Pelham falls to No. 1 Mountain Brook

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

BIRMINGHAM – The Pelham Panthers found themselves in the semifinals of the Steel City Invitational at the Pete Hanna Center on the campus of Samford University on Wednesday, Dec. 21. Their opponent none other than 7A No. 1 Mountain Brook, who has consistently been the best team in the state over the past several years.

The game set up a premier matchup between 6A No. 1 and 7A No. 1 and a rematch of a game earlier in the year that saw the Spartans come out on top 69-47. This one was much closer, especially in the third quarter, but after it was all said and done highly touted Mountain Brook recruit Trendon Watford had a night to remember and led the Spartans to a 72-56 win.

 Pelham (11-2) struck first in the game behind a Justin Allison layup as they seemed to have an answer for the full-court press, which was to sprint past the defenders and catch the ball like a football pass. Mountain Brook answered the Panthers with back-to-back 3-pointers to take a 6-2 lead.

The two teams battled back-and-forth over the next few minutes all the way to a 9-9 tie, but Trendon Watford got on a run that was tough for Pelham to keep up with. Watford hit several three’s over the next couple of possessions to help the Spartans go on a 10-2 run. Seth Torman did everything he could to answer Watford’s strong shooting with some baskets of his own, but it was too much to handle as Mountain Brook grabbed a 19-11 advantage.

Pelham answered shortly after with an 8-5 run to get back in the game and cut the lead to 24-19, but the Spartans ended the quarter on a 4-0 run to take a 28-19 lead into the second.

Watson hit another three on Mountain Brook’s second possession of the second quarter to give the Spartans a 33-19 lead and Watson his 18th point with 7 minutes left in the half.

The two teams fought hard the rest of the quarter as Mountain Brook maintained around a 12-point lead the rest of the way. The Spartans took a 42-30 lead into the break.

Pelham clearly made some adjustments at the half as they came out shooting lights out in the third quarter. Mitchell Rottier started things out with a 3-pointer to bring the Panthers within nine. A couple of possessions later, Allison was fouled shooting a three and made 2-3 from the line.

Mountain Brook turned the ball over on several occasions as they tried to let Pelham back into the game. Allison took advantage of that as he made a jumper off of one turnover and then went on to hit a couple of 3-pointers. Along with Torman’s help Pelham had all of a sudden gotten within five at 52-47. The Spartans answered, however, with an 8-3 run to close the quarter and extend the lead back up to 10 points.

The fourth quarter was much of the same as Reese didn’t play the majority of the second half with what appeared to be a right knee injury, and the third-quarter run seemed to have expended all the energy the rest of the Panthers had left. Mountain Brook ended the game on a 12-6 run in the final frame to put Pelham away with relative ease and win by the final score of 72-56.

Watford led the Spartans with a game-high 33 points and 8 rebounds, while shooting 13-22 (60 percent) from the field and 3-6 from behind the arc. The Panthers on the other hand had a very balanced attack as four players scored in double figures.

Torman led Pelham with 15 points, while also pulling down six rebounds. Rottier and Allison each added 12 points, while Reese posted just 11. The Panthers also had three guys grab six rebounds as Reese and Rottier added to Torman’s six with six of their own. In all, the stats weren’t bad for Pelham, but they were simply out hustled by a team that uses a bench full of players and presses the entire game.