Updated Thu, Feb 27, 2014 2:59 pm
There may be 536 miles between The Plains and Syracuse University, but the Athens Lady Bulldogs were focusing their inner Orange as they employed a shaky 2-3 defense that saw them narrowly escape Southeastern High School with a 58-51 win over Jackson on a chilly Wednesday night.
The Ironladies were the only team to beat the Lady Bulldogs (24-1) during the regular season, snapping Athens’ 30-game winning streak, and Wayne Horsley and the crew were looking for revenge.
But with Jackson leading the Lady Bulldogs 50-48 with time winding down, it looked like a replay of the regular season finale.
“We just kind of stuck together,” junior guard Dominique Doseck said. “And we try and build each other up with confidence. Rely on each other.”
The junior sharpshooter went 4 of 8 from the perimeter and finished with 25 points, scoring seven of Athens’ last 10 points.
Naturally, Doseck was the player the team looked at to get them going again and she didn’t disappoint, drawing a foul and knocking down the corresponding free throws to tie the game at 50 all.
An offensive lapse by Jackson would give possession back to Athens and once again, the ball ended up in Doseck’s hands and, as it often does when the ball is in her hands, the ball caressed the bottom of the net after a good three-pointer that gave the Lady Bulldogs a three-point lead that they wouldn’t lose for the rest of the game.
The game looked sealed up going into halftime, as the Green and White exploded for 21 points in the second quarter and with a solid 37-29 lead, took the majority of the momentum into the locker room.
But the Ironladies emerged from the rest period an inspired team, holding Athens to nine points in the third quarter and seizing the momentum from the ‘Dogs’ mouth despite being down by six at the beginning of the fourth.
The Ironladies used the ‘Dogs’ 2-3 zone that had worked well for Athens in the early stages of the game to its advantage, running a fast break offense that refused to let the Bulldogs get settled and exposed open areas that Jackson exploited.
The girls in Green and White would revert to a man-to-man defense later in the game, but by then, the damage appeared to have been done.
Jackson went on an 8-0 run to take its first lead since the first quarter, where it led 10-8. The Ironladies relied primarily on turnovers and second-chance opportunities to get a jump on the ’Dogs and silence the traveling Athens delegation.
Athens would be the team to finish on top and it can mainly be attributed to the team cohesiveness and ability to spread the burden around the squad and rely on the player next to them to pull through the pain.
“We try to build each other up,” senior forward Hannah DeBruin said. “You got to keep calm and get your energy back up and we’ll swing back through.”
DeBruin had four points, five rebounds, two steals and an assist, but her dominance isn’t something that can be recorded on a stat sheet. The five-foot-nine forward has long arms and is defensively imposing to her opponents—being the rock of the Bulldogs defense.
Her leadership on the court also can’t be overstated as one of three seniors on the team and her voice is always present gathering players into position and organizing the defense.
Sophomore forward Rachael Gilkey also provided a spark, grabbing 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting off the bench while also grabbing a steal before fouling out late in the fourth.
Athens will now fix its attention to the regional semifinal in Zanesville on Tuesday, Mar. 4, where the ‘Dogs will play the winner of West Holmes and Philo.