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Logan Maxfield plays defense against Gallia Academy in the season-opening loss for Athens, 45-35, November 30.

Athens Basketball: Bulldogs look to continue TVC dominance on the road against Vinton County

Athens and Vinton County have owned the Tri-Valley Conference-Ohio (TVC) in recent history. The two teams have combined to win every conference title in the past decade. 

While Vinton County (6-5, 4-3 TVC) has won the last three titles, Athens (9-3, 7-0 TVC) is in the driver’s seat this year, sitting comfortably atop the standings at the moment with an undefeated record in conference play.

The Bulldogs are coming off a 19-point triumph over River Valley on Tuesday, when they had nine players reach the score column. The bench tallied 19 points in the win, led by a 10-point effort from sophomore Brayden Whiting.

The Bulldogs have been clicking on both sides of the ball, lately. They’ve won nine of their last 10 games and seven straight conference matchups. They’re beating TVC opponents by an average of 16 points per game and putting multiple players in the score column. On the defensive end, they’re holding TVC opponents to just 40 points per game. 

Athens’ zone defense has been a key to its success in conference play. The zone played a crucial role when Athens beat Vinton County 41-38 back in December -- one of the closest wins of the season for Athens. 

In the Dec. 14 matchup with Vikings, the Bulldogs found themselves in trouble at the half. They trailed the Vikings by seven after one quarter and by six at the break. Through the entire first half, the Bulldogs played a 2-3 zone. In the 2-3 defensive look, they gave up four 3-pointers, which prompted them to switch to a 3-2 zone in the second half. 

Because of the switch, the Bulldogs held the Vikings to only four points in the third quarter of the game. They went on a 14-4 run in the third to ultimately claim the 41-38 victory. 

The 3-2 zone and the defensive adjustments flustered the Vikings, holding them to only 14 second half points compared to 24 in the first. 

The defensive play will be key for Athens come Friday night as it looks for its eight straight conference win. But another key factor for Athens will be its bench play. 

While the Bulldogs have done a good job of maintaining a balanced scoring effort this season with multiple players in the mix each game, at times, they’ve lacked heavy offensive production. They’re putting in the work on the defensive end, but only averaging 56 points per game in TVC play. That can change with a consistent scoring effort from the Bulldogs’ bench.

Brayden Markins, Andrew Stephens, Josh Mace and Whiting all put up points for Athens in the win on Tuesday. If Athens wants to distance itself more against Vinton County early on, those players may be a good place to start.

JV tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Vinton County on Friday. The Varsity game will follow. 

@j_flann10

jf913115@ohio.edu

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