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SECTIONAL PREVIEW: Athenians grateful for opportunity to compete

New life is coming for the Crawfordsville girls’ basketball team. Sidelined twice due to COVID-19 protocols, the Athenians will return to action just in time for the IHSAA Class 3A Sectional No. 25 at Tri-West.

Unfortunately the Athenians will have no time to practice before their opening game on Wednesday and waiting for them in the quarterfinal round? The four-time defending sectional champion Danville, who knocked Crawfordsville out of the tournament last season and beat them handily 75-13 in the regular season back in November. The Warriors are down this year though with the graduation of all-time leading scorer Ella Collier and are 11-10 entering tournament play.

“They’re a tough team,” Crawfordsville coach Tyler Smith said. “Even in a down year by their standars, they are a very difficult matchup because they just don’t have any weaknesses. It’s not easy preparing for them under normal circumstances, but this is a whole new challenge. But it gives us a chance to truly focus on the day and embrace the challenge.”

Still the Athenians, who are 5-10, but winners of three-straight, will get the chance to hit the floor in February — and compete in the Indiana state tournament.

“Our message in this game is the same message we’ve had all season long,” Smith added. “We get a chance to play the game we love, so let’s embrace that and do the best we can, no matter what the circumstances bring.”

Crawfordsville has met via Zoom and coach Smith has encouraged his players to pick up a ball and do some cardio while at home during this quarantined period.

Even with the issues this season and losing the entire offseason in 2020, the Athenians have still shown improvement, led by a talented junior class that includes Olivia Reed, Liddy McCarty, Shea Williamson, and Kearston Hutchens.

“We are very excited for the future. We have a better winning percentage this year despite losing our top scorer and three other girls who were starters at different parts of last season,” Smith said. “That shows growth and improvement. We are trusting each other more, following game-plans better, and starting to build confidence.”

Williamson will lead the Athenians into sectional play averaging seven points per game, seven rebounds and nearly four assists per contest.

McCarty and Hutchens both average five points or more per game. Crawfordsville is averaging just 34.5 points per game and giving up 47 a contest. Danville is averaging 55 and allowing 45 points per game. Maddie Patterson leads the Warriors with 16 points per game.

“We will need to take care of the ball, limit possessions, and not get in a track meet with them,” Smith said. “They’ll bring some pressure, and we need to be able to beat the pressure, but still have the ability to pull the ball out and not rush anything.”

Crawfordsville and Danville play in the second quarterfinal at Tri-West on Wednesday evening. The winner will play the winner of Tri-West (12-6) and Greencastle (9-9) in the second semi-final on Friday. Wednesday’s game will be broadcast on Thunder 103.9 and you can follow updates on Twitter at JR_Sports.

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