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Hartselle comes alive late to take win over Athens

Feb. 2—HARTSELLE — Sometimes you have to find a way to win ugly and that's exactly what the Hartselle Tigers did Thursday night in a 40-37 win over Athens.

After leading 16-5 after the first quarter, Hartselle scored just 24 points the rest of the game and trailed Athens late in the fourth. But Hartselle found the shots it needed when it needed them.

Ty Odom swished a game-tying 3-pointer with 1:33 remaining and then hit the go-ahead shot with 50 seconds left to lead the Tigers to victory.

"During the second and third quarters we were really cold shooting," said Odom. "When it was winding down, Coach (Faron) Key told everyone to get me the ball. That gave me a lot of confidence, and I just went out there and got it done."

Athens took the lead going into the fourth quarter, 30-27, and forced Hartselle to toss out its game plan.

"About midway through the third quarter, we kind of abandoned offense and said let's win with defense," Key said. "At the end it was give the ball to Ty and tell him to go shoot. I thought he was the best thing we had going on offense tonight, so it was time to ride him."

Odom finished with a game high 16 points, while Rylan Smothers added nine. Saylor Bright led Athens with 11.

It wasn't the prettiest win for the Tigers, but finding a way to win was a positive Key took from the Thursday's regular season finale.

"We're not executing well on offense, and that's something we'll put an emphasis on this weekend," Key said. "But that felt like a postseason game, and sometimes in the postseason you have to grind out a win. We did that tonight."

The win Thursday was also a milestone for Key, who now has 173 wins at Hartselle, making him the all-time winningest coach in the school's history.

"I think a lot about the people that came before. Coach (Don) Pouncey and Coach (Johnny) Berry were great mentors for me," Key said. "When we came here, it was about getting this program to be as good as it could be. We have a shot or two to win a state title, and its time to get back to that. Hopefully we can make a run this year."

—caleb.suggs@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2395. Twitter @CalebSuggs2