Chesapeake recovered the ball from an Athens missed free throw with just 10 seconds left Saturday at the Big E Classic inside Fairland High School.
The Panthers were down by three points and were looking to get the ball across midcourt as quickly as possible with an outlet pass. Their intended fast break target was running up the sideline and positioning himself for what would have been the game-tying basket.
Fortunately for the Bulldogs, senior Logan Maxfield was anticipating — he knew exactly where that outlet pass was going.
Maxfield intercepted the pass at half-court and drove the ball to the hoop for a basket, plus a foul. His free throw solidified the 63-57 victory for Athens.
Maxfield credited football for his anticipatory play-making. After all, he was named the Tri-Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year in that sport.
“I knew that they had to shoot a three,” he said. “My football sense came in. I could see (the Chesapeake player) staring his teammate down the whole way when he was running down to the corner. So I just went and picked it off.”
Everything seemed to be clicking for Maxfield and Athens at the Carl York Center in the first half.
Athens (2-2, 1-0 TVC) held a 16-point lead over Chesapeake (2-1) at the halfway point of its second game in less than 20 hours. Maxfield had 13 points, and four other players had racked up five points or more in the first half.
But in the second half, the trajectory of the game changed.
The shots weren’t falling for the Bulldogs like they were in the first half, and the Panthers amped up their defensive pressure.
Even after Chesapeake went on a 10-4 run to start the half, though, Athens continued to keep its steady cushion on the scoreboard, in part, because of its ability to create fast breaks.
The bulk of points scored by junior Brayden Markins came when the Bulldogs were pushing the ball.
“We’re just a fast break team,” said Markins, who finished with 10 points. “When we get the rebounds, we just want to push, push and run because we just like to outrun other teams. That’s where we get our buckets.”
When Chesapeake cut the lead to nine in the final minute of the third quarter, a Maxfield layup and an Isaiah Butcher 3-point shot at the buzzer gave Athens a 48-34 advantage going into the fourth.
Anytime Chesapeake was climbing back into the game, Athens either had a quick answer or went on a mini run of its own. And the fact that Chesapeake had only cut into its halftime deficit by two points at the end of a subpar third quarter from Athens, only further proved that point.
But sloppy play finally led to some consequences for the Bulldogs late in the fourth quarter.
Athens had a 56-47 lead with 1:30 left in the game after retaining over a nine-point cushion for the majority of the fourth quarter.
Chesapeake trimmed the Athens lead to five with 35 seconds remaining, but a Butcher put back off a missed free throw brought the lead back up to seven.
Athens coach Mickey Cozart said that rebound from Butcher was bigger than his 3-point basket late in the third.
“When he’s in there and he wants to rebound, he’s really good at it,” Cozart said of Butcher. “When he gets that big hand up there, he usually comes down with it.”
The Bulldogs didn’t have much time to celebrate after Butcher’s basket, though. In the last 30 seconds, their sloppiness led to some obvious signs of frustration — giving the Panthers room to capitalize.
Butcher got called for a technical after he secured a rebound on the defensive end. He missed his 1-and-1 and Chesapeake made both of its free throws, got the ball back and then scored, to make it a three-point game in the blink of an eye.
“I think we were just a little under pressure,” Maxfield said. “We were getting away from the stuff that was working (for us) in the first half.”
Chesapeake had its opportunity to tie the game in the last 10 seconds after Athens missed a pair free throws, but Maxfield’s steal secured the win for his team.
Cozart said Maxfield’s play on Saturday was a big improvement from his play in the game at River Valley.
“I thought it was a big bounce back from last night,” Cozart said. “Last night, he was having a hard time making a layup. Tonight it seemed like he made everything he put up. Logan played pretty strong today.”
Elijah Williams finished with 10 points for the Bulldogs, alongside Markins. Butcher had nine while Brayden Whiting chipped in seven. Maxfield led the team with 20.
Eli Archer finished as the top scorer for the Panthers with 20 points as well.
Seven Bulldogs scored, continuing a balanced offensive sentiment that carried the Bulldogs to victory in Friday’s game where nine players made it into the score column.
Athens faces Vinton County in its next game.