The last time the Athens beat River Valley, a convincing 71-30 win to tip off the 2016-17 season, the Bulldogs went on to win five of their next six games.
Athens (8-5, 5-1 Tri-Valley Conference) will be looking to go on a similar run after its most recent victory over River Valley (6-11, 1-6 TVC) Tuesday night — a 81-47 win in its first home game since Jan. 10. The Bulldogs’ 81 points were their highest point total this season.
The dominant victory snapped Athens’ three-game losing streak, their longest losing streak of the season thus far.
“We came out aggressive,” coach Mickey Cozart said. “We knew what we wanted to do and it was nice getting home after that long road stretch.”
Leading the way for Athens was senior Griffin Lutz, who rebounded nicely from a lowly eight-point total last game with 21 points Tuesday night.
Also making hefty contributions to the victory was sophomore Justin Hynes, who went 4-of-6 on field goals and went for 12 total points. Hynes’ aggressive and fluent play stood out to Cozart on Tuesday, as the coach lauded his physical play below the hoop.
“Justin is an undersized center, but he’s so smart, he’s got great footwork and he’s patient down there,” Cozart said. “He makes people jump and he’s a solid ball player.”
The duo of Lutz and Hynes shot an impressive 14-of-19 on combined field goals, and one key for the Bulldogs’ success going forward will be whether the two can continue a similar pace.
Hynes’ ability to play aggressively under the hoop offensively and Lutz’s knack of finding space to shoot field goals will be key for Athens to put up consistent scoring runs, something the team has lacked in the recent losing skid.
The Bulldogs’ win puts them in second place in the TVC as they head into a conference-heavy stretch of the schedule, with five of the next six opponents coming from inside the conference. Athens will tip off Friday night against the Vinton County Vikings (13-1, 6-1 TVC), who beat the Bulldogs 78-56 earlier this year and currently sit in first place in the TVC.