BOYS BASKETBALL: Athens pulls away from Troy to claim second straight district

| March 10, 2014 | Comments (0)



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PONTIAC Even in a year when Troy Athens shared a conference crown, the Red Hawks didn’t fully live up to expectations.

Those finally surfaced during the past week.

Athens captured its second straight district crown — the first time that has happened since winning district titles in consecutive years back in 1999 and 2000 — with a 61-50 victory over arch-rival Troy at Pontiac High School. The three-win week helped cap a five-day stretch where the Red Hawks showcased its array of athleticism and deep well of talent many predicted at the beginning of the season would have a breakout campaign.

Athens (17-6) will face Clarkston at Southfield Lathrup Tuesday night in the regional semifinals.

Corbin Vrij, Athens’ 6-foot-5 junior power forward, ignited several Athens runs with countless key plays. His monster week ended with 18 points, six rebounds and five blocked shots.

Senior guard Michael Williams had 10 points, five assists, three rebounds and three steals, 6-5 junior John Van Hoef added 13 points and nine boards, junior guard Tim Shayoka chipped in with nine points, four rebounds and four assists, and junior guard Devin Terry came off the bench to supply eight points, four assists and four rebounds for the Red Hawks.

“It feels great. I can’t describe it,” smiled Vrij, who had perhaps his best week of the season with three solid outings. “This was one of our goals, winning the district again.”

A district title last season gave Athens plenty of fuel to drive back to the regionals this season.

“We put in a ton of work last year, just being able to compete and stay at it, I can’t say enough,” said Athens coach Dave Scott. “We had a chance to win the league outright but didn’t. To come back and have the week we’ve had, and to beat a team as good as Troy. That says a lot about this team.”

Troy (17-6) raced out of the gates with an 8-0 run over the first 3:27 and settled for a 12-9 advantage at the end of the first quarter. Behind the shooting of senior guard Austin Perry — who finished with a game-high 21 points on the strength of 5-of-8 shooting from beyond the three-point arc — the Colts extended the lead to 24-19 with 2:37 left in the first half.

That’s when Athens finally got untracked, closing the second quarter with an 11-0 spurt. The run began with Vrij drilling a triple from the left corner and ended with a steal and driving layup from Shayoka with 14 ticks left in the frame. The Red Hawks led 30-24 at the half.

“They do have some nice athletes and they did a good job getting the ball to the right guys,” sighed Troy coach Gary Fralick. “Mike Williams is the guy that makes them go. He is so quick and has great energy.

“I thought we had three nice games with Athens,” continued Fralick. “We are very close (in talent). I just enjoyed this team a lot. I thought they battled hard all year. We just came up a little short in this game.”

Troy outscored Athens 17-16 in the third quarter, as the two traded off mini runs. The Red Hawks led 46-41 at the end of the third frame when Vrij connected on his third 3-pointer of the night.

Athens, which shared the OAA White Division crown with Oak Park and Troy, kept the Colts off the board fro the first 4:14 of the fourth quarter, going on an 5-0 run in that span for a 51-41 lead. The Colts made one final push, trimming the deficit down to 51-44 with 3:32 left.

The Red Hawks had enough down to the stretch to pull away and win the rubber match.

“This was n ice that it was an all-Troy affair,” noted Scott. “I give credit to Troy because they are a very good team. We had to earn this win.”

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