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Athens Academy’s boys basketball team was seconds away from earning its third win of the season last Tuesday.

The Spartans hosted Athens Christian in a game that was competitive from the start. In the end, Athens Christian escaped the Spartan Center with a 50-49 win by making a shot with mere seconds left on the clock.

Unfortunately for Athens Academy, it followed up the game with a 62-49 loss to George Walton Academy last Friday.

The games marked the Spartans’ return to action following Christmas break and a team-wide shutdown due to COVID-19 concerns. Head coach Mike Salvia said his team sometimes had a rough go at it readjusting to the game after such an extended time away with only one practice before last week’s games.

“We shut down for about a week and we've had one practice since we've been back, so I think the guys had some Jello legs and they hadn't touched a basketball in a while, so it's probably a little bit of rust from some time off, unfortunately,” Salvia said.

COVID-19 continued affecting the Spartans even after the shutdown ended.

A handful of the team’s starters were out for the game against Athens Christian. The shorthanded Spartans struggled replacing them, Salvia said.

“Anytime you lose guys that are starters and contributors, it hurts,” Salvia said. “But I thought that the guys who were here [against ACS] stepped up in their absence and did a good job for three quarters.”

Those missing starters were scheduled to return last Wednesday, Salvia said.

The losses to Athens Christian and George Walton dropped Athens Academy to 2-9 overall and 0-2 in the region.

Looking ahead, Salvia noted a few areas of improvement for his team.

First, Salvia said the Spartans must play as a cohesive group. He said that is what enabled them to stick so close with Athens Christian.

Salvia also pointed to turnovers and physicality as other phases of the game that need to be worked on moving forward.

“We've got to take care of the basketball,” Salvia said. “What we have to do better with practice is competing. We don't compete hard enough in practice and then, when the game comes, we're a little bit shocked at how much we're getting pushed back upon. We need to start being tougher on each other in practice and I think the games will become a lot easier after that.”

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