Panthers cruise by Lions, 52-40

Briarwood's William Lathem passes to a teammate while Pelham's Willie Simpson defends in the Lions' 52-40 loss to the Panthers on Nov. 27. (Reporter photo/Graham Carr)

By GRAHAM CARR / Staff Writer

PELHAM – The Class 6A Pelham Panthers (3-2) overmatched their Class 5A counterparts the Briarwood Christian (2-4) Lions 52-40, in front of a packed gymnasium at Pelham on Nov. 27.

In their post-game thoughts, both teams’ coaches had utmost respect for their fellow Shelby County opponents.

“Briarwood makes you play tough,” Panthers coach Joel Floyd said. “They did a really good job and in the end, we made shots we have got to make in order to win games.”

“Coach Floyd does an unbelievable job and his kids were really ready,” Lions coach Chris Laatsch said. “I thought they out executed us tonight. I thought they out rebounded us. I thought we were a little bit sloppy.  We missed some shots we needed to make, but I have to give them credit defensively.”

After Briarwood’s David Loveless drilled a 3-pointer on the Lions’ opening possession of the game, the Panthers outscored the Lions 14-2 the rest of the first quarter.

Pelham extended their lead to 18-7 in the second quarter, before Briarwood began to slowly chip away.  Josh Laatsch’s led the surge by scoring five of his six total points in the final 5:59 of the second quarter.  Helped by Laatsch’s hot hand, the Lions were able to outscore Pelham 12-6 the rest of the period, allowing Briarwood to stay within striking distance with a halftime score of 24-19.

It was different story in the second half for the Lions.  After playing the Panthers tough in the first half, the Lions couldn’t match the same intensity in the second.  Briarwood could not match the Panthers hot streak in the opening minutes of the third quarter, when they extended their lead to 30-21.

The Panthers were able to extend their lead to 36-24 late in the third, before the Lions cut it to 40-29 heading into the final quarter.

Pelham kept its hot streak going as the Panthers extended their lead to 17, two minutes into the fourth for a 46-29 score.

Briarwood finished the game on an 11-6 run, but it came too late as the Lions ran out of time.

The crowd noise affected Briarwood, as they finished with eleven turnovers. Despite the turnovers and noise, Laatsch said he likes playing at Pelham.

“They have great fan support and really great atmosphere,” Laatsch said. “It is a fun place to play high school basketball.”

The Lions were led by William Lathem with 11 points.  Tim Robertson and David Loveless each added nine points to the Briarwood attack.

Willie Simpson topped the Panthers in scoring with 14 points while Justin Brooks added nine points.