Area madness begins in Class 6A
It’s that time of year that basketball enthusiasts look forward to every year — tournament time. It’s a bracket of events where the craziest of craziest things have happened through the years. Furthermore, it’s a time for teams to put a season behind them and start anew.
Many county teams will host some of the best basketball in the state with this week’s area tournaments. One of those hosts will be the Thompson Warriors, as they will host the 6A, Area 10 tournament beginning Tuesday.
No. 1 THOMPSON WARRIORS (15-10)
The Warriors will garner the top seed and home court advantage considering they breezed through Area 10 with a 7-1 record and rightfully so.
“We are very glad to be playing at home for the area tournament…it’s a big advantage. Hopefully we will have good crowd support along the way,” Thompson head coach Jeff Nichols. “This tournament is a toss-up and anyone can win it. No matter how much we have played each other, we still have to be ready to play.
The Warriors will await the play-in game winner between Spain Park and Pelham Tuesday night. If it’s the Jags or the Panthers, it’s a team the Warriors are very familiar with.
“Pelham has been playing a lot better basketball here lately and Spain Park is a team that will pay hard no matter what,” Nichols said. “They both have good teams.”
Winning seven of the last eight games, the Warriors have to stay within in their game to be successful versus other teams that will try to slow them down. Additionally, the Thompson must continue with the on-the-court defensive pressure that has caused chaos for opposing teams all year.
“We have to control the tempo of the game, play fast, and keep the pressure on the whole game,” Nichols said. “Playing fast and controlling the tempo of the game will be an obstacle as well as the key(s) to us being successful”
No. 2 OAK MOUNTAIN EAGLES (19-9)
The Oak Mountain Eagles are sprinting into the postseason clicking on every basketball cylinder winning nine of their last 10 games. As the No. 2 seed, they will square off with a talented Hoover Buccaneer team.
“Our team is playing well right now and I think we are still improving,” Eagle head coach Reggie Mantooth said. “Area 10 is a very competitive area. We have played well in the area with both our area losses to Thompson.”
Mantooth sees the keys to victory for the Eagles will be the ability to pull down rebounds on both ends of the court, protect the basketball, and prevent turnovers.
By playing a tough regular season schedule, the Eagles hope that it will pay off when it comes to tournament time. In doing that, they’ll have to beat the Bucs for a third time this year which could be their biggest bump in the road.
“I think our biggest obstacle is trying to get by Hoover again after beating them twice. They are very talented and will be a big challenge for our guys,” Mantooth said.
No. 3 Hoover Buccaneers (16-10)
The Bucs hope the third time will be the charm when they meet up with the Oak Mountain Eagles. In their two previous meetings, the Bucs have played the Eagles close to the collar only losing by a combined 16 points. If nothing else, the Bucs have the odds of not losing to one team three consecutive times in their favor, however they have the talent on both end to upend the Eagles on a neutral court.
If Hoover does slip past Oak Mountain, it’ll take on a team it has beaten at least once, having won a pre-Christmas meeting with Thompson and sweeping Spain Park and Pelham.
No. 4 Spain Park (11-19)
The Spain Park Jaguars went from being the hunted last year winning the 6A, Area 11 title for the second time to becoming the hunter this year in Area 10.
It has been a rebuilding year of sorts for the Jags and head coach Brian Moon. Losing a handful of key starters from the previous two years has them nestled into the No. 4 seed in the Area 10 showdown. However, two back-to-back Area titles and a Final Four appearance just two years ago show the Jags know how to win when it counts.
“We’ve played everyone close and had a chance late to beat every team in it,” Jaguars head coach Brian Moon said. “Hopefully we will come out play four good quarters each game we play and find a way to extend our season.”
Throughout the year, the Jags have had difficulty putting the ball in the hoop, yet only five of their losses have been by more than 10 points and they have taken care of the ball better as the season has progressed. When it comes down do it for the Columbia blue and black, they feel they have just as good of a shot at a title than anyone else—no matter the record.
“You need not to worry about our record because come Tuesday, Feb. 3, it is a new season… records won’t mean a thing.”
No. 5 Pelham (3-22)
On the other end of the scorer’s table from the Jaguars on Tuesday will be a progressing Pelham Panther team that is playing better basketball than they have all season.
However, the lack of consistency at times is something that head coach Brian Fortenberry knows has held his team back amongst Area 10 opponents.
“We have had varying success against our area teams. We have put together some very good stretches in many of the games, but haven’t been able to keep our play at that level consistently,” Fortenberry said.
The Panthers will rely on the leadership of point guard Austin Peirce to propel them into the second round of the tournament. Limiting turnovers, protecting the ball, and defensive rebounding will be the key for the Panthers as they look to make some noise in their rival’s gym.
“We need everyone to play well and focus on their roles,” Fortenberry said.
Just like any other coach, Fortenberry believes that anything can happen when different styles of play meet on any given night.
“I think it will be a very good tournament. There are a good variety of matchups. You will see traditionally full court pressing teams matched up against predominantly half court teams,” Fortenberry said. “The teams that can impose their style of play in each game will have a tremendous advantage.”