Lions win third consecutive area tournament title
By WESLEY HALLMAN / Sports Editor
NORTH SHELBY — Briarwood Christian School girls’ basketball coach Jim Brown celebrated the Lions’ third consecutive Alabama High School Athletic Association area tournament championship with his team following a 33-29 win over visiting Talladega in the Class 5A, Area 7 tournament title game Feb. 12.
Brown quickly turned his thoughts toward the next stop in the postseason path — a sub-region date with visiting Valley in the Class 5A playoffs Feb. 17 at 7 p.m.
Brown, who has led his squads to a 25-1 record in area competition the past three seasons, has seen the Lions’ momentum end with losses in the sub-region round of the Class 5A playoffs the past two seasons.
Briarwood Christian hopes to make its first trip to the Central Regional on the Alabama State University campus for the first time in five years with a win against Valley.
“It’s been tough for us to take that next step,” Brown said. “I know our seniors would love to have a chance to get to the regional tournament. I’d like to get there too. It comes down to what you do in the tournament.”
The Lions swept through area tournament competition without a loss for the third consecutive season following the win over Talladega.
Anna Handlin led Briarwood Christian (26-5) with 13 points in the Class 5A, Area 7 tournament championship game. Handlin, who currently sits second in the Lions’ record book for most rebounds in a single season, grabbed seven boards.
“We’ve had several games where she’s just taken over,” Brown said. “There is no way we would be where we are without her.”
Cara Medders added nine points in the victory. Abbie Cutcliffe contributed five points. Meredith Botes chipped in four points and seven rebounds. Elizabeth Scott finished with two points.
Marie Tucker and Sarah Ann Johnston played but did not score in the area tournament championship game.
Handlin, who was named the Class 5A, Area 7 tournament’s most valuable player, joined Medders and Botes on the all-tournament team.
Medders drained a 3-pointer and hit 1-of-2 free throws late in the first quarter to cap a 6-0 run by Briarwood Christian and help the Lions jump out to a 10-5 lead after the opening period.
Talladega opened the second quarter with an 8-0 run and pushed its lead to 13-10 before Handlin scored three consecutive baskets to help the Lions regain a 16-15 lead following her layup with 1:12 remaining in the second quarter. Botes scored a basket and Medders drained a free throw to give Briarwood Christian a 19-15 advantage heading into the locker room at halftime.
Handlin led the Lions with 10 points in the first half on 5-of-6 shooting from the floor.
Briarwood Christian led throughout the third quarter and carried a 25-21 lead into the final period following a floater in the lane by Scott at the buzzer.
The Lions took their largest lead of the game at 28-21 following a free throw by Cutcliffe with 5:35 remaining in the contest. However, Talladega responded with a 7-1 run to cut the lead to 29-28 with 2:55 left in the game.
Medders drained two free throws with 2:14 remaining to give the Lions a three-point cushion. Following a Talladega turnover in the final minute of the game, Medders calmly hit two free throws with 12 seconds remaining to clinch the victory.
Brown praised his squad for finishing 9-1 in combined regular season and area tournament play against the Lions’ Class 5A, Area 7 opponents this season.
“I’m really proud of our team,” Brown said. “There wasn’t a night off in any area game.”