Athens' (7-13 6-6 Tri-Valley Conference) abysmal second half performance cost it a season sweep to rival Alexander (12-8, 8-2 TVC) on Friday night. Athens held Alexander's Kyler D'Augustino to one field goal in the first half, but Alexander gained as Athens let loose. By the end of the second half, Athens had lost 57-46.
It was never going to be an easy game for Athens to win. Not only was it Athens' third game in four days, but it was also Alexander's senior night, and it was vying for a share of the TVC championship. Despite all the obstacles, Athens found itself ahead 26-13 after a 14-0 run in the first half.
Not only were the Bulldogs ahead, but Derrick Welsh had been unstoppable on the offensive side. Welsh scored all 10 of Athens' first quarter points, and added six more in the second quarter.
After the two traded baskets, Alexander started a scoring avalanche. With only a few minutes left in the first half, the Spartans switched to the full court press and scored six points to cut their deficit to seven points before the half.
The Spartans carried their energy into the third quarter. After a relatively quiet first half, D'Augustino had a breakout third quarter. D'Augustino scored the first six points for the Spartans, and his offensive efforts led to a 10-2 run to give Alexander a 33-32 lead. Welsh attempted to patch the wound with a layup, but just as the Bulldogs settled into the second half, the Spartans hit two 3-pointers on back-to-back offensive possessions to end the third quarter.
"I thought the last minute or so (of the first half) we gave up six points, we had a 13 point lead and took a seven point lead into halftime," Coach Mickey Cozart said. "And, I thought they came out in the third quarter with more energy than we did. I think that was the difference in the game."
The massive scoring run didn't stop in the third quarter. The Bulldogs were still reeling from the third, and it lead the Spartans to score the first six points of the fourth quarter. The Spartans gave themselves the biggest lead of the night at 45-34. At that point, they had gone on a devastating 30-6 run that spanned nearly 15 minutes. Before the run, the Bulldogs held a convincing 28-15 lead, but by the end, they were trailing 45-34.
The Bulldogs scored their first points of the fourth quarter with less than five minutes remaining in the game to cut the deficit to nine. After a tough finish and a free throw from Welsh, the Bulldogs were showing their first signs of life in the second half. The Bulldogs went on to force the Spartans into a crucial turnover, and on their next offensive possession, Landon Wheatley put the Bulldogs within three points of the lead with a 3-pointer.
But, just as Athens stole the momentum, D'Augustino showed off his athleticism. He took the ball the length of the court and evaded several defenders on a layup to give Alexander a lengthier lead. D'Augustino laid the dagger into Athens with under two minutes to go to give Alexander the win.
Despite the tough loss, Athens doesn't have any time to lick its wounds. It has another game to play on Saturday.
"I'm not going to lie, four games in five days is tough, but we're not got make any excuses. We're going to hydrate tonight. We're going to get up tomorrow and go play Trimble," Cozart said.