RALEIGH — There are a few reasons why the Athens Drive girls’ basketball team has gone from finishing in the bottom third of the Tri-9 Conference in the previous two seasons to sitting in third place this year.
Two of those reasons come from the same crowded household.
Newcomers Grace and Joy Hunter have given the program a jolt in coach Dayna Jordan’s first year. The sisters transferred in from Upper Room Academy after that school closed down its high school this summer.
They accounted for almost all of the Jaguars’ scoring on Thursday night in a 60-51 home win against Panther Creek. The two teams entered the game tied for third in the league.
“They’re tenacious,” Jordan said. “They’re two of 13 children and they don’t leave anything on the table. They go after everything and they work really hard.”
Grace Hunter, a sophomore, led the team in scoring with 32 points and also nabbed seven rebounds. Joy Hunter, a senior, pulled down 12 rebounds to lead the Jaguars (10-6, 6-3).
“They’re intricate parts of our offense and defense,” Jordan said. “I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t’ have them. And they work well with each other. They find each other well.”
The Catamounts (9-7, 5-5) struggled against Athens Drive’s 2-3 zone during the first quarter, and two fouls to star center Allie Tuttle didn’t help.
The contest remained close until the sister act took over midway through the second quarter. A high-low pass from Joy Hunter to Grace Hunter sparked an Athens Drive run that led to the Jaguars taking a nine-point lead into the half, 23-14.
Panther Creek couldn’t shake its foul troubles in the third quarter.
Tuttle – a Northwestern recruit – picked up her third and Mercedes Harris, another crucial player in the Catamounts’ frontcourt, picked up her third as well.
“We boxed out (Tuttle) really hard,” Grace Hunter said. “(We) made sure that she couldn’t get a rebound over us.”
Waverly Peng was the defining factor that kept Panther Creek in the contest. Peng led the Catamounts in scoring with 14 points and handing out five assists.
Peng often made the shot to keep her team in striking distance, cutting it to four points in the fourth quarter once.
This was the only Tri-9 varsity game for either boys’ or girls’ basketball that was played Thursday. Most games were scheduled for Friday, but the threat of impending winter weather was not enough for either team to push the game back another day.