Warriors run past Bulldogs for 56-40 win
His game-high 18 points Friday helped the Warriors defeat visiting Athens, 56-40, and improve to 8-3 overall this season.
Nichols’ floater right before the halftime buzzer gave Warren a 27-21 lead at the break. The Warriors increased that lead to 10, 36-26, midway through the third before a 7-0 run by Athens made it a three-point game going into the fourth.
That’s when the Warriors dialed up the pressure, converting turnovers into easy baskets and outscoring the Bulldogs 20-7 to pull away.
“We really stepped up our intensity, all of us as a team,” said Nichols, who also grabbed six rebounds. “The crowd helped us a lot too, the student section. I think we just really put the pressure on them and were able to create some turnovers and get easy layups after that.”
Austin Barta was 5 for 8 from the floor for 13 points while Seth Dennis added 10.
“(Athens) got behind and had to come out of the zone and spread the floor,” Warren head coach Blane Maddox said of his team’s late surge. “Their point guard (Elijah Williams) got in foul trouble and that was big for us. We just continued to go at it and got a lot of steals, a lot of breakaways for some easy offense in that fourth quarter.”
Warren rotated nine guys most of the game, allowing everyone to stay fresh and outrun the Bulldogs late.
“Having a deep bench and being able to rely on all nine or 10 of those guys is huge,” Nichols said. “We can have fresh legs. It’s just big because anyone can step up on any night and have a good night.”
Added Maddox, “We’re really happy with the bench play. I thought everybody did what they were supposed to do. We’ve been in so many tight games and I think that’s helped us. We just settled down when they cut it to three. (Brandon Simoniette’s) 3 was huge.”
Simoniette opened the fourth period with a triple to stretch Warren’s lead to six. Nichols added a pair of free-throws to make it an eight-point margin before Athens’ Isaiah Butcher answered with a basket-and-one to get the Bulldogs within five. It was all Warren from there as the royal blue and white scored the game’s next 11 points to go up 52-36 with less than four minutes to play.
“I feel like the guys really understand their roles,” Maddox said. “They really support one another. As long as you do that and you keep battling — you’re going to have some highs and some lows, but we’ve just got to make sure we bounce off each one, get level and go at it again.”
Athens (8-3) got 11 points apiece from Butcher and Justin Hynes. Logan Maxfield added eight points while Butcher and Eli Chubb tallied seven boards each.
The Bulldogs committed 23 turnovers to Warren’s 11.
Maddox praised the complete effort his team put together.
“(Nichols) has played very, very well,” Maddox said. “All the guys played well. Bryce (Knost) didn’t score but he gave us a lift on defense. Chevy (Joel Chevalier) came in and was very aggressive. There’s a lot of guys going in and doing what we ask them to do. It’s really coming together.”
Added Nichols, “I think we’re doing good. We’re all working hard. We’re improving — we still have room to improve but I’m happy with where we’re at tonight.”
Warren is back in action against Marietta on Tuesday at home. Marietta bested Warren in overtime in both teams’ season opener this year.
“There won’t be no pep talk for that one,” Maddox said. “That’s going to be a tough ballgame. They match up very well with us. It should be another sold out coliseum.”
Nichols remembers the first game well and is hoping for a different result.
“We’ve got some revenge to do,” he said.