Logan Maxfield’s put-back shot positioned Athens evenly alongside Waverly with 1:36 left on the clock.
The two teams proceeded to exchange baskets to tie the score at 54.
Then, turnovers plagued the Bulldogs.
Two mid-court turnovers in the last minute of the game gave the Tigers a commanding 59-54 advantage, and ruined any hopes the Bulldogs had of walking out of the Piketon Classic with a victory.
The Tigers went on to win 60-54 on Saturday inside Piketon.
“You can’t win games when you turn the ball over that much. That’s just the bottom line,” coach Mickey Cozart said following his team’s defeat. “Until we clean that up, we’re going to continue to lose basketball games.”
The pressure created by Waverly’s defense caused chaos all night for the Athens backcourt.
The Bulldogs (0-2) found themselves down 29-22 at halftime after the Tigers went on a 9-2 run in the last two minutes of the second quarter.
Cozart knew his team had to make some adjustments going into the second half.
“We just needed to calm down,” he said. “We set up a little relief for our press [in the second half] when we were able to get the ball up the court a little bit better.”
Bulldog post players Justin Hynes and Isaiah Butcher showed some fight to begin the third quarter when the pair quickly made up for the halftime deficit with back-to-back 3-point plays.
The Bulldogs began to do a better job of matching the speed of a guard-heavy Tiger team.
Maxfield led a string of fast break surges as the Bulldogs began to dismantle the Tigers’ full-court press and position themselves back into the game.
A five-point spurt from sophomore Brayden Whiting gave Athens a 43-42 lead late in the third quarter.
Athens had by far its best quarter of the night in the third, outscoring Waverly 21-13 in that stretch. But as the Athens backcourt gradually began to break down and the turnovers began to pile on, Waverly outscored Athens 18-11 in the fourth quarter to ultimately take the win.
Hynes capped an impressive performance underneath the basket with 20 points to lead the Bulldogs in scoring.
Maxfield recorded 14 points while Butcher added seven. Whiting finished with six.
Waverly was led in scoring by freshman Trey Robertson and senior Cody Remington.
Athens has just under a week off before opening the Tri-Valley Conference at River Valley next Friday.
Cozart acknowledged that his team showed signs of improvement from its Friday game against Gallia Academy.
But the Bulldogs still have work to do.
“We played better tonight,” Cozart said. “I mean once we calmed down, we played a pretty good second half. We just had some crucial turnovers again.”