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Athens’ Justin Hynes goes for a layup during the Bulldogs’ game against Logan Elm on Feb. 22.

Athens Basketball: Athens looks to its defense in district semifinal

Athens will need its defense to play its best Thursday against Zane Trace in the District Semifinal in The Convo.

The Bulldogs play their best when their defense stops opponents from getting open shots and creates turnovers that lead to fast breaks. The zone defense is very effective at stopping teams from getting shots close to the hoop.  

“Part of our focus is to stop high post entries, and we didn't do that for a while in the Logan Elm game, but once we clamped down, we did a pretty good job," Athens coach Mickey Cozart said. 

Not allowing offensive rebounds will be key for the Athens’ defense, and most of that will be with Justin Hynes controlling the post. 

Six-foot-three Eli Chubb will be crucial for Athens on both ends of the floor since he’s able to be a mismatch with his size and 3-point shooting ability while using his length as a strong defender and rebounder. 

Athens will need to shoot better from the free-throw line if it wants to win, after making 10-of-21 in its three-point win over Logan Elm is the sectional final. 

"It was just a poor night for us, probably one of our worst since the beginning of the season,” Cozart said. “We'll hope that it don't happen in The Convo."

The last time Athens played in The Convo was 2017 when it lost to Miami Trace in the district semifinal. Athens won the district championship in 2013, the second time in school history. 

Point guard Elijah Williams returned Friday after missing the regular season finale with an injury, scoring 13 points.

The Bulldogs have struggled with turnovers throughout the season, and in the last three games they have averaged 15 a game. 

Athens cannot have stretches where it turns the ball over on multiple possessions like it did against Logan Elm in the third quarter, right after it had extended the lead to seven. The Braves were able to come back during that stretch and take the lead, which frustrated Cozart, as the Bulldogs had a chance to put away the game at that time.  

Zane Trace (19-4, 14-0 Scioto Valley Conference) has won five straight games and is coming off a three-point win over Hillsboro in its sectional final. The Pioneers can be a high-scoring team — they have scored 74 or more points four times this season, and they average 60 points a game while allowing only 51 points. 

Zane Trace doesn’t shoot a lot of 3s — it does most of its work in the post and mid-range. It will be crucial for Athens’ zone defense to not allow the ball to get into the post. 

The winner will move on to the district finals to face the winner of Fairfield Union and Washington Court House. That game is scheduled for directly after Athens and Zane Trace’s matchup. 


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