When the Athens girls basketball team took to the court on Tuesday night to face St. Joseph Michigan Lutheran in a Class D regional semifinal matchup, the Indians had just one thing in mind — advance to a second consecutive regional championship game.
That goal was assured when the Indians raced out of the gates, snapping up a 60-26 victory at Mendon High School.
“We were focused and ready to go,” said Athens head coach Calvin Quist. “Two of my seniors are three-year varsity players that have been to the quarterfinals and finals and so I’m sure that’s a comforting effect on them and the team.”
With the win Athens (20-3) advances to the regional finals where the Indians will face Hillsdale Academy at 7 p.m. on Thursday at Mendon High School. The Colts defeated Pittsford 46-36 in Tuesday’s other semifinal matchup.
Before they could consider playing for their second consecutive regional championship, the Indians first had to take care of a Michigan Lutheran squad that tried to use its size and a 1-2-2 half-court press to slow down an Athens squad that loves to run.
But that strategy did little to stop an Athens team that seemingly put up points at will — going on runs of 18-3,10-2 and 10-0 — all of which helped the Indians run away with a game that was never really close.
“We were emphasizing share the ball, share the ball. We had a few problems with that earlier in the year, I don’t know if that was our chemistry, we lost four of the starters from our team last year,” Quist said. “(The girls) are confident that when they give the ball up to a teammate and their going to get it back. Know your game, and when it’s your opportunity take the shot.”
The Titans (14-9) were led by sophomore Hailey Maas who was more than handful for the Indians, as the guard scored 12 points and added two steals.
Kamrynn Weber chipped in for Michigan Lutheran scoring four points and nabbing three steals of her own.
Despite not playing in the fourth quarter, the Indians were led by Audrey Oswalt who picked up the majority of her 15 points in transition as Athens was able to come away with several easy buckets following steals and rebounds.
Leia Fuller added eight points, six rebounds and three assists for Athens while Allysha Beal racked up nine points and three assists for the Indians.
“We wanted to get the ball in the air and fast break, we knew they were going to half court trap us and I thought we executed our press break very well,” Quist said.
The Indians collected 10 steals while also dominating the glass, out-rebounding the Titans 25-20.
Michigan Lutheran scored the game’s first point on a free throw from Weber, but that lead was quickly erased when Chantel Davenport came down and hit her first of two 3-pointers, helping her to finish with 14 points.
“We were shooting on all cylinders tonight and we were shooting well from the outside when we had to set up, and we were getting into the break and getting into transition,” Quist said. “The last thing I tell them before we go out there is ‘have fun.’ When you play the game right, and play as a team it is fun.”
Athens was the Class D runner-up in 2012. Quist knows that despite Tuesday’s easy victory, the road back to the Beslin Center at Michigan State University for the MHSAA State Championships only gets tougher. The honorable mention Indians will now be stacked against a Hillsdale Academy squad that is ranked No. 10 in Class D.
“We haven’t won anything yet, we know to move on to the next game,” Quist said. “I’ll be breaking down film tonight, I’ll get my girls ready, we’ll have a game plan and be ready to execute.”