Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.|
Athens center Amelia Ridgeway strips the ball away from two Russellville players in Class 5A, Area 16 tournament action in Athens on Thursday night. The Lady Eagles won 61-28.
Seniors lead Lady Eagles
Athens to play Muscle Shoals in area finals
By Brooke Milam
ATHENS — It’s hard for Athens High girls basketball coach Eddie Murphree to deny his team’s dominance of Class 5A, Area 16 when the Lady Golden Eagles walked through its regular-season area schedule undefeated.
Murphree humbly admits that his team is talented, but other area coaches agree the 5A fourth-ranked Lady Golden Eagles are a notch above their area competition.
Athens proved them right again Thursday night with a convincing 61-28 win over Russellville in the opening round of the area tournament.
“They’re up here right now and everybody else is just trying to get there,” Russellville coach James Bostick said.
Athens (25-3) will advance to face Muscle Shoals in the area finals Saturday night at 7.
Decatur’s girls season ended with a 58-44 to Muscle Shoals earlier in the night.
Murphree said the key to his team’s level-headed attitude while preparing for the postseason this week was its five seniors — Courtney Medlen, Sierra Caudle, Keona Shoulders, Brittany Hovell and Mikia Redus — who combined for 47 of Athens 61 points in Thursday night’s win.
“Five great seniors have done it,” Murphree said.
“They’re the ones that inherited the back-to-back state championships (2002 and 2003). They’ve worked hard, and they’re reaping the rewards.”
Shoulders’ double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds paced Athens.
Caudle scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds, and Medlen added 12 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals.
“We’ve got some players with some God-given ability on offense, but defense will determine how far we can go from here on out,” Murphree said.
And how pleased was Murphree with his team’s defensive performance against Russellville?
“Very pleased,” he said.
Athens girls were up 13-0 in the first quarter, holding Russellville scoreless for the opening seven minutes of the game.
The Lady Golden Eagles were ahead 13-1 at the end of the first quarter, and their lead was 23-11 at halftime.
Up 20 points, 37-17, with 1:30 left in the third quarter, Athens went ahead 30 points with two minutes to go in the final period.
Russellville’s only player to reach double-digits scoring was Jordan Dollar with 13 points, who tied a single-game state record 13 3-pointers in a game against Colbert County last week.
Murphree said Dollar was a main concern after Athens pulled out a 57-53 win in a regular-season game at Russellville.
“She’s a great player ... We just tried to stay focused on Athens because we knew if we played as hard as we could that everything will take care of itself,” Murphree said.
Muscle Shoals girls 58, Decatur 44: Decatur liked its chances after splitting with the Lady Trojans in the regular season and were tied at 12 after the first quarter Thursday night.
“Being in a draw away from Athens was going to be the best thing for us, and we hung in there for awhile,” Decatur coach Brad Boy said.
Muscle Shoals was ahead just 21-29 at halftime and 37-32 after three quarters. But after the Lady Trojans got up 48-38 midway through the fourth, Decatur couldn’t overcome the deficit.
“I think where we got ourselves into trouble was when we started trying to make up for the whole lead ever time we got the ball instead of just chipping away,” Boy said. “We made some offensive mistakes because of that.”
Whitney Fletcher was Decatur’s high scorer with 11 points, six rebounds and two steals, while teammate Ashley Witherspoon had 10 points, five rebounds and three assists, and Ashley Henderson and Lindsay Hawkins each added eight points.
Kathryn Thompson and Jasmine Hammon, who had 14 points apiece, led Muscle Shoals, while Stacia Watts gave Muscle Shoals 10.
Decatur finished the season 2-25, but Boy said it’s easy to chart the team’s success by the improvements they made this year.
“Anyone who followed this team, even as far back as the summer, can see they’ve really come a long way and that’s a testament to their hard work,” Boy said.
“We told them at some point in their lives when they get older they’re going to be able to draw from the lessons of this season. They could have quit at any time and they didn’t and I love them all for that.”
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