Chelsea loses heartbreaker

Published 4:44 pm Monday, February 22, 2016

Aaron Washington scored 29 points on Feb. 22 in Chelsea's 6A Sweet Sixteen matchup with Center Point. The Hornets came up just short in overtime, losing 59-56. (File)

Aaron Washington scored 29 points on Feb. 22 in Chelsea’s 6A Sweet Sixteen matchup with Center Point. The Hornets came up just short in overtime, losing 59-56. (File)

By BAKER ELLIS / Sports Editor

JACKSONVILLE – In the end, Chelsea couldn’t pull a third straight game from out of the fire. After beating Oxford in the 6A Area 10 championship in come-from-behind fashion 58-56, and beating Fort Payne in overtime in the 6A sub-regional round by a final of 82-77, the Hornets magical run ended in the Sweet Sixteen for the second year in a row at the hands of Center Point, 59-56 in overtime.

Sam Towery scored Chelsea’s first bucket of the game before Aaron Washington, Joseph Lanzi, Matt Marquet and Josh Hanna scored the next 54 points for the Hornets. Washington, who was coming off a 24-point performance against Fort Payne which included five threes, picked up where he left off in this one, and his deep three highlighted the first quarter as Chelsea took an 11-8 lead after one. The Eagles however battled back in the second quarter to take a 23-22 lead into the half.

Washington came out of the half and promptly hit a pair of deep triples as Chelsea took the lead back at 30-27. While Washington was going to work from deep, Center Point’s Darius Curry was doing the same thing on the other side of the floor. Curry had a size advantage on Chelsea’ small frontcourt, and consistently took advantage of his size advantage, as he ended up with 29 points and 11 boards.

Despite the work Curry was doing for the Eagles, Chelsea led 49-42 with less than two minutes to play in regulation. With Chelsea up 51-48 as time wound down, Caleb Crook caught a long offensive rebound and nailed a three as time expired to send the game to overtime.

In the extra period, the second in as many games for Chelsea, both teams played a tightly contested quarter before Center Point’s Devin Russell hit a three with less than five seconds left to put the Eagles up 59-56, which is how this one ended.

Chelsea was outscored 11-2 on second chance points, and was nearly doubled up on the glass by Center Point, as the Eagles outrebounded Chelsea 43-24, and 21 of those rebounds were offensive boards for Center Point compared to just three for the Hornets.

Washington, in his final game in a Chelsea uniform, finished with 29 points and was 5-of-10 from deep. Lanzi finished with 14 points and five assists while Marquet finished with seven points and two steals to lead the way for the Hornets.

At one point this season, Chelsea was 3-13. However, the Hornets got hot at the right time, and won seven of their final 11 regular season games before getting past Pell City, Oxford and Fort Payne on the way to their second straight Sweet Sixteen appearance. Only one other team in the county, Vincent, has advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in each of the last two seasons. Chelsea finished the season with a 13-18 record.