ATHENS — Nathaniel Potts shrugged when asked about the numbers.
For most players, a double-double would be a notable accomplishment.
But for Potts? It’s become a nightly occurrence.
Potts’ double-double trend continued Friday night, as the Athens High star quietly tossed in 17 points and grabbed 15 rebounds to lead the Golden Eagles past rival Decatur 58-45.
“It’s just from playing hard and boxing out,” said Potts when asked about averaging a double-double on the season.
Of course, that’s the modest response. Natural talent and a tenacious motor have a little to do with it, too.
Potts burst onto the scene as a sophomore last season, earning second-team all-state honors from the Alabama Sports Writers Association after leading Athens to the Class 5A Northwest Regional final.
This season, the Athens star better known as “Giddy” has taken his game to another level.
“He’s developing into a really good player,” Athens coach Stace Tedford said. “This year he’s being more aggressive with the ball, and he’s a bit more confident with his shot on the perimeter. He’s pretty stinking good.”
Hard to dispute Tedford’s last statement.
The biggest difference is Potts’ 3-point shot.
Potts flashed his new skill in the first half against Decatur, sinking two 3-pointers to help the Athens (5-4) take a 25-16 lead into haftime.
“I spent a lot of time working on my shot this summer,” Potts said. “In college, I’m probably going to be more of a guard, so I stayed up here in the gym working on my game, just trying to get better.”
Even with Potts doing his usual routine, Decatur (2-5) didn’t let Athens pull away. Behind strong performances from Na’Vante Williams and Kaleb Smith, the Red Raiders stayed close throughout the third period and made a run at the lead in the fourth.
Williams and Juwan Porter made consecutive baskets early in the fourth period to pull Decatur within four.
But the Red Raiders could get no closer. Williams led Decatur with 23 points and 11 rebounds. Smith tossed in 11 and Porter added nine.
Jackson Pettus sank six consecutive free throws in the fourth period, and Athens closed out the game with a 13-4 run.
Neil Malone and Johnnie Anderson each finished with 12 points for Athens.
“We just weren’t ever able to stretch out the lead,” Tedford said.
“But a lot of that has to do with Decatur. They kept making adjustments, and we couldn’t get anything to work. But we had some guys step up, guys like Johnnie Anderson, who played extremely well for us tonight.
“At this point in the season, we’re still trying to figure out who we are, but I’d say we’re coming along. Any time you can beat Decatur, that’s a good win. I take that as a sign that we’re heading in the right direction.”
“The only goals that I have are team goals,” he said. “We’re working hard, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement. But we’re going to get there. I know it.”
Athens girls 39, Decatur 35
Injuries have been an issue for Athens this season, but Golden Eagles coach Eddie Murphree got a sign Friday that his team may be heading toward a clean bill of health.
Star center Alliyah Smith and guard Jasmine Lucas returned to the lineup, and the Athens duo didn’t disappoint. Smith tossed in 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds, while Lucas added 10 points, two assists and four steals in the win.
Even with two key players back on the floor, getting into the win column was a grind. Decatur made sure nothing came easy.
Decatur forced 23 turnovers, with O’Niesha Hampton finishing with five steals.
Decatur led 29-26 after three quarters, but Athens closed out the game with a 13-6 run.
Mariah Mort led Decatur with 11 points, while Constance Steele added 10 points with nine rebounds. Destiny Bailey paced Athens with 14 points and three assists.