An old face was in Athens’ post-practice huddle Tuesday. It was Griffin Lutz, the Bulldogs’ 1,000 point scorer who graduated last year. 

He was helping out during the scrimmage ran during practice, because he can replicate what the Bulldogs are going to see in their sectional game Friday night against Vinton County at Logan High School.

The Bulldogs will have to face the Vikings’ Naylan Yates and Jake Speakman, but coach Mickey Cozart has a plan to stop them. And if Vinton County does win, it won’t be because of Yates and Speakman.

The Bulldogs will try to keep the two contained. They hope to keep a lot of pressure on Yates, who will shoot — and score — from anywhere if he has space. 

“We’re just trying to build off of what we did well at Vinton,” he said. “We’re trying to figure out a way to beat those guys.”

The two teams are obviously familiar with each other because both play in the Tri-Valley Conference Ohio. So twice a year, the two play. And in Athens’ case, where not many other teams run a zone like the Bulldogs do, not much other tape can be watched. 

And come playoff time, not much can be changed about the way the Bulldogs — or any team— play, for good or bad.

“We’re going to do what we do really well,” Cozart said. “We’re going to ride it. We’re on a nine-game winning streak for a reason.”

Athens has been working during the past month. The Bulldogs have won nine straight games, and a major key to the streak has been the defense.

The Bulldogs’ win over Vinton County on Jan. 23 was the second game in the streak. The defense was strong then, holding the Vikings’ to 36 percent shooting and creating 14 turnovers. 

Athens was able to do in that game what it wants to do on Friday: contain Yates and Speakman. In Yates’ case especially, if the Bulldogs know where he is on the court, more of the same can continue to happen.

The defense has continued to play well throughout the winning streak, with opposing teams averaging 19.2 turnovers a game. Whether it’s poking the ball out or jumping into passing lanes, the Bulldog defense has been all over the court, and it has helped them.

“That’s where we’ll win the game, if we win the game,” Cozart said. “Defensively.”


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