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Athens Bulldogs point guard Elijah Williams (no. 3) jukes past Meigs guard Zach Bartrum (no. 14) during the second half of the Bulldogs game against Meigs High School on Friday. The Bulldogs won 55-51 and clinched the Tri-Valley Conference with the win.

Athens Basketball: Stephens’ steal clinches a share of the TVC-Ohio title

Athens had to make a defensive stand. 

Meigs had the ball, down 52-51, with 12 seconds left in the game. 

Andrew Stephens stole the inbound pass before being fouled. He made the first free throw before missing the second, which took a Bulldog bounce off the rim to Justin Hynes.

Hynes then sunk two free throws, sealing Athens’ 55-51 win over Meigs to clinch the Bulldogs’ a share of the Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division title. It is the first time since 2015 and fifth time in school history that Athens (•14-4, 10-1 TVC-Ohio) has won the TVC-Ohio. 

“We were so close last year,“ Athens coach Mickey Cozart said. “We were probably legitimately a foul shot away from having a share of this thing last year. We've carried that with us all year and it’s just a relief.”  

If Athens is able to win its final league game of the season Tuesday against Wellston (3-15, 2-8 TVC-Ohio) it will win the division outright.

Like all season long, the defense’s been what Athens relies on to win close games. It’s different players each game, but every game someone has stepped up. 

It was Stephens on Friday with his two steals that led to a layup and free throws.

“(Stephen’s) a heckuva defensive player,” Cozart said. “We put him in a situation that lot of guys might freeze up in, but it kind of tells you a lot about Andrew.”

Athens dominated the post, with Hynes leading the team in scoring with 14 points. Isaiah Butcher finished with eight, he sat for over a quarter due to foul trouble. 

The Bulldogs scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter to get their largest lead,  before the Marauders chipped away behind Weston Baer. Baer finished with 20 points, despite the Athens defense focusing on him all night long. 

Cozart was concerned with how the team would perform coming off a big win against Alexander that gave Athens sole possession of first in the TVC-Ohio. 

“There's a little bit of a hangover there and we felt it all week in practice and that's why I was so concerned because we knew that this was a good Meigs team,” Cozart said. 

The Bulldogs struggled at the start, as they committed five turnovers in the first quarter before adjusting, only allowing six the rest of the game. 

Logan Maxfield and Elijah Williams were the two other Bulldogs in double-digits with 11 and 10 points, respectively, along with combining for nine assists.

There are four games left in the season, and the bracket for the Southeast Division II District will be released Sunday.

Athens is back on the court Saturday as it heads to Lancaster for a nonconference game. 


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