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Athens center Justin Hynes (#32) competes for the ball with Meigs guard Cooper Darst (#24) during the first half of the Bulldogs game against the Marauders on Feb. 8. (FILE)

Athens Basketball: Athens clinches TVC-Ohio title outright with commanding win over Wellston

Athens had 12 players reach the score column Tuesday night as it blew out Wellston in a 69-23 road victory and, in the process, clinched the outright Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Championship. 

The win is the seventh straight for the Bulldogs. The conference title is the first for the program since 2015.

“It’s great for my seniors and everyone around our community,” said junior Isaiah Butcher, who led the Bulldogs with 13 points. “We just wanted to show our community that we’re here and we’re going to be alive for a long time.”

Athens (16-4, 11-1 TVC-Ohio) secured at least a share of the conference title in a 55-51 nail-biter over Meigs on Friday. It needed a win against Wellston (3-17, 2-9 TVC-Ohio) in order to claim outright honors. The Bulldogs did just that in a commanding performance in which they controlled the game on both sides of the ball.

The Bulldogs dominated from start to finish. They buried the Golden Rockets with two long scoring runs in the first half and held their opponent to just five points through the second and third quarters. 

After the Rockets opened up the game with a 4-3 lead, the Bulldogs responded by going on a 15-0 run. At the end of the first, the Bulldogs held a 21-8 lead. They then went on another run in the second quarter. 

Athens’ suffocating defense held Wellston scoreless for almost a full eight minutes. And while the defense did its job, the offense went on a 19-0 run. 

The Rockets did not score in the second until there were 20 seconds left. Athens coach Mickey Cozart said that’s just what his team does on defense. 

“When we’re hitting our spots and when we’re playing aggressive, it’s tough to score on us,” he said. “We’ve had quarters like that all year, and it seems like we’re putting more and more of those quarters together. And it’s the perfect time of the year to do that.”

The Bulldogs closed the first half with a 40-11 advantage. They went on to give up only two points in the third quarter, and they ultimately outscored the Rockets 29-12 in the second half.

“I think we’re all-around one of the fastest teams,” Bulldogs sophomore Brayden Whiting said. “So defense just comes easy to us.” 

Whiting was one of 12 players to put points on the board for the Bulldogs in their last conference game of the season. He finished as the second-highest scorer behind Butcher with 11 points.

“It felt good (shooting),” he said. “Everything was hitting.” 

Athens shot well from beyond the arc — tying its season-high from deep with eight 3-pointers thanks to a Blake Stover 3 in the closing seconds of the game. Outside of Stover, Butcher and Whiting each finished with three baskets from 3, while Andrew Stephens added one. 

Elijah Willams finished the game with eight points, all coming at the beginning of the first quarter. He had eight of the Bulldogs’ first 12. Eli Chubb finished with 10. 

Athens has two more regular-season games to get out of the way before it begins tournament play. It heads to Logan on Friday and hosts Jackson on Saturday in two nonconference matchups. 

While Cozart is looking forward to sparring with two tough opponents to close out the regular season slate, he is eager to start preparing for the postseason. 

“We’re ready to get this week over and get ready for sectionals, quite honestly,” he said. 


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