Thompson returns to Sweet 16

Published 8:30 pm Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Thompson Warriors fought all season to prove they belonged in the playoffs, and Friday night they proved it again as they advanced to the Sweet 16 for the third season in a row with a 79-73 victory over Mountain Brook in the Class 6A subregion.

The Warriors took an early lead, but trailed most of the first half.

The second half, however, was controlled by the Warriors as Thompson took advantage of numerous Spartan fouls at the charity stripe.

“We really work to get the guys we want at the line,” Thompson head coach Jeff Nichols said.

The Warriors’ and Spartans’ offenses both opened up on a roll, with both teams combining for 12 3-pointers in the first half, including seven in the first quarter.

The Warriors’ defense, however, was not as sharp as the Spartans opened up as much as a seven-point lead in the second quarter.

The Warriors regained the lead on a 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the third quarter, and then it was all Thompson as Mountain Brook’s foul-heavy game plan backfired.

Siddeeq Cooper led the Warriors with a game-high 26 points, including a 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter from NBA range that all but ended Mountain Brook’s chances at victory.

Hakeem Mitchell was next for the Warriors with 12 points, all of which were threes.

Zach Smith, who returned from an injury, finished with 10 points.

“It’s a comfort as a coach to have him,” Nichols said.

Josh Neville also had eight points in the win.

For Mountain Brook, Bobby Keim finished with 14 points.

After starting out the season 1-5, Nichols said his team never lost sight of its ultimate goal.

“We never quit looking where we want to be,” Nichols said. “The players have done everything the coaches have asked.”

Nichols also credited the students and the crowd for their support.

“They help tremendously,” Nichols said of the crowd. “We don’t win without that crowd.”

The Warriors will travel to Jacksonville State University on Tuesday to take on the winner of the Shades Valley/Oxford game.