By Ashley Graves
The Cullman Times
Records can sometimes be a little misleading.
After having seen the play of Athens this season, Cullman coach Jonathan Hayes knew better than to let the Golden Eagles’ 15-14 mark fool him.
In what turned out to be a back-and-forth battle for much of the second half during Thursday's night sub-regional at Cullman High, Athens found a way to prevail down the stretch to secure a 47-42 win over the Lady Bearcats and earn a spot in next week's Northwest Regional at Wallace State.
"They are a lot better team than their record indicates," Hayes said. "And I knew that. They fought through adversity."
Trailing 35-29 with just over three minutes remaining in the game, Athens got a key 3-pointer from Destiny Bailey, followed by a driving layup from Jasmin Lucas to pull the Golden Eagles within one. Another 3 by Bailey moments later helped them regain their second lead of the night.
"I thought when we got that six-point lead at the start of the fourth that our defense had really settled in, but I give Athens credit," Hayes said. "Bailey knocked down some huge 3's and got them back in the game. That was big."
Athens reeled off six more points, going ahead 43-35 with under a minute remaining in regulation, but the Bearcats weren't throwing in the towel just yet. A late trey by Baylee Johnson cut the lead to three with 10 seconds on the clock. However, both of Lucas' shots from the charity stripe were enough to prevent a shot at overtime and send the Athens bench into eruption.
"I don't think I've coached a team that's gone through as much adversity as this one has," Golden Eagle coach Eddie Murphree said. "But they never quit. It's been a while since I've seen as much heart in a group when you get down 10-0. I'm proud of them tonight. Hopefully we can keep on going a little bit."
Bailey led Athens with 15 points. Lucas added 14, while grabbing four rebounds and dishing out eight assists. Allyah Smith had a team-high 13 rebounds.
Morgan Smith and Blair Nall each led Cullman with 10 points apiece.
% Ashley Graves can be reached by phone at 734-2131, ext. 225, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org