Athens head coach Cliff Thompson was relieved to walk out of AHS Gymnasium with the No. 2 seed in the Class 4A, Region II playoffs next week.
The road to reach that seed went through the Brownsboro Bears in a 54-51 victory on Senior Night. It was also revenge for a 61-43 loss at Brownsboro Jan. 19.
“I think this whole game was like the first half of that game,” Thompson said. “It was real tight and competitive the whole time. They hit us with a triangle and two defense in their place which we were prepared for since no one had run it. I didn't expect them too and we didn't knock down shots against it. This time, we talked about it and prepared for it and had success early to get them out of it. We executed everything we wanted to do and I couldn't be more proud of the guys.”
This was the final home game for seniors Connor Woodard, Jacorian Hemphill, Caleb Bomer, Derek Killingsworth and Tristan Woods.
“I am proud of my seniors and that we were able to give them a win in their last home game,” Thompson said. “I am going to miss those guys and they have been fun to coach the last four years. I wish them the best in the future, but hopefully we are not done yet.”
Athens (9-10 overall and 6-4 in district) held a 45-28 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Brownsboro then went on a 23-9 run in the fourth to make the game interesting.
“I am not really excited about how we played defense in the fourth,” Thompson said. “We kind of relaxed and they started hitting shots and attacked a lot harder which made it difficult on our defense. I am proud of how we finished. We have been in games where we didn't finish and I was happy to see us finish the last two minutes which I am proud of heading into the playoffs.”
The Hornets scored all nine points at the free throw line behind Jaden Crane, Woodard and Jorien Ray. Ray finished with a game-high 14 points, while Crane had 12 and Woodard had seven.
“I think it needs to be our mental focus when things do or don't go our way,” Thompson said. “In Brownsboro, it was the exact opposite because things started unraveling and mentally we lost focus and let that get into our play. In this game, we had a big lead and had our focus wasn't the same for a few minutes. I think that is our biggest obstacle right now.”
Brownsboro (10-9 and 5-5 in district) got to within 50-46 with 1:30 left as Hayden Woods scored on a layup. Woods finished with three points.
BROWNSBORO (51) — Aidan Hardin 12, Gekyle Baker 11, Malik English 8, Michael Fitzgerald, 8, Lane Epperson 6, Hayden Woods 3, Kyle Nichols 3.
ATHENS (54) — Jorien Ray 14, Jaden Crane 12, Connor Clay 8, Jacorian Hemphill 7, Connor Woodard 7, Derek Killingsworth 4, Eli Rincon 2.