Panthers top rival Warriors in tourney

Pelham High School guard Xavier Lacey drives to the basket with Thompson forward Jaylon Jones defending in the Panthers' 67-63 victory over the Warriors in the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 6A, Area 10 tournament semifinals Feb. 11. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

By WESLEY HALLMAN / Sports Editor

ALABASTER — Pelham High School boys’ basketball coach Joel Floyd doesn’t know the last time the Panthers won an area tournament game.

“It’s been a long time,” said Floyd, “I know that.”

Floyd does know the last time Pelham won an area tournament championship — the 1996-1997 season — thanks to the tournament trophy in the school’s display case in its gymnasium.

The second-year coach has the Panthers back in the postseason and in the hunt for its first area tournament title in 15 years following a 67-63 win over rival Thompson in the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 6A, Area 10 tournament semifinals Feb. 11 on the Warriors’ home floor.

Pelham, which clinched a spot in the sub-regional round of the Class 6A playoffs, will meet Hoover in the Class 6A, Area 10 tournament championship game Feb. 14 at 7 p.m. at Thompson High School.

Pelham avenged two regular season losses during the area tournament — a theme Floyd has picked up on this postseason among other local teams. Floyd also recalled last season, when the Panthers swept Thompson in two regular season meetings before falling to the Warriors in the area tournament.

The Pelham defense pressures Thompson as time runs out on the Warriors' comeback bid. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

“It is very tough to win that third game,” Floyd said. “They did it to us last year.”

Tony Williams led Pelham (10-15) with 20 points on 6-of-9 field goals. Williams also dished out five assists.

Xavier Lacey, in his second game back after missing most of the regular season with an injury, and Jordan Brooks added 10 points each. Tanner Rice chipped in seven points.

Qadash Williams contributed six points. Cameron Slane and Alec Rash finished with five points each. Graham Reilly chipped in four points and dished out a team-high seven assists.

Jaylon Jones led Thompson (18-11) with a game-high 21 points on 7-of-13 field goals. Jones also grabbed four rebounds.

Ryan Coleman added 13 points. Demarcus Threatt, who was held to 2-of-12 shooting from the floor, and Kenny Nabors contributed seven points each.

Thompson's Ryan Coleman tries to split a pair of Pelham defenders during a drive to the basket. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

Ryan Spence and Jaalen Jones finished with five points each. Marcus Lewis chipped in three points. Martin Glaster finished with two points.

Pelham led for the majority of the first quarter and held its biggest advantage in the period at 16-11 following a floater in the lane by Lacey with 37 seconds left in the opening quarter. The Panthers settled for a 16-14 lead at the end of the first quarter following a 3-pointer by Nabors with 1.5 seconds remaining.

The Warriors tied the game at 16-16 early in the second quarter following a pair of free throws by Coleman before Pelham slowly increased its lead late in the first half. The Panthers ended the first half with a 22-10 run, capped by a layup by Qadash Williams with 27.5 seconds remaining in the second quarter, and carried a 42-30 lead into the locker room at halftime.

The Panthers finished with 14 assists on 18 field goals and shot 70 percent from the floor in the first 16 minutes of the contest. Tony Williams led Pelham with 12 points in the first half.

Tony Williams drained a 3-pointer early in the third quarter to give Pelham its largest lead of the game at 45-30 and the Panthers continued to hold a double-digit lead for a majority of the third quarter. Jaylon Jones knocked down two free throws with 10 seconds remaining in the third quarter to cut the Panthers’ lead to 53-43 heading into the fourth quarter.

Thompson made a furious rally in the fourth quarter. The Warriors opened the final period with an 8-0 run, capped by a 3-pointer by Jaalen Jones with 6:22 remaining, to cut the lead to 53-49.

Jaylon Jones drained a jumper with 3:40 remaining in the contest to turn it into a one-possession game at 57-54. The Panthers pushed their lead to as many as five points before a layup by Coleman with 1:15 remaining cut the lead down to 62-60.

However, Reilly drained a perfect 4-of-4 attempts from the charity stripe in the final minute to clinch the victory for Pelham.

The Pelham Panthers celebrate their victory at half court of the Thompson gymnasium following their victory over the Warriors. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

Floyd praised Lacey and Brooks for stepping up in the area tournament semifinal contest. Brooks, a burly presence in the paint, didn’t miss a shot as he scored 10 points in the second quarter to help the Panthers take a double-digit lead into the locker room at halftime.

“Having Xavier back was really big for us,” Floyd said. “He’s a difference-maker. Jordan is a mismatch for everybody with his size. Tonight he stepped up.”

Floyd expected to be at full health for the first time this season in the area tournament semifinal before senior forward Tyler Minyard suffered a concussion against Tuscaloosa County in the Panthers’ final regular season game. Floyd said Minyard’s availability for the championship game against Hoover was uncertain following the win over Thompson.