If Athens Drive’s home opener is any indication, the Jaguars boys and girls basketball teams are in for a wild season.
Tip-off for the girls’ game against Lee County was delayed more than 30 minutes because the referees were late arriving, and Athens then scored the first 19 points of the game in an easy 68-25 win.
The boys’ game was a slugfest, as five players fouled out, with the Jaguars rallying from seven points down in the final two minutes to put the game into overtime. However, Lee County’s Tyler Thomas made his second of two free throws with 0.5 seconds left to give the Yellow Jackets a 48-47 victory.
The Jaguars had pulled ahead 42-41 on a Sean Carmen follow shot with 25 seconds remaining in regulation.
But after Lee County’s Tyshaun Douglass missed two free throws, Thomas nabbed the rebound and was fouled. He made 1-of-2 from the line to send the game into overtime.
There, after Athens’ Kevin Page followed his own missed 3-pointer with a bucket to tie the game at 47-47 with 12.8 seconds remaining, the Yellow Jackets got the ball to Thomas in the lane. Page was late getting there and fouled Thomas, putting him on the line with 0.5 seconds left.
Thomas missed the first, and Athens coach Robert Clemons called time out. But with the Jaguar faithful roaring, Thomas calmly drilled the second.
Joe Sykes caught a long inbound pass and hurried up a 40-footer, but it was no good, and Lee County held on for a 48-47 victory.
Yellow Jackets coach Reggie Peace breathed a sigh of relief, knowing his team made only 13-of-38 foul shots but somehow won the game.
“We missed enough free throws,” Peace said. “You don’t win many games missing that many free throws. But the kids stepped up and made them when they had to.”
Jared Gunter was the lone player in double figures for Lee County (1-0), though it had nine players score. Peace expects big things from his team, which hasn’t had many workouts with the full roster because many were playing football.
“A lot of those guys who were out there at the end, they were football guys,” Peace said. “They haven’t had but a couple days of practice, so we were kind of handcuffed with what we could run.
“We’ve got a chance to be pretty good. We just need gym time, practice time with all of them in there.”
Clemons, too, knows his Jaguars need more practice time. Guard Malik Talton led Athens (0-2) with 16 points, but he fouled out late in regulation. The Jaguars struggled from the line, too, making 19-of-36 free throws, and Athens committed 30 turnovers.
“Our mistakes kept us from getting over the hump,” Clemons said. “We made mistakes at the wrong time. Some of them were unforced, some of them were forced. Just critical mistakes at the wrong time.
“We put ourselves in a position to win it, but you can’t afford to have traveling calls, you can’t afford to miss free throws, you can’t afford to make fouls in the backcourt. You can’t afford to do those types of things and expect to win.”
Clemons, who won a state championship with High Point’s T.W. Andrews in 1995, always thinks big, so he’s looking at a conference title for his Jaguars.
“But you’ve got to make plays,” Clemons said. “You’ve got to play defense, you’ve got to have team chemistry. That’s the goal – develop team chemistry and improve in all areas of the game. We’ve got a lot of things to work on.”
Senior Grace Hunter scored 33 points for the Athens Drive girls (2-0), which had 10 players score.
As part of the new NCHSAA mercy rule – which calls for a running clock in the second half if one team is up by 40 or more – the clock ran continuously in the fourth quarter, and no player scored in double figures for Lee County (0-1).