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Athens vs. Alexander AD 20200124
Athens players cheer for their teammates during the Athens vs. Alexander game on January 24, 2020. The Athens Bulldogs won 61-57. (Abigail Dean | WOUB)

Bulldogs Knock off New Lexington for Second Straight Sectional Title

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For Cinderella, the clock always strikes midnight and ends the dance. Fresh off their victory over the third seeded Sheridan Generals, the 14-seed New Lexington was looking to pull off yet another upset, this time against the six-seed Athens.

The Bulldogs crashed New Lex’s party, playing with their usual up tempo pace and knocking down key shots down the stretch. Athens pulled out a 61-50 victory earning the right to cut the nets down as sectional champs for a second straight year, and a third time in the last four years.

With the win, the Bulldogs have earned a trip to the Convocation Center on the campus of Ohio University, right in their own backyard in Athens.

After Athens knocked down a technical free throw before the tip, New Lex applied pressure early and Athens struggled to get in a rhythm on offense with a couple of errant passes leading to turnovers. The Panthers jumped out to a 6-2 lead but that would be the only lead they held throughout the contest. Athens answered with an 8-2 run to close out the first quarter on top 10-8.

The perimeter shooting came alive for Athens in the second quarter as Brayden Whiting knocked down a pair of three’s. Nate Trainer and Will Matters also got in on the action, each of them hitting a triple of their own. The team finished shooting 9-15 from deep, good for an impressive 60%. The Bulldogs took a 27-20 lead into the half.

Athens was up as much as 13 in the third quarter and it looked like they would coast to another playoff victory.

The Panthers had other plans in mind as they were able to cut the Athens lead back down to five, scoring many fast break points off Bulldog turnovers, and it looked like momentum had shifted.

Head Coach Mickey Cozart at that point took a timeout to help his team settle down.

“The message was stop turning the ball over,” Cozart said after the game. “We play at such a pace that sometimes it’s hard to understand what’s a good shot. Sometimes we need to slow down a possession and make seven or eight passes before taking a shot. So, I was trying to slow them down with the timeout.”

The timeout worked as Athens would never squander their lead and closed out the victory at the foul line for the victory.

Cozart commented about the recent success that his program has had after cutting down the nylon.

“We have a great program,” Cozart said. “Our guys believe and they come out and work hard and they have fun doing it.”

Athens will have a short bus ride when they suit up in the Convo on Feb. 29 at 8:45 p.m. They will take on the winner of the Jackson and Logan Elm matchup that takes place Saturday at three in Chillicothe.