ATHENS — Positioned behind Lawrence County High’s bench watching as the final seconds ticked off the clock, Adrien Coffey shook her head in approval.
Coffey enjoys the dirty work of basketball, and for the Lawrence County forward, this had been her kind of game.
Struggling to score, Lawrence County used defense to keep its basketball season alive, advancing past Muscle Shoals 49-26 Thursday night in the Class 5A, Area 16 tournament.
Lawrence County (24-6) advances to face tournament host and top-seeded Athens Saturday in the Area 16 title game.
Both Athens and Lawrence County secured spots in next week’s sub-regional round by winning their tournament openers.
“Winning tonight takes a burden off our shoulders,” Coffey said. “In the area tournament, there’s always more pressure in the first game because no one wants their season to end.”
If winning was a stress-reliever, then smothering defense was the medicine that led to the cure.
Lawrence County outscored Muscle Shoals 11-0 in the second quarter, taking a 20-7 lead into halftime. In the second and fourth quarters combined, the Red Devils held Muscle Shoals to just two points.
“We played well defensively,” Lawrence County coach Kenny Coffey said. “That’s the good part. But the bad part is we went through a couple long stretches where we couldn’t score. We missed a few shots that should’ve been easy baskets. Offensively, we just weren’t very sharp.”
Adrien Coffey agreed.
“When you struggle to score like that, it’s frustrating,” she said. “It’s like Coach Coffey pointed out at halftime: We held a team to seven points in a half and only led by 13. That’s not good enough. But we played good defense, and that’s what got us through.”
Rachel Childress led Lawrence County with 13 points, while Khelea Roberts tossed in 10. Adrien Coffey added nine.
Muscle Shoals trimmed the deficit to single digits in the third quarter, but struggled immensely in the final quarter, getting outscored 15-2.
Shana Sherrod led Muscle Shoals with nine points, and Alex Vinson added eight.
“Any time you win, it’s a good thing, but we’ll have to play a whole lot better Saturday night,” Kenny Coffey said. “Athens is a team that causes a lot of problems for us. To have a chance against them, we’ll have to be a whole lot sharper.”
Athens 57, Russellville 30: Jasmin Lucas poured in 11 points while finishing with seven assists and seven steals to lead Athens past Russellville.
Athens (15-13) never trailed, opening the game with a 17-4 run and building a 17-point cushion by halftime. Alliyah Smith dominated the lane.
The 6-foot-2 center scored nine points and grabbed seven rebounds for Athens, while Jazzmin Hicks added seven rebounds. Destiney Bailey finished with 10 points for Athens, while Tariona Adams tossed in seven points with five rebounds.
Ashley Dunstan led Russellville with 10 points and Victoria Adams added nine.
Contact Justin Graves at 256-340-2460 or by email at email@example.com.
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