Preview: Athens Looking To Stay Atop TVC-Ohio

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Athens Bulldogs Boys Basketball

Ibi Watson won’t be donning an Athens jersey this year, but the Bulldogs return many players that will have them atop the TVC-Ohio.

Coach Jeff Skinner returns a group of seniors that went 18-4 last year, but only went to the district quarterfinals before falling to Warren, 81-64.

But among the group returning for his team is Joe Burrow, who plays quarterback for the Athens squad that won their region and advanced to the state semifinals.

Because of his college football ambitions, there was question to whether Burrow would skip the basketball season, but Skinner quickly silenced those rumors.

“Joe Burrow is playing,” Skinner said. “I think a lot of people were hoping he’s not, but he is.”

Along with Burrow, Skinner returns a group of seniors that have put together impressive seasons in football and basketball, especially, the Leuhrman twins.

Ryan Luehrman and Adam Luehrman are back to lead the Bulldogs’ frontcourt, and their experience will be crucial for Skinner this year.

“Everything they (the seniors) do, they win at,” Skinner said. “You know, we worked really hard in the offseason, and they love the identity of teamwork and togetherness.”

The loss of Ibi Watson will be hard to overcome, as the junior transferred to Pickerington Central, but with Zacchia Saltzman and Griffin Lutz returning, Athens has plenty of weapons at the guard position.

“I think Griffin Lutz will have a huge year. And he’ll be our point guard, our sophomore point guard,” Skinner said. “And again, you know, our guys know that it’s a collaborative effort.”

Lutz became one of Athens’ many threats off the bench throughout his freshman year, and Skinner expects his sophomore point guard to step right in for Watson.

“(Lutz) has gotten a lot better,” Skinner said. “He plays a lot. He plays a lot in the offseason. And he plays a lot of high level AAU stuff. He knows what it’s like to compete. He’s worked to improve his body, and I think that people are going to be in for a treat watching Griffin Lutz play this year.”

Athens’ nonconference schedule includes home games against Bishop Watterson and St. Vincent-St. Mary, two teams that made it to the Division II final four last year. The Bulldogs lost to the Irish by 10 in their matchup last year in Akron, Ohio.

Their season starts on December 12 with a home conference game against Meigs. The late start to the season gives the Bulldogs’ time to recover after the football team’s long run in the state playoffs.

“We’ll come in beat up, bruised, tired,” Skinner said. “So it’s very difficult, but it’s something that we’ve grown accustomed to and you know, I think our guys, being the mature group and being so close and having such lofty goals, I think that’ll overcome any obstacles that we have of the late start.”


Athens Bulldogs Girls Basketball

The face of the Athens girls squad for the past couple years has been Dominique Doseck. And for one final year, she’s back, looking to lead the Bulldogs to their second straight district championship.

But it’ll be tougher for the Bulldogs to advance as far as they did last year without the leaders they lost in the 2014 class.

Hannah DeBruin, Mikala Perry, and Elyse Lutz have graduated, and with them gone, Athens will be looking for Doseck to contribute immediately and for other players to step up.

“Every new season brings about new challenges, new dynamics,” Athens coach Wayne Horsley said. “Obviously we lost three really good seniors that provided a lot to the team, not just on the floor but off of it. And we’ve got to bring along some younger kids that haven’t been a part of that varsity level yet.

“So the biggest thing, the biggest challenge we’ll have, is getting together, learning how to play as one unit, and getting that comradery where everybody knows where everybody’s at. “

The biggest loss for Athens is DeBruin, who provided a lot on both ends of the court.

“We’re not going to replace the type of player Hannah was. She was such a high motor kid,” Horsley said. “She was extremely tough physically, and really just did all the dirty work that we needed done.”

When it comes to replacing the senior class, Athens will be looking more toward Doseck, but Horsley said he expects Sophie Miller, Queena Prince, and DeBruin’s younger sister, Claire, to step in and fill the void the seniors left.

As Horsley looks for others to step up, there’s zero doubt that this is Doseck’s team for her senior year. The guard led the Bulldogs to a 25-2 record last year and is among the top players in the TVC-Ohio.

“Dom is Dom. She’s going to give us tremendous effort every night,” Horsley said. “She’s going to give us outstanding ball handling. There’s just certain things that you know you’re going to expect from her, but it’s just part of who she is.”

After last season, the Bulldogs have set high expectations for this year, but Horsley is not putting any expectations on Doseck or his Athens team. Athens starts the season with three straight road games, and their nonconference schedule includes several teams they will face in the district tournament.

“We’ve made good runs the last couple years and you know, to be real honest with you, we just talk about it one game at a time,” Horsley said. “We don’t talk about any season goals: we’re gonna win this; we’re gonna win that; we’re gonna win that many records.

“We look at and truly try to achieve to become a better ball club every night that we go out there on the floor for practice or games. And that’s really how we measure ourselves. We’ve got to compete against ourselves as much as we do our opponent.”