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The Athens Academy girls basketball team fell 63-31 against Banks County on Friday night.
The Spartans struggled to put the ball in the basket all night, and it was evident early in the game. Both teams combined for only two field goals before the four-minute mark in the first quarter, and that defensive effort prevented Banks from pulling away in the first frame.
“Banks County is a great basketball program,” Athens Academy coach Brian Olson said. “Has been for a lot of years. They do a great job — played in the state championship last year. They’ve got great guard play, they execute well and we knew we were in for a tough game.”
The Spartans’ activity on the offensive glass also kept them in the game early. Marie Rutledge came up with offensive rebound after offensive rebound, keeping possessions alive and opening opportunities for her teammates.
“(Rutledge has) really had — the past two weeks — the best three or four games of her career,” Olson said. “I love seeing that. I love seeing that desire and that toughness and I’m really proud of her.”
Her activity, combined with some timely scoring from Kendall Lawson, had the team trailing 14-12 after the first 10 minutes of play. Lawson led the team with 16 points throughout the course of the game, but other than that, the team couldn’t muster much offense. The Spartans ended the game with only a single 3-pointer, compared to Banks’ six makes from beyond the arc.
The Leopards’ defense alternated coverages throughout the game, consistently throwing different looks at the Spartan offense. They switched between zone defense, man defense, double teams and more, and Athens Academy didn’t have an answer. The Spartans scored only 4 points in the second quarter, and only three points in the fourth.
“They did things a little bit different than they’ve done in the past,” Olson said. “It was a good test for us, and they helped us grow. I think that we have the skill set to really attack, but we never really forced them into different defensive adjustments. That’s just something that we have to take away from this and learn to continue to get better.”
With the win, the Leopards extended their winning streak to six, firmly in control of the top seed in the region. Meanwhile, Athens Academy fell to 10-8 after the loss.
“I think we saw some really bright spots,” Olson said. “I appreciated our toughness. It was a great growth opportunity for us, to see what a championship program looks like.”
The Spartans recovered with a 55-47 win over Greater Atlanta Christian on Monday, and will look to build on that momentum on Wednesday against East Jackson High School.