Chelsea holds on for area win against Pelham

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

CHELSEA – Chelsea led by as many as 21 points at one point in the second half against Pelham on Tuesday, Jan. 23, but the Hornets had to stave off a furious comeback over the final quarter and a half to hold on for a two-point, 60-58 win over the area rival.

A large reason for the Panthers’ resilient comeback effort was the play of senior guard Justin Allison, who poured in a game-high 34 points.

The key stretch for Pelham came in the third quarter. Trailing 43-22, Pelham went on a 14-0 run to get within seven points late in the period.

The run started with back-to-back 3-pointers from Grayson Dill and Blake Floyd, before Allison went off on an 8-0 run by himself.

Chelsea’s Tyler Coleman ended the run with a layup at the buzzer to extend the Hornets’ lead back to nine at 45-36 heading to the final quarter of play, but plenty of fireworks were still to be had.

Allison went on to score four of Pelham’s first five points in the final quarter to give him 14 of the Panthers’ last 15 to bring his team within eight points.

What became key after that was free throw shooting. Pelham went to the line four straight possessions after getting defensive stops, but each time the Panthers went 1-2 from the stripe.

It left four, even two, crucial points off the board that had an impact later in the contest.

Still, Pelham had gotten within six points for the time being and kept the deficit right around that margin over the next couple of minutes with traded baskets and free throws.

After Allison hit two free throws and had an offensive put back, the Panthers trailed by just five points, 53-48, with 1:45 left to play.

Over the next few possessions, Chelsea’s Sam Towery went on to hit four consecutive free throws, while Pelham’s Chris Brown and Allison grabbed an and-1 and a layup, respectively, which ended with the Hornets holding a slim 57-53 lead with 47.9 to play.

A made basket shortly after by Pelham brought them to within two points at 57-55. The Panthers fouled Jonah Moore on the ensuing possession and to the pleasure of Pelham, he missed both free throws.

The ball found its way into Allison’s hand and a dream scenario occurred when the sharp-shooting free throw shooter was fouled and sent to the line with a chance to tie the game with just less than 30 seconds remaining.

Allison made the front end of the free throw, but the second hit the front of the iron and bounced off short leaving Chelsea with a 57-56 lead.

It marked Allison’s only missed free throw of the game as the senior finished 14-15 at the line.

Moore was fouled again on the ensuing possession and made up for his missed free throws by draining two this time around.

Dill brought the ball up court and got an easy lay in with 11.5 left to play to cut the lead back to one point.

Towery was fouled right after and hit 1-2 at the line for Chelsea, leaving Pelham with a chance. The Panthers, however, were unable to take advantage on two separate possessions as the clock ticked down with the Hornets holding on for the 60-58 win.

Chelsea was able to dominate in the first half with post players Josh Hanna and Daniel Washington. Hanna, with 11, and Washington, with nine, combined for 20 of the Hornets’ 34 points in the first half.

They, however, didn’t score a point in the second half, which was big in Pelham’s comeback attempt.

Towery led Chelsea with 15 points in the win, while Hanna’s 11 points finished second on the team. Robert Marquet and Washington both finished with nine points, while seven different players scored in the win.

Allison’s 34 were jaw-dropping as he led the game. Surprisingly he didn’t hit a single 3-pointer on the night, but he did have 21 points in the second-half surge for the Panthers.

Chelsea is now 12-11 on the season and 2-1 in area play. If they beat Helena on Friday, Jan. 26, then a coin flip will determine who wins the regular season area title and advances to Regionals.

Pelham fell to 7-14 overall and 0-4 in area play as they lost their second consecutive area game by three points or less. They will have to win a first-round area tournament game to advance in the postseason.