Updated Wed, Feb 19, 2014 3:15 am
The final score did not accurately represent the game, as the Athens Bulldogs survived a scare Tuesday night defeating the Marietta Tigers in the opening round of the sectional tournament 53-34.
The Bulldogs started sloppy in the first quarter, going 3 for 10 from the field, while Marietta failed to score at all until the one-minute mark.
The two physical teams struggled to get any offense going for the entire first half and went into the locker room with Athens holding a slim 17-12 lead.
“We weren’t able to extend our defense to get the flow going a little bit and out into transition,” Athens coach Jeff Skinner said.
Marietta returned to the court with renewed energy after the half and quickly cut the lead to three off of a bucket from Branden Riley. The Marietta big man scored a team-high nine points, all in the paint. At that moment, all the momentum in the gym shifted in favor of the Tigers.
Athens’ Ibi Watson then took it upon himself to respond. He scored nine of the Bulldogs’ 11 points in the third quarter, retaining their lead.
Entering the fourth, the atmosphere was tense, as the teams traded buckets in the opening minutes. Watson then took initiative again, leading the Bulldogs on a 5-0 run that extended their lead to 10, the largest of the game. From there, Athens junior Joe Burrow sealed the game’s fate by hitting two clutch 3-pointers.
“That’s what Joe Burrow does. He mans up when it’s tough,” Skinner said.
Watson and Burrow led the Bulldogs, scoring 24 and 15 respectively.
The Bulldogs advance to the sectional final game on Friday against Warren at Logan High School. A full house is expected for the rematch of last season’s regional semifinals. In that matchup, Athens suffered a heartbreaking overtime loss.