Friday, January 18, 2008

Chantilly vs. Westfield

Athearn Is Making the Cut for Chantilly
By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, January 19, 2008; E07

Austin Decker, Justin May and Robbie Athearn all took different paths in becoming starters for Chantilly's basketball team.

May was a highly regarded star and Decker -- the football team's star quarterback -- always has played basketball in order to stay in shape in the offseason.

Last night, as Chantilly rolled over visiting rival Westfield, 65-52, it was Athearn who got his chance to be a star.

"Robbie was cut as a freshman. He wears that every time he goes out on the floor," Coach Jim Smith said of Athearn, a 6-foot-2 senior who scored a game-high 22 points.

Athearn scored six points in the fourth quarter of a physical contest that featured five technicals and 45 fouls.

Chantilly (13-1, 5-1) took over first place in the Virginia AAA Concorde District, and No. 12 Westfield (12-2, 4-1) had its winning streak halted at eight.

"Not making the team my freshman year was hard at first," said Athearn, who is second on the team in scoring at 13.9 points per game. "But right after that, I got right back to work."

Because of Athearn's development, the Chargers have a competitive mix of stars and several who Smith called "hungry players" who could contend in a wide-open Northern Region race.

"He's the most improved player I've ever played with," said May, who scored 10 of his 20 points in the first half to help the Chargers take a 30-27 halftime lead.

Decker scored seven of his 10 points in the third quarter to spark a 17-10 run that put Chantilly up 47-37 entering the fourth quarter. Decker added six assists and 11 rebounds.

"He was really persistent and kept at it," Decker said of Athearn. "Now he's playing big for us, making shots in the post and going out on the perimeter to shoot."

Westfield's Jamie Richardson scored 18 points, but Decker held Ball State-bound senior Maurice Hubbard (11.9 points per game) scoreless in the first half and to eight points overall.

"I know that with Austin, he's going to compete on every play," Smith said. "You love to coach a kid like that."

Chantilly 65 No. 12 Westfield 52

Rivalry Intact: Last night's victory gave Chantilly a 9-8 lead in the rivalry that started when Westfield opened in 2000. However, Westfield Coach Doug Ewell, in his fourth season, has posted a 5-3 record in the series.

Unselfish Group: Chantilly recorded 16 assists last night.

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