Lady Eagles golden in area
4th-ranked Athens jumps to quick lead, cruises to title
By Brooke Milam
ATHENS — Athens High senior Keona Shoulders held the Class 5A, Area 16 championship plaque first as her teammates crowded around to admire the award.
And then there were pictures with the Lady Golden Eagles holding up the traditional No. 1 finger.
Family and friends shouted instructions from the stands to make sure each girl showed up in the picture.
There would be no one hiding in the back, and that’s much the same way Athens is on the court.
“Every game we play is a good team win,” Athens junior Candice Bone said after the Lady Eagles beat Muscle Shoals 69-53 in the area finals Saturday night.
“Anybody can go in and do their job.”
Now Athens must wait to find out who its next opponent will be.
Fourth-ranked Athens (26-3) will host the loser of Monday’s Hartselle-Brewer matchup in a sub-regional game Thursday night at 7. Muscle Shoals will travel to the winner.
“You can’t have any let-ups in this next ballgame,” Athens coach Eddie Murphree said. “Either one of the teams we could face this Thursday is quality.”
It came as no surprise that the Lady Golden Eagles took the area title, winning their two area tournament games by a combined 49 points.
And longtime Muscle Shoals coach Brenda Mayes-Harris had no problem identifying some of the strengths that make Athens a dangerous postseason team.
“They’ve got a combination of what you need to be successful and they’re more experienced than we are,” Mayes-Harris said. “That makes a difference when you’ve got experience and depth at the same time.”
Athens controlled the game from the opening tipoff.
The Lady Golden Eagles led 21-9 after the first quarter and 42-22 at halftime before a third-quarter surge by the Lady Trojans began to close the gap.
“We know we can’t come out cocky,” Bone said. “We came out with our heads on straight. We knew Muscle Shoals was going to play hard, and anything could happen.”
Athens maintained a double-digit lead in the second half despite feeling pressure in the third quarter. The Lady Golden Eagles’ lead was 59-34 heading into the fourth.
“We slipped up right after halftime,” Bone said. “(Coach Murphree) called timeout and told us, ‘Get your head into the game.’ ”
Muscle Shoals’ offense was more productive in the second half, while Athens scored the bulk of its points before halftime.
“I thought we played pretty hard defensively in the first half,” Murphree said. “Defensively, I thought we got after it. Defense is the key — that’s the bottom line.”
Three Lady Golden Eagles put up double-figures scoring to pace Athens. Shoulders led all scorers with 18 points and had nine rebounds. Jenea Strong had 15 points and six rebounds, while Courtney Medlen put up 11 points with seven rebounds.
Also for the Lady Golden Eagles, Sierra Caudle had nine points, and LaCresha Horton scored eight.
Muscle Shoals was led by Jasmine Hammon, who had 12 points and five rebounds, followed by Kathryn Thompson’s 11 points and 10 rebounds. Kayla Hill had 10 points and four boards.
High school area championships
Class 1A, Area 11
Speake 65, Mount Hope 49
Class 2A, Area 10
Cold Springs 55, Addison 46
Class 3A, Area 11
Good Hope 47, Danville 43, OT
Class 4A, Area 14
East Limestone 58, Ardmore 46
Class 5A, Area 16 at Athens
Athens 69, Muscle Shoals 53
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