When it mattered most, Athens could not stop turning the ball over.
The Bulldogs (17-7, 11-1 Tri-Valley Conference-Ohio) gave the ball up 20 times in their 48-28 loss on Thursday night at The Convo to Zane Trace in the Ohio High School Athletic Association Tournament District Semifinals.
Turnovers have been a constant issue for the team throughout the season, and it showed up again on the biggest stage.
Since the beginning of the season, coach Mickey Cozart has preached the importance of decreasing the turnovers. He’s talked about how turnovers have cost Athens games throughout the season and how it’s the team’s biggest weakness.
Despite this, the Bulldogs still ended most of their regular season games with the turnover number in the double digits, never finding a constant solution to keeping the turnovers low.
In the game against Zane Trace, the inability to keep possession started early for the Bulldogs, as they had six first quarter turnovers. Athens ended the half with 10 turnovers compared to the Pioneers’ four.
Cozart felt like the turnovers would never end in one point of the game and that it made it difficult for Athens to get into an offensive flow.
“That’s a game-changer,” he said. “You gotta take care of the basketball.”
The lack of flow within the team against Zane Trace and the subsequent turnovers that came from it may have stemmed from Athens having major shuffling in the lineups. The five regular starters did not play many minutes together, and none until the second half.
A number of factors led to this, as Eli Chubb has been fighting a flu virus for the past week and was not able to get many meaningful minutes against the Pioneers. Isaiah Butcher did not play until the second half and late in the third quarter, Logan Maxfield left the game due to a lower leg injury.
As a result of this unusual set of circumstances, the Bulldogs had no rhythm to begin the game and it persisted throughout. The turnovers were biggest sign of it not being the Bulldogs’ night against the Pioneers.
“We were just out of whack to start that game,” he said. “Sometimes the moment’s just a little big and it was a little big tonight.”