Updated Fri, Feb 3, 2012 9:38 am
The Athens Lady Bulldogs basketball team (13-5; 7-1) was able to retain its share of the top spot in the TVC-Ohio race with their victory against cross-town rival Nelsonville-York (12-6; 3-5) by a final score of 59-45. However, the final difference of 14 points was not indicative of how close the tilt in Charles McAfee Gymnasium was, as the Lady Bulldogs were forced to hold off a valiant comeback effort by the Lady Buckeyes.
At the end of the first quarter in The Plains it seemed as though the Lady Bulldogs would continue to pull away from rival Nelsonville-York and cruise to their eighth consecutive win. Athens had opened up an eight-point lead and was scoring at will. The game of Lady Bulldogs’ guard Dominique Doseck was firing on all cylinders as the freshman coolly posted eight points in the first quarter. The defense of the Lady Bulldogs was strong as usual, limiting the Lady Buckeyes to a modest ten-point opening frame.
During the break, Nelsonville coach Amanda Dalton rallied her girls up and implored them to focus on pressuring Athens when the Lady Bulldogs has possession in an effort to generate turnovers. The strategy worked.
The Lady Buckeyes began to utilize a half-court press, man-to-man defense and received dramatically positive results almost immediately. The unrelenting in-your-face pressure that Nelsonville imposed on the Lady Bulldogs forced turnover after turnover. The Lady Buckeyes played as if they owned the basketball and they capitalized on Athens’ mistakes to swiftly eliminate their deficit.
Nelsonville-York doubled up the Lady Bulldogs on the scoreboard in the second quarter and trailed by just one point going into the halftime break.
With all the momentum on the side of the Lady Buckeyes, Nelsonville grabbed its first lead of the game early in the third quarter and kept the defensive pressure high.
Athens’ head coach Wayne Horsley was forced to call a timeout and adjust from a relaxed man defense to a full-court press in an effort to pressure the Lady Buckeyes they same way that his team was being pressured. The result was a thuggish melee filled with turnovers, fouls, and fast breaks. However, the strategy balanced the momentum on the court and led to a roughly even third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, the Lady Buckeyes felt the affects of their constant pressure. Nelsonville-York began to run out of gas while Athens began to surge. The Lady Bulldogs, stimulated by strong efforts from seniors Elena Lein and Gracie Staten, began to open up a gap on the scoreboard. Lein, Staten, and Doseck all were able to knock down enough free throws in the final minutes to put the game out of reach. The end result may have been anticlimactic, but it was relieving to a satisfied Coach Horsley.
“Nelsonville played a tremendous game tonight, they played with a lot of heart and a lot of effort. They really tested our character,” said Horsley, “It was gut-check time for us, but our girls reached down inside [of themselves] and dug out a little bit extra. We did what we needed to do tonight.”
Elena Lein was the anchor of the Lady Bulldogs’ gritty performance. The senior was a dominant force in the paint with 13 points, nine blocks and seven rebounds.
Doseck had a game-leading 19 points, including three baskets from downtown and Staten contributed an 11-point effort for the Lady Bulldogs.
Nelsonville-York’s leading scorer in the game was junior Shelby True, who contributed 11 points for the Lady Buckeyes. Sophomore Angela Meade was not far behind on the scoreboard with a ten-point evening.
Athens’ next matchup is next Monday night when the last-place Alexander Spartans travel to The Plains. Nelsonville will try to end their two-game skid in their next matchup when they host Vinton County on Monday. A win against the Lady Vikings will be a tall order for the Buckeyes as Vinton County is deadlocked with Athens for the top spot in the race for the TVC-Ohio championship.