HANCEVILLE — Frustration showing on his face, Athens High coach Stace Tedford watched as Parker players sank free throw after free throw.
The scouting report said Parker's free-throw shooting was not a strength, but the Thundering Herd bucked the trend.
Parker was almost perfect from the foul line in the fourth quarter as the Thundering Herd overcame a 10-point deficit to upset seventh-ranked Athens 45-33 Tuesday in the Class 5A Northwest Regional semifinals.
Parker (18-6) advances to face top-ranked Wenonah on Friday in the regional final.
"Coming into the game, I felt like we were as good, if not better," Tedford said. "(Parker) just plays a crazy style of basketball, with the way they pressure you, and that's not something we've faced.
"We turned the ball over 22 times, and if you do that against Parker, you lose every time."
For most of the game, Athens (24-8) handled Parker's full-court pressure.
Trey Potts caught a lob pass and dunked early in the third quarter, sparking an 11-0 run that gave Athens a 27-17 lead.
But then momentum changed. Parker's Alontae Johnson sank a pair of 3-pointer, sparking a 28-6 that sent the Thundering Herd stampeding into the regional final.
Parker was almost perfect from the foul line during that stretch, making 17 of 20 attempts.
"Hopefully we're a good free-throw shooting team now, because we haven't been very good at shooting free throws all year," Parker coach Reginald McGary said with a laugh. "It hasn't been a strength, but the guys did a good job today."
Tedford said anxiety was an issue.
"You could sense it," he said. "We got a little bit tight and were pressing the issue with the shots we were taking. Athletically, they did a good job of keeping us from getting the ball in the paint. But hey, they just guarded us really well, and we didn't make enough shots when we needed them."
Giddy Potts led Athens with 18 points and five rebounds, while Trey Potts added eight points with six rebounds.
"That's a tough way to lose, but it doesn't change the fact that we had a good season," Tedford said. "These guys won a lot of games and beat some good teams. They accomplished a lot and have nothing to be ashamed about."
Contact Justin Graves at 256-340-2462 or by email at email@example.com.
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