By Jonathan Deal
Athens won its 21st consecutive game in convincing fashion Friday night in the first round of the 5A Area 16 Tournament. The Golden Eagles buried Russellville 81-37 to tie the school record for consecutive victories.
“The only game I get nervous for is the first game of the year and the first area tournament game,” said Tedford. “You could be undefeated all year and then be done. Coach (Bradley) Willis did a good job of getting them ready in practice this week. We played tonight about how we’ve been practicing the last few days. Because of all that hard work is why we won the way we did tonight.”
Athens had 11 players score a bucket, emptying the bench as early as the second quarter. AHS had six players score at least eight points, led by Kwasi Hanson, Jackson Pettus and Tarik Malone, who all scored 12.
Josh Maplesden, Terrance Watkins and Giddy Potts all pitched in eight in the blowout victory. Montel Shoulders had a game-high nine rebounds to go along with six points.
“It’s good for those guys because they’ve played a huge support role all year,” said Tedford. “I think this team still has something left in them. I think they are playing at a high level, but I don’t think they’ve peaked yet.”
Athens started the game hot, shooting 62 percent from the floor in the opening quarter to take a 23-6 lead after one. Hanson and Malone each scored nine points in the first half as Athens found itself up 41-19 at the break.
AHS showed no letup after halftime and soon led by 43 points entering the fourth quarter. With the win, Athens advanced to play Muscle Shoals in the area championship game at 7 p.m. Monday.
A win would give this Athens team the most consecutive victories in school history.
“If we’re fortunate to move on, every game is getting tougher,” said Tedford. “We’ve got some young guys that are just starting to understand what we’re doing now. For a lot of the season, we relied on just Giddy and Trey. Now, we’ve got some younger guys stepping up. If those other guys continue to step up and help Giddy and Trey, this team right here is going to be hard to put out.”