Helena, Vincent remain ranked, others look to jump in

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

It’s that time in the season where teams start proving their worth on the basketball court as area play is now here.

This is when we find out what teams have legitimate chances at making it to the playoffs and making a strong run when they get there. It doesn’t matter what has happened up to this point, but how you respond moving through the next two weeks of vigorous competition.

With “Snowpocalypse” part two taking place over the last week, it has thrown one more obstacle into the mix as several teams are being forced to play make up games the week of Jan. 22.

That forces several teams to play three area games in a span of five days, which could really be a determining factor for many teams’ postseason hopes.

While several teams are still looking to start clicking, there are a handful that are already clicking and playing extremely well.

Two of those teams are ranked in the most recent ASWA boys standings as Helena and Vincent have both been playing impressive basketball in 2017-18.

Others such as Calera, Briarwood, Chelsea and Oak Mountain are unranked, but have plenty to build off of heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.

The Helena Huskies, who were ranked No. 3 last week, remained No. 3 in the most recent poll as they still haven’t gained full respect of everybody in the state due to a very difficult 6A classification.

Sitting at 21-2 this season, Helena is behind No. 2 LeFlore (20-5) and No. 1 Carver-Montgomery (17-6). There are several teams right on the Huskies’ heels as well that are plenty good enough to win a state championship.

The Huskies won nine in a row to start the season, lost to McAdory, won nine more in a row, lost to Shades Valley, and has now won three more in a row to cement themselves as a legitimate contender in 6A.

Helena’s two losses have come by a combined seven points, losing by five to Shades Valley and two to McAdory (a team they beat a week earlier), meaning they are seven points from being 23-0 right now.

The remainder of the Huskies’ schedule features several games against teams they have already beaten, but head coach Chris Laatsch knows his team can’t lose its focus and burning desire for a championship if they want to make a deep run in the postseason.

As for the Vincent Yellow Jackets, they came in at No. 3 in Class 2A, which is an improvement by one spot in Class 2A.

Having won three games in a row by an average of 31.3 points per game after losing in the Jefferson-Shelby Hoops Classic, Vincent looks to be clicking again.

The Yellow Jackets (15-5, 2-0) struggled throughout the Christmas break due to some guys being out, but seem to be clicking. With two sophomores in the starting lineup, two seniors and one junior, this Yellow Jackets’ team can only improve.

They sit just ahead of Lanett (No. 4) and LaFayette (No. 7), who have caused them trouble in the past. Those are both teams that Vincent will most likely have to play early in the playoffs to make a deep run.

But with two young guys getting experience and that right dose of senior leadership, this team seems primed for another strong run under head coach John Hadder.

The Calera Eagles have been on a tear lately on the hardwood having won 15 of their last 16 games, with that lone loss coming to the Helena Huskies.

Nominated yet again, the Eagles still sit outside of the Class 5A top 10, as the classification is one of the toughest to compete in this season.

Calera (16-4, 5-0) is one of the most athletic teams in the state and can beat anybody in that category, but seem to be a shooter away from being a state championship team.

As fast and athletic as the Eagles play, if they can start knocking down some jumpers consistently, this team can easily win a state championship in 2018.

Having already won the regular season area championship, this is one of those teams that can make some noise come the postseason and that people should be on the lookout for.

Also nominated in the 5A classification were the Briarwood Lions. The team almost upset No. 9 Sylacauga behind 31 points from Michael Hiers a little over a week ago, but ended up losing 81-74 after leading the entire first half.

Briarwood (9-6, 1-1) plays very good and physical defense and if the Lions start scoring like they have recently, they’ll be a scary team over the next month.

What it might boil down to for Briarwood this season is fouls. The team has been in some games where they have picked up close to 50 fouls, which gives teams too many opportunities for easy points or second chances.

Chelsea and Oak Mountain are two teams not ranked or nominated, but teams that can make a charge over the next two weeks toward the postseason.

Chelsea (11-10, 1-0) is undefeated in area play without having played Helena yet. If they can somehow upset the Huskies with their strong defense, then the Hornets can establish a load of confidence.

Oak Mountain is 11-7 on the season having lost two straight games, but sits at 1-1 in area play with a win over Spain Park and a loss to No. 1 Mountain Brook.

The Eagles will have to upset No. 1 Mountain Brook or more likely, No. 5 Huffman (21-2) to make it out of the area tournament, but don’t doubt this team’s ability to pull it off.

 

CLASS 7A

  1. Mountain Brook (20-5)
  2. Sparkman (22-3)
  3. Hoover (17-4)
  4. Buckhorn (20-3)
  5. Huffman (21-2)
  6. McGill-Toolen (16-5)
  7. Lee-Montgomery (16-4)
  8. Vestavia Hills (17-5)
  9. Alma Bryant (17-3)
  10. James Clemens (13-8)

Others nominated: Baker (15-9), Central-Phenix City (16-5), Enterprise (13-6), Grissom (12-9), Hewitt-Trussville (13-4).

CLASS 6A

  1. Carver-Montgomery (17-6)
  2. LeFlore (20-5)
  3. Helena (21-2)
  4. Muscle Shoals (13-3)
  5. Hazel Green (13-7)
  6. Ramsay (16-8)
  7. Daphne (15-4)
  8. Blount (14-8)
  9. Pinson Valley (13-8)
  10. Florence (16-6)

Others nominated: Albertville (15-4), Columbia (15-6), Cullman (14-9), McAdory (12-7), Oxford (10-9), Parker (12-7), Paul Bryant (18-4), Shades Valley (15-7).

CLASS 5A

  1. Lee-Huntsville (7-11)
  2. Wenonah (19-5)
  3. Sumter Central (24-3)
  4. Guntersville (15-7)
  5. Faith-Mobile (15-7)
  6. Eufaula (16-9)
  7. Pleasant Grove (17-5)
  8. Talladega (13-7)
  9. Sylacauga (17-5)
  10. Brooks (18-0)

Others nominated: Alexandria (13-4), Briarwood (9-6), Calera (16-4), Etowah (15-4), Fairfield (17-6), Valley (10-8), Woodlawn (14-8).

CLASS 4A

  1. Oneonta (21-1)
  2. Cordova (15-7)
  3. Monroe Co. (14-6)
  4. Madison Academy (13-7)
  5. Escambia Co. (17-5)
  6. Westminster-Huntsville (7-9)
  7. West Limestone (15-5)
  8. Deshler (16-6)
  9. Catholic-Montgomery (15-5)
  10. UMS-Wright (16-5)

Others nominated: Ashford (14-9), Bullock Co. (7-5), Dale Co. (13-8), Haleyville (13-4), Hokes Bluff (15-4), Jacksonville (14-5), LAMP (11-5).

CLASS 3A

  1. Plainview (22-2)
  2. Midfield (16-9)
  3. Prattville Christian (17-3)
  4. Pisgah (12-5)
  5. Lauderdale Co. (13-6)
  6. Hillcrest-Evergreen (12-3)
  7. Holly Pond (19-3)
  8. Houston Academy (18-2)
  9. Mobile Christian (13-6)
  10. American Christian (15-5)

Others nominated: Central-Coosa (11-3), Geneva (15-6), Pike Co. (8-7), Weaver (13-6).

CLASS 2A

  1. Barbour Co. (12-5)
  2. Section (13-5)
  3. Vincent (15-5)
  4. Lanett (10-5)
  5. Abbeville (15-5)
  6. St. Luke’s (12-6)
  7. LaFayette (14-5)
  8. Keith (12-6)
  9. Mars Hill Bible (14-5)
  10. Collinsville (12-7)

Others nominated: Fyffe (12-4), Red Bay (13-5), Tanner (10-9), Westbrook Christian (11-7).

CLASS 1A

  1. Sacred Heart (10-10)
  2. Georgiana (18-1)
  3. Ellwood (15-6)
  4. Decatur Heritage (15-4)
  5. Spring Garden (15-3)
  6. Lindsay Lane (18-2)
  7. Meek (17-4)
  8. R.A. Hubbard (14-5)
  9. Skyline (10-6)
  10. Winterboro (13-4)

Others nominated: Appalachian (15-1), Brantley (7-5), Cedar Bluff (9-8), Cornerstone-Birmingham (6-4), Covenant Christian (13-5), South Lamar (14-5), Whitesburg Christian (8-7).

AISA

  1. Macon-East (24-2)
  2. Evangel Christian (17-4)
  3. East Memorial (15-1)
  4. Lakeside (19-5)
  5. Morgan Academy (11-3)
  6. Escambia Academy (9-2)
  7. Glenwood (11-9)
  8. Lee-Scott (15-8)
  9. Pickens Academy (10-0)
  10. Hooper (10-7)

Others nominated: Abbeville Christian (9-11), Lowndes Academy (7-5), Pike Liberal Arts (7-5), South Choctaw Academy (13-2).