Oak Mountain catches fire from deep, downs Chelsea

Published 1:57 pm Wednesday, November 30, 2016

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

NORTH SHELBY – Oak Mountain (6-1) hosted the Chelsea Hornets (4-3) in a big county matchup on the hardwood Tuesday, Nov. 29. Chelsea was off to a 4-0 start on the year, but dropped two games by a combined two points in the North Shelby Tipoff Classic. The Hornets went on to drop their third consecutive game in a 66-51 loss that was much closer than the final score represented.

The game started much to the delight of Chelsea as every point in the first half was scored inside the paint. The Eagles have relied heavily on the three ball early in the season, while Chelsea tends to rely on driving the lane to get their scoring.

The game started out with Oak Mountain’s Will Stephenson driving to the basket down the baseline and laying the ball in plus the foul. Stephenson, who took three of the Eagles’ first four shots, made the free throw to complete the and one opportunity. Both teams battled back and forth driving to the rim and by the end of the half each had eight points to show for it.

“I was tickled to death,” said Eagles’ head coach Chris Love of his team’s points in the paint. “We have guys that can make shots, but we’ve been needing to get the guys inside because we’ve become one dimensional, but we have guys on the inside that can score.”

The offenses heated up a little more in the second quarter. On the Chelsea’s first possession of the quarter, Joseph Lanzi, who is averaging more than 20 points per game, hit the first jump shot of the game to put the Hornets up 14-11. Oak Mountain answered back with a jump shot of their own and things took off from there.

Chelsea eventually grabbed an 18-14 lead, but the Eagle defense woke up after that. Oak Mountain went on a 9-0 run behind senior guard Kris Hutchins, who had four points in a row, one off of a steal he took the length of the floor, and also assisted Stephenson one of his back-to-back three’s, which put the Eagles up 29-20. Chelsea closed the half on a 4-0 run to make the halftime deficit a little closer at 29-24.

In the third quarter, Oak Mountain got back to what they know best, shooting the three ball. The Eagles started the third on fire shooting 5-5 from behind the arc behind three balls from Wyatt Legas – on their first possession, Noah Egan, Will Stephenson and Nathan Jones. When the quarter ended they shot 6-7 from three and had jumped all over the Hornets 49-36.

Chelsea hung in for a while in the quarter, but the 20 points by Oak Mountain was just too much.

“We’ve got guys that can light it up from deep,” Love said. “I thought we executed a lot better in the second half tonight.”

Lanzi tried everything he could in the fourth to will his team from behind, but after seven points early in the quarter he picked up his fifth foul with several minutes left to play, which pretty much ended the Hornets chances.

“Noah Egan had a big game for us and did a really good job of guarding Joseph Lanzi for us in the second half, who is a really good player,” Love said.

Will Stephenson led the way for Oak Mountain with 19 points and two three pointers. Legas added 11 points, nine of which came off of three baskets from behind the arc. Junior center Christion Stockdill had a big game in the post adding 10 points to give the Eagles three double digit scorers. On the night Oak Mountain made eight three pointers, six of which were in the third quarter. They also shot 14-21 from the free throw line.

Chelsea was led by Lanzi, who was the Hornets only double digit scorer with 21 points.