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Robert Winkelman (5) watches the ball sail out of bounds against Wellston High School on January 13th, 2016 STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER|MATT STARKEY

Athens Basketball: Bulldogs look to continue strong play against New Lexington Panthers

Athens faced a tough challenge in back-to-back games against Wellston and Fairland, splitting the weekend with a win and loss for the first time this season.

The latter came against the No. 39th team in the state, according to MaxPreps.

In fact, coach Mickey Cozart came away with more positives than negatives from the 81-77 overtime loss. 

“That was the best game we played all year,” Cozart said on Saturday. “I thought we were tough, I thought we weren’t scared of a high-ranked team. We left it all out there.”

The Bulldogs (7-3, 4-1 Tri-Valley Conference) will look to keep the momentum going when they hit the road Tuesday to face the New Lexington Panthers (6-6) in a non-conference game.

To beat New Lexington, Athens’ offensive attack, which is averaging 66 points per game, needs to play similarly to Saturday, because New Lexington features a tough defense that is averaging 51 points allowed per game, a number similar to Fairland’s defense that entered Saturday allowing just below 50 points per game.

Athens was able to penetrate Fairland’s defense by playing aggressive below the hoop offensively. Senior Griffin Lutz has been the team’s go-to drive player, but sophomore big-man Justin Hynes saw increased action Saturday night and delivered for 20 points, second on the team to Lutz’s 27 points that night. 

The Bulldogs will need Hynes to produce similar numbers to crack the Panthers defense on Tuesday.

A win for the Bulldogs will keep them in second place ahead of Meigs and two games behind conference foe and undefeated Vinton County. After Tuesday's game, Athens has four of its next five games against conference opponents, and it will be crucial to have momentum on their side as they look to stay atop the TVC.


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