Eagles hold off Pelham in triple overtime

Senior members of the Oak Mountain High School girls’ basketball team wanted to make it back to the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 6A playoffs one last time before their careers ended.

A group of Pelham girls’ basketball players were determined to prove they could play on the same level as the Eagles after falling in three previous meetings this season.

After a back-and-fourth battle for 44 minutes, Oak Mountain survived with a 57-55 win over the Panthers in a triple-overtime semifinal contest in the Class 6A, Area 10 tournament at Hoover High School.

The Eagles, who qualified for a spot in the sub-regional round of the Class 6A playoffs, advanced to meet Hoover in the championship game Feb. 6 at 6 p.m. with the win.

“This group of seniors made it to the playoffs two years ago,” said Oak Mountain head coach Donald Clayton. “They wanted to experience it again. They made it happen.”

Senior guard Lay Watts turned in perhaps the best performance of her career as she scored 31 points to lead the Eagles, including 23 points after halftime.

Another Oak Mountain senior, Borden LeSieur, added 11 timely points to help the Eagles improve to 25-5 overall.

Senior forward Ally Slaughter led Pelham (15-11) with 19 points. Toni Wellborn added 13 points.

Oak Mountain had the upper hand early, as the Eagles raced out to a 10-6 lead after the first quarter.

Pelham responded with an 11-2 run early in the second quarter and led by as many as six points during the period as the Panthers took a 19-15 lead into the locker room at the break.

The Panthers extended their lead to nine points early in the third quarter before Watts began to take over. Watts scored six points in a row to cut the lead to 23-21 late in the quarter.

Watts came up with tough basket after tough basket, which helped the Eagles remain within striking distance down the stretch.

“We knew Lay had those capabilities all year long,” Clayton said. “I liked her tenacity and I liked her focus tonight. She’s gotten better since the beginning of the season.”

LeSieur came up with the big baskets in the final minutes. Her layup with 2:15 remaining in regulation tied the game at 32-all. A jumper from the free-throw line with 11 seconds left tied the score at 34-all and sent the game into overtime.

LeSieur’s two free throws with 16 seconds remaining in the first overtime forced the second overtime. Her 3-pointer from the right wing with 2:05 left in the third and final overtime gave the Eagles a four-point cushion and helped seal the win.

Pelham coach Lucas McDonald said his Panthers came in with a game plan to be aggressive. The Panthers tired down the stretch, but never gave up.

“We wanted to make it a battle,” McDonald said. “We got back on our heels and got a little tentative in the third quarter. From there on out, it was a battle.”