ATHENS — Driving to the basket as time was about to expire, Adrien Coffey attempted her final shot of the night.
The layup didn't even reach the top of the rim.
Oh well. Coffey's miss didn't spoil her celebration — or anyone else's on the Lawrence County High bench.
Lawrence County used a strong start, followed by a gritty performance late to beat Athens 49-43 Saturday night to claim the Class 5A, Area 15 title.
As the Area 15 champion, Lawrence County (25-6) hosts Hartselle on Thursday in the Class 5A sub-regional round of the postseason, while Athens (15-14) travels to Cullman.
"Every game we've played against Athens was a dog fight, just like this one," said Lawrence County coach Kenny Coffey, whose Red Devils lost to Athens twice this season. "For us, the biggest difference is that we've grown up a lot. Earlier in the year, we would have gotten rattled and probably lost the game. But mentally, we toughed it out, and I think we're starting to peak at the right time."
There's weight to that last statement. Lawrence County is on a 12-game winning streak and has momentum heading into the postseason.
Momentum and enthusiasm.
Both showed immediately following the opening tipoff. Forcing turnovers and making almost every shot attempted, Lawrence County turned a wave of energy into a 15-1 run to start the game.
"We had more energy tonight, and we were playing all in as a team," Lawrence County guard "Everything was going our way. It's been that way for a few weeks. Do I think we're peaking? Yeah, I do. And it's a perfect time to peak."
Childress got hot early, and the sharpshooting freshman never cooled off. She nailed five 3-pointers and led Lawrence County with 21 points.
But that didn't stop Athens was from rallying back. Alliyah Smith and Jasmin Lucas sparked two scoring runs that pulled the Golden Eagles within four by halftime.
Smith led Athens with 18 points and Lucas added 11.
Despite showing signs of fatigue late in the fourth quarter due to Athens' full-court pressure, Lawrence County finished strong. Tori McDaniel and Childress were clutch at the foul line in the closing minutes, helping the Red Devils preserve the win.
McDaniel finished with 11 points, while Whitney Woodard tossed in 12.
"Getting off to a good start was important," Kenny Coffey said. "We came into this knowing that we needed a good start, and we needed to take control of the game in the second half on our terms. I feel like we accomplished both of those things.
"Now it's on to the next challenge. I told the girls we can celebrate this one tonight, but then it's on to the next challenge with Hartselle. They're a tough team, but this time of year, nothing is easy."
Contact Justin Graves at 256-340-2460 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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