Shelby County gets redemption against Briarwood
By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor
NORTH SHELBY – After losing to Briarwood on Friday, Jan. 26, by a final score of 52-33, the Shelby County Wildcats sat at 4-1, while the Lions were 5-0 in area play.
This set the stage for a second meeting between the two on Monday, Jan. 29, this time for the regular season area championship. With a Briarwood win, the Lions would have locked up the area championship and won the right to host the area tournament.
With a Shelby County win, the Wildcats stayed alive for a shot at the regular-season area championship.
The Wildcats came storming from behind in the second half of the game to steal away a 40-36 win on the road and shake things up in the area.
After scoring just four points in the third quarter, Shelby County trailed Briarwood 25-22 heading to the final quarter of play.
Thanks to an early run by the Wildcats they were able to take the lead, before closing the game out with some clutch free throw shooting.
Shelby County went on to outscore Briarwood 18-11 in the final quarter to pick up the win. It was in large part due to shooting a perfect 10-10 from the free throw line in the final quarter and 13-15 for the game.
Starting in the first quarter, the two teams alternated between a low-scoring and a high-scoring quarter.
In the opening eight minutes of the game, it was a low-scoring affair as the two teams combined for just 13 points as the Lions outscored Shelby County 8-5 to take the early advantage.
Both teams woke up more offensively in the second quarter as each scored at least 13 points in the quarter.
Led by nine from Morgan Hutchinson, who hit one 3-pointer and three jumpers, Briarwood was able to outscore the Wildcats 14-13 in the quarter to extend its lead to 22-18 at the half.
While it was a balanced effort from Shelby County in the first half, Hutchinson had 14 of her game-high 18 points in the opening 16 minutes of the game to lead the Lions.
The third quarter was a stalemate as the two teams’ offensive woes seemed to rub off on each other leading to a combined seven points.
Shelby County was able to cut into the lead by one heading to the final period, however, thanks to outscoring Briarwood 4-3 in the quarter.
Defensively, the Wildcats were able to shut down Hutchinson in the third quarter as she didn’t find her way into the scoring column.
Leading 25-22, Hutchinson was able to put four points on the board in the final quarter, but Shelby County’s offense posted its best quarter in the last eight quarters played since Friday’s matchup.
The Wildcats went on to post that strong fourth quarter run thanks to Skye Knighten-Lilly’s seven points in the quarter.
Knighten-Lilly had a team-high 12 points in the win for Shelby County, while Aliyah Cotton, Nataley Whitner and Maggie West all had eight or nine points.
The difference in the game came at the free throw line as the Wildcats shot 15 free throws, making 13 of them, while the Lions got to the line just four times and converted on just two of those attempts.
Briarwood ended up grabbing the one seed in the area after Shelby County went on to lose to Sylacauga the following night by a final score of 46-44 in the area championship.
Each team will have to win one game in the area tournament at Briarwood Christian School starting on Feb. 7 to advance to the Sub-Regionals.
Photos available at Shelbycountyphotos.com