By Jonathan Deal
EAST LIMESTONE —
No one in East Limestone’s Gymnasium had seen anything like it before.
Athens and East Limestone varsity girls teams played a back-and-forth game that you would expect from any rivalry, but what happened in the final minutes made even the Iron Bowl finish look ordinary.
East was reduced four players in the final minutes of the fourth quarter after having its fourth player foul out Tuesday. Playing four versus five, East erased a six-point deficit in the final two minutes to force overtime.
Athens led 59-57 with six seconds remaining and had the ball, but a technical foul ejection on Kaitlyn Wise allowed East Limestone’s Brennan Crabtree to tie the game with a pair of made free throws.
Playing overtime with four players, East Limestone stayed within two points for half of the overtime period before two players fouled out in a 10 second period. Athens was awarded a forfeit victory when Dee Dee Cole was the remaining player left on the court for East Limestone.
Athens led 66-62 when the final player fouled out for East. East Limestone had seven players total foul out from the game.
“I’ve never seen a game like that,” said Athens head coach Eddie Murphree. “I just told them to stick to our strategy and keep playing. They have a fine ball club and we had to battle until the end.”
Athens had 12 players score a point, led by Barbara Anderson’s 13 points. Zana Burke scored 10 points while Passion Lucas and Tariona Adams each added nine points.
AHS trailed 53-52 with just over two minutes to play then forced back-to-back turnovers to score six points in an 11 second span. Athens could have put the game away in regulation, but was 17 for 55 (30%) from the free throw line.
“I thought we had a chance when we had four,” said East Limestone head coach Josh Davis. “We were still playing a matchup zone at that point, but when we went down to three it got tough.”
East Limestone went on a 12-3 run to close the third quarter and led until Athens regained the lead with two minutes left in regulation. Brennan Crabtree led all scorers with 29 points. Rachel Diamond added 13 points.
East Limestone host Cullman Friday while Athens will travel to Lawrence County.
Athens used a big second half to pull away from East Limestone for a 55-37 win Tuesday. AHS outscored its rival 30-11 in the second half and limited the home to just three points in the third quarter.
“Defensively, we came out and played a lot better in the second half,” said Athens head coach Stace Tedford. “We came out flat and for us to be good, we’ve got to run. They did a good job of taking that away from us in the first half.”
Nathaniel “Giddy” Potts led Athens with 22 points and was 7 for 7 from the free throw line. Trey Potts scored 15 points while Jackson Pettus added eight points.
Jordon Gandy led East Limestone with 17 points.