Eagles use strong inside game in win

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

North Shelby – Oak Mountain came into its matchup with Leeds on Thursday, Dec. 8, having lost back-to-back games to Thompson and Helena. The Eagles, who had gotten off to a 6-1 start, needed a strong game to regain some confidence and that’s just what they got as they took down the Greenwave 61-26.

The Eagles (7-3) are used to the three ball being a focus of their game, but on Thursday they took advantage of the fact that Leeds is a young undersized team. Up until about three minutes left to play, all but five of Oak Mountain’s points came inside the point or from the free throw line before reserves knocked down three threes in a row.

From the very tip Oak Mountain made it known they wanted to work the inside. On the Eagle’s very first possession they threw it down to Carson Bobo, who went to work and made an easy post basket. The next possession they went back inside, this time to Josh Pierce, who laid the ball in with ease. This trend continued the rest of the first quarter as they had zero points outside the paint. They did get some three-point buckets, but the old-fashion way with three and one’s in the quarter. After one quarter of play they had done enough paint work to go up 16-6.

“We’ve talked here lately about how we need to get the ball inside because we feel like we can be a threat in there and we’ve got guys that can make shots that will help us be a threat inside and out,” head coach Chris Love said of his team’s tenacity to get to the basket.

The ease of which the Eagles were able to come by inside shots continued into the second quarter as they went up 25-12 with nothing but points in the paint. Finally, with 1:40 left in the half Will Stephenson knocked down Oak Mountain’s first jumper of the game from just inside the three-point line. Stephenson, who had an incredible first half with 13 points and saw things others didn’t, decided to give himself a heat check as he came down on their next possession and hit the Eagles first three of the game.

“He is a coach on the floor,” Love said of Stephenson’s performance on the night. “Both he and Kris Hutchins do a great job of seeing things and making suggestions of what to do offensively. They’re both seniors and have been through it all. It’s awesome when you have a quarterback on the floor.”

Stephenson and Bobo combined for 22 of Oak Mountain’s 33 points as they helped the Eagles jump out to a 33-14 lead at the break.

Oak Mountain continued the inside scoring in the third quarter, but in different fashion. They were able to turn Leeds over behind several steals from Kris Hutchins, which led to many fast break opportunities including a dunk by Chris Mayweather that brought the house down. Mayweather also had an attempt at an alley-oop off of a Hutchins assist, but barely missed throwing the dunk down as he laid it in. The Eagles had gone on a 15-2 run in the third and were up 48-16.

The lead Oak Mountain had accumulated allowed Love to bring in some of his reserves in the fourth that don’t typically see many minutes. Love started the quarter with Patrick Dryer, ZJ Nelson, Andrew Heiberger, Nathan Jones and Logan Sheaffer on the court. Sheaffer shined bright in his minutes knocking down back-to-back threes as well as two of four free throws for eight fourth quarter points. At one point he drained one in front of the student section and ran back up the court pumping them up.

“It’s great when everybody can contribute,” Love said. “We talk all the time about how we have 15 guys and it’s going to take all 15 guys for us to get where we want to get.”

Ethan Duncan also hit a three in the quarter and Patrick Dryer had one made basket as they helped propel the Eagles to the 61-26 win.

Stephenson was Oak Mountain’s leading scorer with 15 points, while Bobo added 11. Kris Hutchins had four steals and four assists off the bench. In all, 11 different players scored for the Eagles. Leeds was led by 11 points from Davin Hopkins.