Lions top Hornets in tournament

Briarwood Christian School guard Abbie Cutcliffe drives to the basket in the Lions' 42-30 win over rival Chelsea in an Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 5A, Area 7 tournament semifinal contest Feb. 9. (Contributed/Jimmy Mitchell)

By WESLEY HALLMAN / Sports Editor

NORTH SHELBY — Briarwood Christian School is in the mix for its fourth consecutive Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 5A, Area 7 girls’ basketball championship following a 42-30 win over rival Chelsea in the tournament semifinals Feb. 9.

Lions’ coach Jim Brown believes it might be the most difficult championship game in his team’s four trips to the Class 5A, Area 7 tournament final, with a talented Sylacauga team waiting on Briarwood Christian in the title game Feb. 11 at 5 p.m.

“It’s going to be a challenge,” Brown said.

The Lions took care of their first test in the area tournament after racing out to a double-digit lead in the first half and holding off a run by Chelsea in the fourth quarter in the semifinal contest.

Hannah Wainwright led Briarwood Christian (21-5) with 14 points in the victory, including eight points in the opening half. Wainwright also grabbed a team-high seven rebounds.

Cara Medders added 11 points and dished out a team-high three assists. Abbie Cutcliffe chipped in eight points.

Samantha Swords contributed six points. Sarah Ann Johnston finished with two points. Hannah Brown added one point in the win.

Amanda Mock led Chelsea (12-14) with 13 points, including nine points in the first half, and nine rebounds.

Allie Luster added 11 points. Perri Lambert chipped in three points and five rebounds.

Holly Marbut contributed two points. Brooklyn Smitherman finished with one point.

Wainwright knocked down a 3-pointer with 1:21 remaining in the first quarter to give the Lions a 9-4 lead after one period.

Briarwood Christian extended its lead to 14-6 after Wainwright drilled three free throws following a foul on her 3-point attempt with 4:28 left in the second quarter.

Chelsea cut the deficit to 14-11 following a three-point play by Mock with 2:59 left in the first half. However, Swords knocked down a pair of free throws with 7.6 seconds remaining in the second quarter, which capped a 7-0 run by the Lions and gave Briarwood Christian a 21-11 advantage heading into the locker room at halftime.

The Lions opened the second half with a 5-0 run, capped with a floater by Wainwright, to push their lead to 26-11 with 6:11 remaining in the third quarter. Briarwood Christian took its largest lead, 32-13, following a 3-pointer by Cutcliffe with 3:01 left in the third quarter.

Mock capped a 10-1 run by the Hornets midway through the fourth quarter with an offensive rebound and putback in the paint, which cut Chelsea’s deficit to 35-26 with 4:14 left in the game.

The Lions quickly pushed the lead back to double-digits before Marbut cut the deficit to 39-30 with 1:16 remaining after being fouled on a drive to the basket. However, Chelsea was called for its first lane violation of the season on the ensuing free-throw attempt, which hurt the Hornets’ comeback hopes.

Briarwood Christian, which knocked down 10-of-16 free throw attempts in the fourth quarter to account for all of its points in the period, finished 3-of-6 at the charity stripe in the final 1:01 to seal the win.

Chelsea coach Wayne Trucks said he was pleased with the Hornets’ effort in the fourth quarter.

“We had opportunities,” Trucks said. “We fought hard until the very end.”