The holiday tournaments are done, school is back in session and the Athens High basketball team is preparing for a pivotal stretch of games beginning with Friday’s trip to area foe Russellville.
With the area tournament just over a month away, Athens still has five of its remaining six area games left to play. After starting the year 0-3, Athens went on a four game winning streak and recently finished third in the Yule Tide Classic at Wallace State Community College.
“We’ve got to be more consistent. We’ll play really good one night and then we won’t play very good the next night,” said Athens head coach Stace Tedford. “I think all our kids understand what we have to do. Everybody has to come to every game and treat it like it’s their last. Some nights we seem to take possessions off and we need to finish better.”
Through the first six weeks of the season, Athens has played some quality opponents in the Columbia Thanksgiving Classic, Fort Payne Shootout and the most recent tournament in Hanceville. In those tournaments, Athens registered impressive wins over 6A No. 6 Hazel Green and 4A No. 2 Dallas County while losing to two more ranked opponents in Tanner and Columbia.
“Every team has their own identity and I think what has happened to this team is it’s just taking us a little while to find our identity,” Tedford said. “All these guys know their roles, they accepted them very well; we just have to compete now.
“We aren’t going to worry very much what the other team does. It’s about us and we practice every day about our improvement. We can get better and I like our chances at the end of the regular season.”
The end of the regular season is one month away when Athens will travel to Decatur on Feb. 4. Before then, the Golden Eagles will play area foes Muscle Shoals and Russellville twice, along with a final game against Lawrence County Tuesday in Moulton. Athens beat Lawrence County by 44 points in early December.
Led by Nathaniel “Giddy” Potts, Athens appears to hitting stride at just the right time. The athletic junior forward is no longer a secret to teams across North Alabama. Tedford said Potts has been forced to fight off extra attention this season.
“Everybody is playing him no-catch. For him to put up the double-doubles like he has been is unbelievable,” Tedford said. “Teams are sending two guys to box him out, but what it’s doing is opening opportunities for other guys. Our big guys last week against Dallas County really played well. The more other guys step up, the less teams will be able to focus on Giddy.”
Athens travels to Russellville tomorrow for its next game. Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m.