Updated Fri, Feb 15, 2013 2:19 am
The No. 3 Lady Bulldogs picked up their 20th win of the season Saturday and their first playoff win in nine years, defeating No. 6 Sheridan, 55-38. The 2012-13 Athens Girls Basketball squad can add sectional tournament champions to its already impressive resume.
“It’s been a long time coming for us,” Athens coach Wayne Horsley said. “We’ve had a couple close losses (in the sectional playoffs) the last couple years, and getting over that hump feels really nice.”
Though the game started at a frenetic pace, both teams struggled offensively early on. Athens shot just 33 percent from the field in the opening period while Sheridan turned the ball over six times.
“I really thought we grinded it out,” Horsley said of his team’s slow start. “Once we got over that initial hump, our defense was stellar and really carried a stagnant offense.”
Athens took control of the game late in the second quarter, thanks in large part to Emma Stanley.
Just inside the 2:00 mark in the quarter, the 6-foot-1 senior received a pass in the post and attracted a swarm of defenders. She kicked out to Olivia Harris for a 3-point shot to put Athens up 7.
Stanley then turned around on defense with an emphatic block that went straight into the hands of Dominique Doseck. On the ensuing offensive possession, the senior again got the ball in the paint and kicked out to a wide-open Elyse Lutz for 3.
She followed on defense with her third blocked shot of the half.
That stretch led to a standing ovation for the Lady Bulldogs’ defensive anchor as she took a seat on the bench for the remainder of the half. Athens closed the half on an 8-0 run in the final two minutes and outscored the Lady Generals 17-6 in the quarter to take a 28-16 lead into halftime.
“To start off I hadn’t been doing so hot,” Stanley said. “I knew I had to step up because we wanted to win this game, and I’m a senior so I have to show that leadership.”
Doseck led Athens with 18 points on just 30 percent shooting, but she also corralled 10 rebounds and seven steals. Stanley scored just 3 points but contributed four steals, four blocks and four assists with nine rebounds. Elyse Lutz and Olivia Harris combined for 25 points.
Senior Autumn Hall led Sheridan with 11 points while junior Taylor Gittings had 9 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
“It’s nice to finally come out there and win,” Stanley said of her first tournament win in four years playing for Athens High School. “Now we just want to keep going, keep winning.”
Athens returns to the court Feb. 23 at Southeastern High School for a district semi-final matchup with the winner of a Saturday game between No. 2 Unioto (14-6) and. No. 7 McClain (9-11). With a win, the Lady Bulldogs will advance to the district final in the Convocation Center on Feb. 26.