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The Athens Academy girls fell 47-42 to Union County on Friday. They’re now 0-2 in the season series against the Panthers.
“We’ve taken some really big steps forward in the past two games,” Athens Academy coach Brian Olson said. “To see that energy, that toughness, that’s what we’ve been talking about. Really proud of their efforts tonight.”
That effort wasn’t enough to overcome Union County down the stretch, as some timely defense helped the Panthers prevail. The Spartans turned the ball over four times in the final minute of the game, handing over crucial possessions that ultimately sealed the loss.
Union County and Athens Academy battled all night, trading the lead back and forth every few minutes. The Spartans would make a run, and the Panthers would respond. The Spartans would hit a momentum-shifting 3-pointer, and the Panthers would find an answer. In the end, Athens Academy just couldn’t overcome its turnover woes.
“We had six turnovers in the first half, and 16 turnovers in the second half,” Olson said. “Even with that, we were one big shot away. We had opportunities for those big shots, and we just didn’t get it. The game came down to a few possessions, but we’re still one shot away from winning that game. That’s what we want to put ourselves in position for.”
The Spartans were on the other side of the takeaways early in the game, hounding the Panthers defensively and interrupting passing lanes on seemingly every possession. They jumped out to a 10-0 run in the early minutes of the game, seizing advantage from the jump.
Josie Collins and Millie Pugmire led Athens Academy in scoring with 12 and 9 points respectively, getting out on fast breaks and attacking the hoop with force. Their defensive aggression helped fuel the team, which Olson said Athens Academy has been emphasizing.
“We’re not focusing on the score,” Olson said. “Really, it’s more about the energy and the defensive intensity. If we’re getting the deflections, the steals and turning them over, the score will take care of itself. The energy is the most important part right now.”
That defensive mindset helped the Spartans bounce back to beat Providence Christian on Tuesday 51-37. Their next test will come on Friday against the region leader, Banks County.
“We’re learning more about ourselves each game,” Olson said. “As time goes on, we’ll be able to focus on other teams a little bit more. Right now, we’re just trying to instill who we are as a basketball program.”