to learn how to win the close games.’ Last night at Kane and tonight, we were right there with ‘em. We’ve just got to quit panicking and just run our offense down the stretch instead of forcing bad shots. Run our offense, don’t panic, and I think we win this game.”

Braden Maholic (15 points) and Jake Merry (13) each hit a trio of 3’s among several key shots, and Cole Sebastian (13) also hit double figures on a balanced O-E scoresheet. Stuckey led the Gators with 20, Card chipped in with 16, and Guilds added 10.

Port (2-5, 1-3 NTL) is off until the first of the year, when they travel to Smethport on Jan. 2.

At Austin, Dec. 16:

Port Allegany (42)

Card 5 2-4 12, Stuckey 5 2-2 12, Guerrero 1 0-0 3, C. Moses 3 0-2 6, Guilds 0 0-0 0, Archer 1 0-0 2, B. Moses 0 0-0 0, Amell 0 0-0 0, Edgell 3 1-1 7. Totals: 18 5-9 42.

Austin (36)

Ja. Glover 5 1-2 13, P. Glover 4 1-2 10, Jo. Glover 1 0-0 2, Crawford 4 2-6 11, Rees 0 0-0 0 Shupe 0 0-0 0, Nicka 0 0-0 0. Totals: 14 4-10 36.

Port A 9 19 28 42

Austin 10 17 27 36

3s: Port 1 (Guerrero), Austin 4 (Ja. Glover 2, P. Glover, Crawford). Fouls: Port 12, Austin 10. Fouled out: none.

At Kane, Dec. 18:

Port Allegany (55)

Card 7 2-2 17, Stuckey 5 3-3 17, Guerrero 1 0-0 2, C. Moses 2 0-0 4, Guilds 3 7-10 13, Archer 0 0-0 0, B. Moses 1 0-0 2, Amell 0 0-0 0, Edgell 0 0-0 0. Totals: 19 12-15 55.

Kane (63)

Greville 5 4-7 17, Whiteman 5 0-1 11, Holt 0 1-2 1, Zuzek 3 2-2 8, Z. Smith 5 6-6 16, B. Smith 0 0-0 0, Deluca 2 0-0 4, Bizzak 2 0-0 6, Jekielek 0 0-0 0. Totals: 22 13-18 63.

Port A 7 16 38 55

Kane 18 30 49 63

3s: Port 5 (Stuckey 4, Card), Kane 6 (Greville 3, Bizzak 2, Whiteman). Fouls: Port 14, Kane 12. Fouled out: none.

At Port Allegany, Dec. 19:

Otto-Eldred (57)

Maholic 6 0-0 15, Sebastian 5 2-6 13, Merry 3 4-4 13, Jimerson 2 3-4 8, VanScoter 4 0-0 8. Totals: 20 9-14 57.

Port Allegany (51)

Card 6 0-0 16, Stuckey 6 3-4 20, Guerrero 0 2-2 2, C. Moses 0 0-0 0, Guilds 3 4-5 10, Archer 0 0-0 0, B. Moses 0 0-0 0, Amell 0 0-0 0, Edgell 1 1-3 3. Totals: 16 10-14 51.

Otto-Eldred 16 32 34 57

Port Allegany 14 24 34 51

3s: O-E 8 (Merry 3, Maholic 3, Jimerson, Sebastian), Port 9 (Stuckey 5, Card 4). Fouls: O-E 16, Port 16. Fouled out: C. Moses (PA).