Oak Mountain falls in sub-regional at Homewood

Oak Mountain High School girls’ basketball coach Donald Clayton didn’t panic with three of his starters sitting on the bench in the final seconds of the Eagles’ Class 6A sub-regional contest Feb. 11 in the Alabama High School Athletic Association playoffs at Homewood High School.

With senior guards Shanna Brooks, Lay Watts and Borden LeSieur out of the game — Watts and LeSieur fouled out and Brooks was out with an injury — Clayton had confidence in his backups in the final 42 seconds.

The Eagles were able to cut a four-point Homewood lead down to two points twice, but Oak Mountain couldn’t quite complete a comeback minus its trio of star players in a 59-55 loss to the Patriots.

Clayton lamented the fact that the Eagles, who trailed by as many as 16 points in the first half, fell behind 57-45 entering the fourth quarter. If Oak Mountain didn’t have to put most of its energy into a fourth-quarter comeback to cut into the lead, Clayton said he believes the Eagles could have advanced to the Northeast Regional.

“I’m really not surprised,” Clayton said. “Our team has a lot of God-given ability. We used those abilities really well to get back into the game. I just wish we hadn’t gotten of to a poor start.”

Senior forward Marisa Tomaszewski led the Eagles (25-7) with 16 points in her final game. Watts added 12 points. LeSieur chipped in eight points, Caitlin Perry finished with six points and Brooks had five points before she left the game midway through the third quarter with a left kee injury.

Oak Mountain kept the game close in the first part of the third quarter. LeSieur hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 31-26 less than two minutes into the quarter and Tomaszewski hit back-to-back baskets to cut the lead to 38-32 with 2:29 remaining.

Homewood went on a 9-3 run over the final 2:29 of the third quarter to take a 47-35 lead into the fourth quarter.

Oak Mountain continued to chip away at the lead in the fourth quarter. Sophomore forward Julia Ferguson scored on an offensive rebound and putback with 4:20 left in the game to cut the lead to 49-43. LeSieur hit a 3-point less than a minute later to cut the lead to three points at 49-46.

M.K. Shealy hit two free throws with 2:38 remaining to cut the lead to 49-48. Tomaszewski hit 1-of-2 free throws to cut the lead to 52-51 with 1:01 left, but that was as close as the Eagles would get to tying the game.

Cadie Renta hit a jumper to cut the lead to 55-53 with 28 seconds left. The Eagles had a chance to tie the game with 16 seconds left, but a turnover on an inbounds play underneath their own basket and an intentional foul by Ferguson on the other end of the court hurt Oak Mountain’s chance of a comeback.

Shealy hit two free throws to cut the lead to 57-55 before Homewood responded with two free throws to push the lead back to four points. Oak Mountain couldn’t get a last-second shot to fall in the final seconds.

Clayton, who took over the Oak Mountain girls’ team four years ago, said he saw a lot of potential in his group of six seniors. The group will be remembered for turning the Eagles’ program around, Clayton said.

“I knew they would be what got this thing started,” Clayton said. “We’re going to miss them, but I think their influence will be around for several more years.”