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Athens Season Recap< < Back to
- MVP- Griffin Lutz
The junior point guard is one of the most talented players in southeast Ohio. Lutz impacted the game more than anyone else on the floor, and served as Athens’ offensive catalyst all year long. He can drive the lane for a contested bucket, weave through defenders and hit a mid-range jumper, or dish the rock to an open teammate for a good look. The kid does it all.
Lutz provided Athens with two of its most memorable plays of the season, one a seldom seen feat around the area and the other perhaps the Bulldogs’ most important play of the year.
He can thank Bay Rogers for the first one. Rogers used a nice euro-step around a defender and attempted a reverse layup. It didn’t fall for Rogers, but when Lutz got up for a put-back dunk, it certainly did. The dunk only solidified Lutz’s ability to leave fans, opponents, and teammates alike wide eyed and murmuring with awe. It was an incredible dunk.
The other was one of the most exciting plays from Athens’ most exciting game. The Bulldogs topped conference champ Vinton County in MacArthur, and it was Lutz who shined brightest in the biggest moments. Not only did he put up a smooth double-double, but with 20 seconds left in regulation, Lutz pickpocketed the Vikings’ Tristan Bartoe and put the Bulldogs ahead with an easy bucket. This play defined Athens’ season not only because of its impact on the game, but because it would be Lutz’s last play of the year after he injured his foot on the way down. Despite the injury, boasting that play as his last of the season isn’t the worst way to go out.
Lutz’s impact could even be seen after the injury. Athens played with a lot less consistency after losing their biggest asset, and its offense slowed without someone who could bring the ball up with success. Luckily for the Bulldogs, Lutz will return to the starting lineup next year, and look for the All-Hero point guard to regain full form come the start of his senior campaign.
- Most Improved- Dalton Cozart
Dalton Cozart was one player coach Jeff Skinner turned to for production when Lutz went out. Though the sophomore could not match Lutz’s success at the point guard position, Cozart showed solid progression throughout the year.
No other Bulldog saw his role change as much as Cozart after Lutz’s injury. He went from the man posted up in the corner awaiting a kick out pass to the one administering those types of passes. He started as almost solely a shooter, and transitioned into the offensive leader. Cozart didn’t quite live up to the level of play of his predecessor at point guard, but he showed some promise as a scorer inside the 3-point line. Against Warren, he drove through three defenders for a nice lay in, something he certainly wouldn’t have done through the first half of the year.
Cozart will likely receive a bigger bulk of touches in the coming years. Lutz will return next season, but Cozart will remain one the Bulldogs look to for production after what they saw out of him in times of adversity. The All-Future team member will be able to take the reigns by his senior season, and the experience he gained bringing the ball up this year in replacement of Lutz will prove beneficial.
- Best Game- Athens vs. Vinton County
The undefeated Vikings had not been tested like the Bulldogs tested them, especially at home. The conference loss was the Vikings’ first of the season, and Athens gutted out a tough victory on the road without its star point guard.
Athens started off with the hot hand, hitting its first four threes in the first quarter and hopping out to a comfortable lead. Lutz and Zacciah Saltzman took control of the game early on, and finished with 27 and 24 points, respectively. The second quarter, however, belonged to Vinton County as they clawed their way back to capture the lead at the half. Jordan Albright and Naylan Yates began to heat up from beyond the arc, and Bartoe eased into the contest and led the Vikings’ offense for the remainder of the game.
Athens owned the first quarter and Vinton County owned the second, but the second half was back-and-forth all throughout. Although both teams traded leads, neither could distance itself enough to pull away. Vinton County held a lead with 20 seconds left in regulation until Lutz stripped Bartoe and put the Bulldogs ahead, and Bartoe took advantage of some free throws after being fouled on a drive to the lane.
So they headed to overtime.
Without Lutz in the lineup, the Bulldogs turned to a variety of playmakers. Saltzman hit key threes down the stretch and freshman Logan Maxfield stepped up when it mattered most. With under a minute to play, good ball movement found Maxfield on the baseline, and after a second of hesitation, he put up a jumper that fell to give Athens the lead. On the following possession, he drew a charge from Bartoe, and a technical on Bartoe put Maxfield at the line. He canned two free throws to give the Bulldogs a four-point victory.
- MVP- Alexis McCollum
Alexis McCollum essentially spent the past few years in the shadow of Dominique Doseck. She’s also spent the past few years as a TVC Ohio champion. This season was an entirely different story in both aspects as she was the leader of a Lady Bulldog team that compiled just five wins on the year. This season spelled trouble for the Lady Bulldogs from the start. The coach left, the best player left, and it left McCollum and her teammates in a tough spot. But she handled it extremely well. She may not have been the best playmaker on her team on any given night, but she was often the spark the Lady Bulldogs needed.
Athens needed McCollum to carry the bulk of the load every night. The last few years, she served as more of a role player, but was forced to transition into a significant playmaker in the team’s time of need. And more often than not, she delivered. McCollum was the key to the Lady Bulldogs’ four-game win streak in late January. She put up a career high 16 points in a game against Meigs and eight assists against River Valley. During the highest point in Athens’ season, she was the biggest reason for its success.
McCollum filled the role of a great leader on this team, always helping her younger teammates gather critical experience. Freshman Olive Harter played a key role on the team as well, and McCollum would let Harter play point against her in order to give the freshman reps. In her senior year, she served as a playmaker and leader for Athens, and put a lot of effort into helping the program reach the heights she’s seen in the past.
- Most Improved- Olive Harter
Though she didn’t play on the team last season, Olive Harter turned into a sound scoring option by the end of this season. The freshman was the only player on Athens to start on both the JV and Varsity teams, and along with practicing against McCollum, all those reps were critical in her development throughout the year.
The long ball became a weapon for Harter as the year progressed. During the Lady Bulldogs’ win streak, she provided some life into the offense by dialing it up from long range when necessary. Against Wellston, she gave the Lady Bulldogs the lead for the first time with a 3-pointer late in the first quarter, and they never looked back. She also served as a recipient of multiple McCollum assists in the game against River Valley.
As a freshman, she learned to adjust to the speed of the game and learned to play as a part of coach Paul McNeal’s system. The experience she gained throughout the year will pay dividends for the next three years. Harter will likely become a staple contributor to a team that needs some leadership.
- Best Game- Athens vs. Wellston
Athens’ games against Wellston were its best all year long, The Lady Golden Rockets were the only team Athens defeated twice this season. The games didn’t provide the excitement factor or go down to the wire, but they were the games the Lady Bulldogs played their best all year long.
The game at Wellston was the first game of the year where the Lady Bulldogs scored over 40 points. All season, coach McNeal preached the importance of being able to score 10 points per quarter, and his team finally reached that benchmark on the road at Wellston. The win was also the second of four wins in a row, and marked the only time all season the Lady Bulldogs beat an opponent by double digits.