Sweet victory: Allison and Reese lead Pelham to Elite 8

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

MONTGOMERY – Last year, despite the talent, Pelham fell in the Sweet 16 of the AHSAA basketball playoffs coming up short of their ultimate goal of a state championship.

This year they found themselves back in the Sweet 16 with revenge on their mind. All year Panthers’ head coach Joel Floyd has repeated that this team has one goal in mind, a state championship.

They weren’t about to let that goal slip away in the Regional Semifinals this year as Justin Allison and Alex Reese combined for 49 points to push Pelham past Wetumpka by a final score of 58-31.

“Last year we came here and didn’t come out on top in that first game,” Floyd said. “I think that paid big time for us this year that we already experienced it and many of the guys had been here before so it wasn’t new to us.”

It wasn’t just Allison’s 25 points that were impressive, but the fact his only miss of the day came at the free throw line. The talented junior shot 8-8 from the field including 5-5 from the 3-point line.

“It’s fun playing in this stadium,” Allison said of his hot shooting. “Even if I don’t make a shot I always have confidence, but once I make one that confidence just keeps going up.”

After scoring in the first four seconds of the tip, Pelham looked a bit sloppy the rest of the first quarter as Wetumpka did some different things to bother the Panthers offensively. You could tell that once Pelham got going they were going to be the better team, but they only held a 9-8 lead at the end of one.

On the Indians’ first possession of the second quarter they hit a layup to take a 10-9 lead, but after that Allison said no more and took over. He ended up scoring eight straight points to go on an 8-2 run by himself and Wetumpka didn’t see a lead the rest of the day.

After being held to just two points in the first, Allison went 5-5 from the field including three 3-pointers in the second quarter for 14 points. As a team the Panthers outscored the Indians 21-7 to take a 30-15 lead into the half.

“That was a really nice second quarter,” Floyd said. “In the first quarter there were a few too many things we were doing that we weren’t tryig to focus on, but in the second quarter we started pounding it inside and doing a better job on defense.”

Not much changed in the third at all except the Panthers may have looked even better with the arrival of Reese’s offense. Early in the quarter Allison picked up right where he left off in the third scoring Pelham’s first eight of the quarter to put his team up 38-20 and give him 24 points with 3:30 left to play in the third.

The Panthers were able to grab a 44-27 lead at the end of the quarter and looked to have put the Indians away.

Allison didn’t do much scoring the rest of the way, but this is when Reese woke up. After being held to eight points in the first half, he exploded in the second half for 16 points to give him 24 in the game.

“Time will tell how far we can go,” Floyd said of how far his two standouts can take this team. “We’ve got a few other pieces that can knock some shots down as they kind of focus on these two.”

Wetumpka didn’t have much of a chance in the fourth as Reese punished their exhausted bodies down low with 10 points, which led to the 58-31 final.

Coming off of a buzzer beating win over Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa earlier in the week to keep their season alive in a game they didn’t look their best, you might would’ve thought it would be tough to re-focus, but coach Floyd said it was the complete opposite.

“It can be tough to focus, but we used it as it doesn’t matter what happened in that game, but that we found away. That’s all that matters at this point finding a way. We were just excited and ready for the next opportunity.”

Allison led Pelham with 25 points in this game after shooting 100 percent from the floor, while adding four rebounds, three assists and one steal. Reese had a monster double-double performance with 24 points, 17 rebounds and four blocks.

They get an extremely athletic and tough Paul Bryant team in the regional finals at 2:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 21.