Updated Fri, Feb 21, 2014 10:59 am
Hardly anything was audible in Southeastern’s gym as the incomprehensible screams from the Athens fans shook the hardwood.
Those cheers came as sophomore forward Rachael Gilkey came from behind and vigorously smacked a shot out of the air, much to the awe and dismay of the Miami Trace fans.
The Lady Bulldogs used this block and other significant contributions from the whole team to beat the Miami Trace Lady Panthers 34-23 in a matchup that pitted two of the top defenses in southeastern Ohio against each other.
“We knew coming into this game that it was going to be a defensive struggle,” coach Wayne Horsley said. “Miami tries to play some really really good defense and we like to think we play some pretty good defense too.”
A defensive fight it was, as Athens (22-1), a team that typically plays better in the second half, recorded only 17 points in the first half. The Bulldogs remedied this by only allowing the Panthers (18-5) to score nine and holding Miami Trace to a single point in the second quarter.
The Bulldogs offensive struggles mirrored those of junior guard Dominique Doseck, as the typically sharp-shooting guard was cold during the game but almost flawless from the free-throw line, recording 18 points, 11 of which came from the charity stripe.
After halftime, it looked like the Panthers were the team that had it all put together, blanking the Bulldogs for the first half of the third quarter on the way to a 7-2 run that put the score at 19-16 and within conceivable reach.
The comeback of Miami Trace can be mainly attributed to the Panthers deciding to double team Doseck at the top of the perimeter, stifling Athens creativity and not giving their best scoring threat an opportunity to put a shot up.
But this also proved to be the downfall of Miami Trace, as the Bulldogs capitalized off Panthers turnovers in the fourth quarter and used quick fast break offense to draw fouls and get transition layups.
Another problem for the Panthers was that they ran their offense predominantly through guard Josie Cobb who, to her credit, led Miami Trace with 12 points. No other Panther scored in double digits and Cobb was often isolated by the rigid full-court press of Athens.
Even after the game had seemingly slipped away from Miami Trace, the exhausted and frustrated guard continually requested the ball and drove the lane, only to be denied by the rim or closed out by a Bulldog defender.
Athens will need to bring its offensive and defensive best back to Southeastern High School on Wednesday, Feb. 26 as it takes on Jackson, the only team that beat Athens this regular season, coming in the final contest.