Updated Fri, Mar 8, 2013 11:41 am
Midway through the fourth quarter with a district championship on the line, Athens saw its comfortable lead — once as large as 22 points — dwindle down to 1.
A 3-pointer by Blake Baldwin with 4:28 left in the game capped a furious Miami Trace comeback and brought the contest to within one possession for the first time since the opening minutes.
But on the ensuing Athens possession, Ibi Watson pulled up for a 12-foot runner, followed his miss and willed a left-hand layup through three defenders for a bucket and drew a foul. He would make the free throw to put Athens back up 4.
Watson paced Athens to a 64-54 win, as the Bulldogs became the second Athens basketball team this season to capture a District Championship on the floor at the Convocation Center.
The Bulldogs controlled the game almost in its entirety.
Brantlyn Decker scored the first basket of the game for Miami Trace, but Athens responded with a 7-0 run to force a Panthers timeout four minutes into the game.
The Bulldogs pushed ahead to take an 18-5 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Athens’ lead grew as large as 22 points with 3:26 remaining in the second quarter, but Miami Trace closed the first half on an 11-2 run to reduce the gap.
Athens led 31-17 at halftime.
The momentum from the first half carried through the break for Miami Trace, as the Panthers opened the third quarter on a 7-0 run to draw within 7 points. From there, Miami Trace went back-and-forth with the Bulldogs until Watson’s and-one with just over 4:00 left.
The Bulldogs move on to play Warren for the second time this season on March 14 in the regional tournament at the Convocation Center. Warren defeated the Bulldogs on Jan. 8 at Athens High School, 60-57.