Hardwood Heroes

Our Zachary Knight breaks down the matchup between the Athens Lady Bulldogs and the Jackson Ironladies on February 16th, 2023.

Athens Lady Bulldogs cut the nets in Jackson after Sectional Final win

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) – Taking home the sectional championship title, the Athens Lady Bulldogs (15-8, 10-2) hit the road to take on the Jackson Ironladies (14-8, 9-0).  

Sometimes, the underdogs do pull it off. 

The Lady Bulldogs were seeded eleventh in the bracket and the Ironladies at sixth. Jackson came into the game with an undefeated Frontier Athletic Conference (FAC) title to their name, but the Bulldogs brought a bite bigger than their bark. The Bulldogs finished second in the Tri-Valley Conference (TVC) Ohio division this season.  

 Their goal next year? Come back and win it.  

 “Next year we’re winning the TVC,” head coach Phil Koska said. “We left one little plaque off of our board this year and that’s been a bit of salt to the wound. We’re not going to forget about it.” 

After a strong first-quarter performance, the Lady Bulldogs were up 11-9 going into the second quarter. Optimizing a man-to-man defense to induce turnovers, the team managed to keep their hard-fought lead and would go into the locker room 20-17.  

Needing to stay focused, Athens came into the second half with a plan of attack, both individually and as an offensive unit. Freshman forward Quinn Banks went 5/11 on the night making 4/8 from the three-point line.  

In the third quarter, both teams scored into the double digits. Despite the tight score, the Lady Bulldogs would maintain their lead for the entirety of the game, besting the Ironladies. 

Senior center Emily Zuber served as a defensive leader to keep Jackson on lockdown. Zuber claimed nine points of her own, snagged 10 boards and two steals. Late in the third, Zuber fouled out of the game and took to the bench.  

Zuber is one of two seniors on the team and the only returner. Koska said the game was special for her.  

“I really focused on letting Emily have this moment and be the team leader,” Koska said. “She handled it really well, especially when she fouled out of the game way too early. I was pleased with the way she played.” 

In the final stretch, the score was neck-and-neck. Athens would lead the fourth 37-31 but knew they needed to stay hot on the court. 

With the game hanging in the balance, the Lady Bulldogs etched their name into the record books by capitalizing on their time at the charity stripe. The squad was 83% from the free-throw line to finish the night with a final score of 52-43.  

After shaking hands, the Lady Bulldogs climbed the ladder to cut down the net for their sectional championship victory.  

Zuber was left with few words. 

“This is one of the best feelings I’ve ever felt,” she said. 

Koska and company warmed the buses to bring home the first sectional championship win in eight years back to The Plains. Koska told his championship team that this win will go down in history. 

With their postseason push in full force, the Lady Bulldogs will travel an hour west to take on the third-seeded Sheridan Generals (20-2, 15-1) at the neutral site of Piketon High School for the district championship. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. on Feb. 20.