Oak Mountain uses strong second-half surge to beat Pelham

Published 12:26 pm Friday, November 16, 2018

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

NORTH SHELBY – It’s always a tough battle when rivals Oak Mountain and Pelham meet on the basketball court and that was no different on Thursday, Nov. 15, when the two teams met at Oak Mountain High School for an early-season showdown.

It marked the Eagles’ second game of the season and the Panthers’ opener, but early on, Pelham didn’t show any signs of weakness.

The ended up taking a five-point halftime lead, but in the second half, the Eagles were able to take advantage of a deep bench and great ball movement to pull off the comeback win by a final score of 55-45.

“I was really proud of the second half with how we shot the ball,” Oak Mountain head coach Chris Love said after the win. “We stepped up and made shots and a bunch of free throws. I’m really proud of how a young team responded being down five in that first half.”

The Eagles’ success actually started early in the game with a quick 10-2 run out of the gates in the opening period thanks to a couple of 3-pointers from Trey Sullivan and Noah Young.

One of Pelham’s leading returners, however, wasn’t going to let the game get out of control that early.

Senior Chris Brown was able to go to work in the post and reeled off 6-1 run by himself to close out the period, which brought the Panthers to within three points at the end of the quarter.

The focus going into the second quarter defensively for Oak Mountain (2-0) was to double team Brown to slow him down.

On Pelham’s first possession, that’s exactly what happened, but Brown was able to find an open Blake Floyd, who proceeded to drain a 3-pointer to tie the game.

After Floyd added a free throw and Jacob Shumate drained another three, the Panthers had all of a sudden taken a 14-11 lead and were on a 12-1 run dating back to the first quarter.

Both offenses picked up the pace after that and the game went back and forth. The Panthers (0-1), however, outscored the Eagles 12-4 in the quarter and took a 20-15 lead into the half.

Oak Mountain didn’t end the half on a strong note due to Pelham’s hounding defense and missed shots whenever they did get the space to shoot.

“We realized Pelham was going to guard us,” Love said. “In the first half, we apparently didn’t think they were going to guard us, but Joel (Floyd) does a great job, and Pelham is going to guard the heck out of you. We told them we needed to get better ball movement and man movement. We knew we would get our opportunities if we did that.”

Oak Mountain took that to heart to start the second half and finally started moving the ball around the perimeter and running nonstop, which led to a quick 5-0 run early in the quarter.

The real momentum shift came on two consecutive offensive boards and put backs midway through the quarter the second of which was an and-1 from Young that put the Eagles back in front 25-24.

The two teams traded the lead two more times, before Turner Youngblood hit a 3-pointer in a tie game near the end of the quarter to give the Eagles a 31-28 advantage heading to the final quarter.

That became the final lead change of the night as freshman Will Shaver started the final quarter with an and-1 of his own in the post to extend the lead to 34-28 quickly. Zane Nelson quickly followed that with a 3-pointer of his own and the Eagles were on a 10-0 run dating back to the third quarter.

Pelham was able to stay right around an 8-10 point deficit the rest of the game, but strong free throw shooting from Young and Youngblood closed out the Oak Mountain win.

Young went 5-6 from the line in the quarter, while Youngblood was 8-9 from the line. The Eagles finished 24-30 from the line in the game.

Oak Mountain was led by Youngblood with 15 points, while Young added 11. Shaver came on strong in the second half and added nine points as well. It was part of a team effort where eight of the Eagles’ 12 players scored in the game, and all 12 saw time.

“We feel like we are probably as deep as we have ever been,” Love said. “We’re young and don’t really know everything we need to know, but we’ve got quality players at all 12 spots. It’s fun when you’re coaching teams that are unselfish and it’s fun when you feel like you can play anybody on the team and not lose something.”

Pelham was led by Brown with 16 points, while Kendan Maddox posted 12 points.