MONROE—Monday night Athens Academy’s middle school boys basketball team hoisted an Athens Area Middle School Championship trophy after the Spartans defeated Oglethorpe County Middle School 47-26.
The Spartans split with OCMS in their two regular season games. Spartans’ head coach Darren Hollis felt the Spartans’ jumping out to the 25-11 halftime-lead made the game played a bit part in the Spartans being able to take well-earned and calculated shots in the third and fourth quarter. The Spartans melted away much of the clock and kept the Patriots at an arm’s length on the scoreboard for most of the night.
“It was just our night,” Hollis said. “They missed some shots early. If we played them 10 times, we’d probably go 5-5. That (early lead) was huge. That gets us back into what we want to do. We got the ball out and pushed when we needed to and we pulled back when we needed to. We played great defense. We’re a lot smaller than they are. We had to go hard on the board and we did it.”
Claiming the championship is only the culmination. The Spartans’ march to winning the title started at the beginning of the season.
The Spartans had to become a team. Hollis knew at the start of practices that the Spartans had talent. Watching players go through drills Hollis immediately spotted who the stars would be in the box scores.
Those players stepped up and did their parts in Monday’s win. Ben Shar and Kymel Williams both led the Spartans in scoring with 14 points. Both players earned All-Tournament Team honors following the game for their performances.
Two individual players didn’t win the Spartans a championship. Hollis saw Monday as a possibility when players began accepting their roles and the second team, who only played the final minute of the game on Monday, battled the starters in every practice. Hollis feels that every player that dressed on Monday night truly earned the league championship.
“It’s super special,” Hollis said. “I’ve been doing this for about 30 years and this team is just super special. They came in the gym every day willing to listen. They put their egos in check and we’ve got two or three superstars and they all play together. It’s fun to coach a great group of kids that want to play. Our second team works harder than any team in the league in practice. They don’t get much playing time, but they absolutely go after our starters. They give them the best looks. From one through 12, they all earned it.”