Kilgore Jumps on No. 10 Athens Early En Route to 69-44 Win in Regional Quarterfinals
TYLER -- Anthony Sanders did all he could to carry Athens on his shoulders Tuesday night, but Kilgore wasn't going to let one man deny its trip to the regional tournament.
The Bulldogs, behind three players in double figures, took a double-digit lead into halftime and dominated the fourth quarter to hand 10th-ranked Athens only its second loss of the season, 69-44, in a Class 3A Region II quarterfinal at Tyler Junior College.
With its biggest statement win of the season in the books, Kilgore (23-6) heads to the regional tournament for its biggest test of the season. The Bulldogs face defending state champion Dallas Madison at 6 p.m. Friday at Texas A&M-Commerce. Madison beat Wilmer-Hutchins, 79-65, in its quarterfinal matchup Tuesday night.
Athens, denied its 20th straight victory, ended its season at 29-2. Kilgore was the only public school the Hornets lost to this season -- Athens lost to Addison Trinity Christian in the Kaufman Tournament in December.
Sanders scored 15 of Athens' first 17 points and had 17 in the game's first 10 minutes, but he and the Hornets couldn't get anything to fall in the second half. Athens couldn't keep up with a Kilgore team that dominated the paint, capitalizing on many second-chance points with 15 offensive rebounds.
"We knew when we got up (12 points) at half (Sanders) would feel like he had to take the team on his shoulders, because he's a great player," Kilgore coach Jeff Coleman said. "We played great defense and forced him a step or two out of his range. We have a good basketball team and our style of play makes our athletes perform. I'm so proud of these kids tonight."
Nick Orange and Clery Delmas worked Athens down low all game -- Orange finished with 21 points and eight rebounds and Delmas had 16 points and 11 boards, six on the offensive end.
Trey Conrod added 14 points and seven rebounds for a Kilgore team that shot just under 50 percent from the field, compared to less than 25 percent for Athens. Not counting Sanders, the Hornets made just 6 of 33 shots from the floor.
Athens stayed within 12 entering the fourth despite not having Sanders on the bench with four fouls the last 2:25 of the third. But Kilgore's focus on moving the ball constantly around the floor tired the Athens defense, and the Bulldogs opened the fourth quarter on an 8-2 run to take a 58-40 lead with 4:37 left in the game.
"We want to make people play defense, especially if they're not used to it. We work to get 10 or 12 passes each time down the floor, but most teams are used to playing against only one or two passes," Coleman said. "We try to keep moving the ball to wear them down, which I think we did a good job of that."
Sanders scored nine of Athens' first 11 points, but Kilgore stayed one step ahead the entire time. The Bulldogs had seven offensive rebounds in the first half and Delmas had 12 points and seven boards to help Kilgore take a 37-25 lead at halftime.
X'avier Ganoa and Deon Kincade each added eight points for Kilgore, while Ganoa also finished with 11 rebounds. Ryan Jefferson was the only Athens player other than Sanders in double digits, finishing with 11 points.
Kilgore 69, No. 10 Athens 44
Boys Class 3A Region II Regional Quarterfinal
At Wagstaff Gymnasium, Tyler Junior College
Kilgore 18 19 13 19 — 69
Athens 12 13 13 6 — 44
KILGORE (23-6) — X'avier Ganoa, 8; Deon Kincade, 8; Kevrin Justice, 2; Trey Conrod, 14; Clery Delmas, 16; Nick Orange, 21.
ATHENS (29-2) — Ryan Jefferson, 11; Anthony Sanders, 25; Dwight Jackson, 2; Cortland Lyons, 5; Chris Jefferson, 1.
THREE-POINT GOALS — Kilgore: Ganoa. Athens: Sanders (3), Lyons.