SO WE MEET AGAIN…
Published 12:00 am Friday, March 7, 2008
By RYAN ARENA
No sooner than he heard the name “Reserve” uttered, Athens Coach Marcus Jackson smiled and shook his head in contemplation.
“Reserve Christian…what can you say? They’re a dynasty,” he said.
The Eagles are one dynasty that Jackson knows all too much about. Reserve defeated his Athens team a year ago in the Class C championship game on Kyle McClue’s buzzer-beating shot, 61-59.
Now, the teams are set to meet again. Athens (30-8), is trying to win its first state title since 1999, and Reserve Christian (39-9) is attempting to win its sixth in seven years.
The Eagles have won two straight Class C titles and another 2005. A third straight Class C crown would signify the first time that’s happened since Atlanta pulled the “three-peat” from 1994-1996.
The jerseys are the same, and so are the players for the most part at Reserve in regards to last year’s team.
Not so at Athens – Jackson brings three players back from last year’s team, and the rest are newcomers to the Top 28.
“The coaches and I felt like this was going to be a rebuilding year,” Jackson said. “I’m just going to do the best I can with what we’ve got (Saturday). Reserve’s got a great coach and great players.”
In Athens, Byrd and his Eagles are opposed with a team on a roll. The Trojans have won 14 straight, including a win in the semifinals over previously unbeaten Atlanta.
Byrd doesn’t want to see another nail biter, and as such says that his team will try to play smarter this year, and not get into the early foul trouble that plagued the Eagles last year.
“If we don’t commit those unnecessary fouls, we can play aggressively in the second half,” he said. “Last year we simply couldn’t.”
Athens is versatile offensively. They’re a quick team that runs an up tempo offense, while at the same time strong in the half court game.
Much like in Reserve’s semifinal matchup with Pleasant Hill, Byrd welcomes an up-tempo game, as it’s what his team excels in. But he would also like to force the issue for the Athens defense.
(See TITLE, Pafe 9A)
“We’re going to have to make some shots,” Byrd said. “They like to play zone, then switch it up into a trap. We need to make shots to get them out of that zone.
“It’ll be to our advantage if we can make them play defense aggressively. They want to run an up-tempo offense, but not so much on defense.”
Five Trojans average double figures – Kenny Rabb (17 ppg), Jimmy Shine, Jr. (15.0), Mikadrian Shelton (14.0) Devarious Critton (11.0) and Christopher Kimble (11.0)
For the Eagles, Cedric Jenkins leads all scorers with 21 a game. Eddren McCain averages 20. Chris Roussel (18.0), Kyle McClue (10.0) and Lucas Martin (9.0) round out the Eagle leaders.