Athens Boys, Palestine Girls Earn Victories on Tuesday
ATHENS -- Gary Lyons finished what Miles Koehler started.
After Koehler took over in the first half to give No. 18 Athens a lead over Palestine at halftime, Lyons took charge in the second. A strong third quarter gave the Hornets cushion to withstand a run from Palestine in the fourth. They went on to win, 66-62.
Koehler couldn't miss early on. He nailed his first three 3-point attempts, also the first nine points for Athens (23-2, 5-0 District 18-4A), forcing Palestine to call timeout. Although he wouldn't remain that red hot for the entire half, he finished the game with 21 points (17 of which came in the first half) on four made 3s.
His sharpshooting opened things up for Lyons. Although Lyons finished the first half with just six points, he found a much easier time scoring in the second. With the Wildcats focused on defending Koehler from deep, Lyons found open lanes to the rim for easy layups and even a couple of dunks. He finished with 22 points and nine rebounds to lead the Hornets.
"That's something we've done pretty well over the last three years with this group," coach Clifford Thompson said. "It's kind of a pattern. Miles will hit shots and carry us early in the game, then late in the game, Gary is so good when the defense has to extend out. He's so good at going by people. He also gets a lot of assists out of it. We're really fortunate to have guards that we have that can go by people late in games and make it hard for them to get stops."
Athens built a 12-point lead heading into the fourth quarter and seemingly had the game in hand. A late run from Palestine (13-10, 2-3), however, would challenge that. A 12-0 run between the 3:25 and 1:17 marks in the fourth brought the Wildcats within three. Matt Wages, who finished with 22 points, hit 3-pointers at the beginning and end of the run.
After Enoch Fatade knocked in a basket to again bring Palestine within three, the Wildcats called timeout. On the other side of the court, Thompson delivered a simple message to his team.
"I was talking to them about taking care of the ball, making sure we screen each other open," Thompson said. "For a few possessions, we just tried to cut and our spacing was bad. I was just trying to get them all on the same page to make sure we got the ball in safely. Then it was just playing keep away and knocking down free throws."
The Hornets got the ball in and Lyons hit the front end of a 1-and-1 to seal the victory.
Palestine will get a chance to bounce back when it faces Mexia at 8 p.m. Friday. Meanwhile, Athens will look to build on an already impressive season when it travels to face Madisonville at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Palestine Girls Sour Athens' Senior Night
ATHENS -- The seniors accepted gifts between tears following Tuesday's game against Palestine.
It was hard to celebrate, especially after losing, 62-58. Especially when their teammate, Raveon Rodriguez had been carried off on a stretcher.
Moments earlier, Rodriguez took a scary tumble to the ground and didn't get up. She lay there for about 20 minutes while trainers, coaches and eventually, paramedics tended to her.
Fortunately, she was later released from the hospital.
At the time, though, neither team knew what would happen. With just more than two minutes remaining, Palestine (23-10, 2-4) District 18-4A) was faced with holding on to a 60-54 lead. Ladycat coach Marcus Chapa said it was difficult to play after the injury, but he did his best to motivate his players.
"The biggest key was to keep our composure," he said. "We were always in control of the game. When we came in, we knew they were going to have 8-0 runs. Our biggest focus was spacing out, keep the ball moving. The last 1:36, both of our bigs were out of the game. But as that happened, our biggest thing as coaches was just preaching good thoughts into the kids. We had to let them understand that the situation was bigger than basketball, but God will take care of that. We had to take care of our job on the court."
With 35 seconds remaining, Tamya Hubbard hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to three. After the Lady Hornets fouled Palestine and it missed both free throw attempts, they had a chance to tie. Instead, Hubbard took it to the basket and was fouled. However, she missed both free throw attempts.
Despite a couple more chances, Athens (13-11, 0-6) couldn't get over the hump and fell in a close game.
Rodriguez left the game as the Lady Hornets' leading scorer with 23. Destiny Matthews led the Ladycats with 30 points.
The Lady Hornets will next face Madisonville at 6 p.m. Friday. Palestine will get Mexia at 6:30 p.m. Friday.