Athens Review, Athens, Texas

February 25, 2014

CLASS 3A, REGION II AREA ROUND: One physical night

Athens takes down Pleasant Grove, 90-79, gets rematch with Kilgore

Joe Elerson
The Athens Review

LONGVIEW — This season, the No. 10-ranked Athens Hornets have proven they can play any style of basketball that is given to them by an opponent.

On Friday night, the Hornets had to adjust to a physical style of basketball in taking down the Pleasant Grove Hawks, 90-79, in the Class 3A, Region II area round at Spring Hill High School in Longview.

Both teams combined for 62 fouls and shot more than 70 free throws as five players fouled out of the game.

For Athens, seniors Chris Jefferson and Ryan Jefferson along with sophomore Travon Fuller were forced to sit out most of the fourth quarter after fouling out of the game.

With a talented team in the Kilgore Bulldogs facing them in tonight’s regional quarterfinal game at Tyler Junior College’s Wagstaff Gymnasium, Chris Jefferson said they will make sure foul trouble is not an issue.

“It is very important,” Jefferson said. “We know in the back of our minds that Kilgore beat us last year in the opening round.We know that we need to take care of business on Tuesday to get to where we want to be at the regional tournament.”

Last year, the Bulldogs knocked Athens out of the bi-district round with a 67-51 win at UT-Tyler’s Herrington Patriot Center.

Kilgore defeated Paris, 59-47, on Friday night.

Coach Gerald Anthony said the Hornets (29-1) know how important the rematch is this season.

“I think they already know,” Anthony said. “Kilgore is a good ball club and I think they want to get up and show everyone that the No. 10 ranking is not a fluke.”

If Athens can pull out the win tonight over Kilgore, they will advance to the Class 3A, regional semifinals against the winner of the No. 1-ranked Dallas Madison versus No. 19-ranked Wilmer Hutchins matchup.

The semifinal contest is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday night at Texas A&M-Commerce.

On Friday, the Hornets were forced into a tight first quarter as both teams were tied at, 14-14.

Athens picked up its first lead of the game on a floater by senior guard Anthony Sanders midway through the quarter.

Sanders — who was held to 10 points in the first half — finished the game with a triple double.

Sanders scored 37 points, pulled down 11 rebounds and had 10 assists to continue his strong play this season.

“We wanted him to calm down and let the game come to him,” Anthony said about Sanders. “He was all over the place and we wanted to find a way to get him away from the double teams in the first half.”

Courtland Lyons added 25 points off of the bench, while Ryan Jefferson scored 15 points for the Hornets.

With Pleasant Grove sticking to a double team throughout the first half on Sanders, Lyons was able to pick up his play as he scored 16 points in the first half of play.

With the Hornets going to their fast paced defensive pressure against Pleasant Grove, Nikell Roberts was able to get a steal and dished off to Lyons for a jumper that gave Athens a 14-11 lead with under two minutes remaining in the first quarter.

“We needed that and I told him (Lyons) if he plays his game which is driving to the basket and making his free throws we will be successful,” Anthony said. “He plays with a lot of intensity and we also had strong play from our bench tonight.”

In the second quarter, both teams took advantage of the defensive breakdowns as Athens outscored  Pleasant Grove, 26-21.

Athens gained its biggest lead of the quarter at 24-16 as Sanders found Ryan Jefferson for a layup.

Jefferson then extended the lead with an aggressive rebound and putback for a 26-19 lead.

Anthony said Pleasant Grove found ways to force them away from their style of play and that frustrated them in the opening 16 minutes of play.

“We told the guys to play possession basketball,” Anthony said. “They were shooting layups and free throws and we were having to shoot jumpers and free throws. In the second half,we started scoring on our layups and we became more focused in the second half of play.”

Athens shot 14-of-19 from the charity stripe in the first half and shot 11-of-20 in the second half of play.

Jefferson said with so many fouls being called in the game, they will need to make sure they play smart tonight against Kilgore.

“We are going to have to work on cleaning things up defensively and work on not fouling so much,” Jefferson said.  “We knew that we needed to be physical and we missed like 15 layups in the first half. It is going to be very important for us to play smart because Kilgore is a great team.”

Pleasant Grove started to find some momentum in the third quarter before Athens senior Josh Garrett went up strong for an offensive rebound and work himself around a defender for the putback jumper and a 54-46 lead with 4:10 remaining.

Sanders was able to extend the lead with two big free throws following a technical foul by Pleasant Grove’s Corey Menah.

With less than three minutes left in the game, Athens iced the game as Sanders found Travon Fuller driving to the basket for the old-fashioned three-point play to give them a 84-70 lead. Fuller finished the game with five points.

Pleasant Grove was led in scoring by Javarri Hunt with 17 points and Menah with 15 points.

Athens 90, Pleasant Grove 79

Athens    14    26    30    20    —    90

P. Grove    14    21    21    23    —    79

ATHENS — Ryan Jefferson, 15; Kynden Crist, 4; Anthony Sanders, 37; Nikell Roberts, 2; Courtland Lyons, 25; Josh Garrett, 2; Travon Fuller, 5.

PLEASANT GROVE — Peter Gavreil, 5; Coryuntae Jones, 2; Parker Trippe, 11; Jason Smith, 8; Javarri Hunt, 17; Cory Menah, 15; Cross Bright, 3; Keiran Johnson, 4; Ryan Martin, 13; Connor Ouellete, 1.

THREE POINT GOALS — A: Sanders (6); Lyons. PG: Tripp.

RECORDS — Athens 29-1.

NEXT UP — Regional Quarterfinals: Kilgore vs. Athens, 7:30 p.m. tonight, Wagstaff Gymnasium.