Athens Lady Bulldogs: Dec. 13-20

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Following its first win of the season over Wellston on Dec. 10, the Athens Lady Bulldogs (1-7, 1-3) dropped two straight games in an action-packed week of TVC-Ohio play.

The Green and Gold began the week with a 49-33 loss to River Valley, a game much closer than what the final score indicated. After the Lady Raiders jumped out to an early 10-2 advantage, Athens battled back behind the play of senior guard Alexis McCollum. She filled the stat sheet, finishing with 16 points, six rebounds, five steals and three assists. Ultimately, the Lady Bulldogs came up short, in large part due to their cold shooting, finishing 21 percent from the field as a team.

“When you shoot as poorly as we do, you can only keep it close,” first year head coach Paul McNeal said. “You have to do other things to offset it, and we did not do that.”

The disastrous shooting has plagued Athens all season long, shooting 24 percent on the year. Those struggles continued on their trip to Pomeroy to face the Meigs Lady Marauders. After a sloppy 42-33 loss, McNeal admitted that it was the first time this season that his team regressed on the court. The Lady Bulldogs were unable to settle into their offense and as a result, they could not take care of the ball.

“They played very scrappy, aggressive defense, and we just were not ready for that,” McNeal said.

Despite the Lady Bulldogs’s current three game losing streak, McNeal pointed out the positives in his team’s play. He praised his bunch for their effort on the defensive end. They were able to execute the game plan and hold both River Valley and Meigs under 50 points. However, he knows that his team has a long way to go.

“We have to continue working on our shooting,” McNeal said. “We spent Friday’s entire practice on shooting form and technique to improve. We have to keep talking about the process and get better every single day.”

Athens did not waste any time thinking about the week’s losses. Immediately following Friday’s practice, McNeal and the team traveled to Jackson to scout the Ironladies, a non-conference opponent they will meet on Dec. 28. During the trip, the Lady Bulldogs made it a point to bond, hoping it will help their play on the court. McNeal constantly preaches that his group remains a cohesive unit as they move forward.

“Whether we are winning or not, we have to understand that it is about more than just basketball,” McNeal explained

Looking ahead to next week, the road does not get any easier for Athens. The Lady Bulldogs host Alexander on Dec. 21. The Lady Spartans currently sit at 6-1, near the top of the conference standings.

“We are about to run into a buzz saw in Alexander,” McNeal said. “So we are going to have to be ready to play come Monday night.”