Thompson uses late free throws to edge Chelsea

Published 2:04 pm Tuesday, December 11, 2018

By SETH HAGAN | For the Reporter 

ALABASTER – The Thompson Warriors continued an impressive season on Monday night, Dec 10, when they hosted the Chelsea Hornets and swept the regular season series with a 66-51 victory.

Thompson was able to squeak past the Hornets back in November, but was able to pull away in the fourth quarter for a convincing win to move to 8-1 in 2018.

Head coach Dru Powell nearly has his full team in place as players from Thompson’s football team start to add elements of energy and depth to his bench.

“We have yet to have a practice with our complete team,” Powell said. “Hopefully in the next few weeks we can get some continuity, get our guys rested, six of them have been playing football for several months. So we’ve got a couple guys banged up that we’ll get healthy, and I think once we practice and get that team chemistry moving forward, I’m very excited about what I have seen.”

Early on, it looked as if the Warriors might run away with it. They allowed just four baskets and no trips to the charity stripe in the first quarter while making eight of their 11 free throws to build a 17-9 advantage after the first period.

Thompson started with a flourish in the second quarter as well, as Zach Littleton scored five points in a 7-1 run that gave the Warriors a sizable 24-10 lead with plenty of time left in the half. Unfortunately for Thompson, that time gave the Hornets ample opportunity to erase their deficit.

In what seemed like no time at all, the Hornets went on a tear as KJ Hall and Robert Marquet lit up the scoreboard for 14 straight points including four straight from long range. However, with the score knotted at 24, the Warriors didn’t panic and never gave the lead to the Hornets despite a slim 33-32 advantage at halftime.

The third quarter’s pace slowed considerably as neither team scored in the first two minutes, but the Warriors were the first to take advantage of the cold shooting.

Chaney Johnson got hot sinking two threes as part of an 11-2 run that regained Thompson’s double-digit advantage.

Chelsea was able to force a couple of key turnovers and convert them to points to close the gap to 47-41 entering the final period.

Foul calls were rampant throughout the contest and both teams had their chances at the free throw line to try and seal a win. After Thompson went up 51-41, the Hornets didn’t give up and ran off an 8-1 run to close the Warriors’ lead to three points.

Then the free throw bonus became the deciding factor. Chelsea’s seventh foul sent Grant Hopkins to the line for a 1-and-1 situation. Hopkins, who had only scored four points prior, stepped to the line and calmly sank both free throws.

Those two from the line were a harbinger of things to come as he went on to make eight more trips, converting seven of them to score 11 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter to seal the game.

Overall, the Warriors made 15 of their 18 attempts in the period. Littleton joined Hopkins with 13 to lead Thompson.

“Grant took care of the ball there at the end, stepped up and made some big foul shots when the game was a lot closer than the final score would indicate,” Powell said. “I was very proud to see him do that.”

Chelsea only made two free throws and zero field goals the rest of the way.

Michael Gibbs led the Hornets with 12 points on the night.

Thompson has a quick turnaround as they host Spain Park tonight at 7:30 p.m. and host Homewood later this week on Friday, Dec 14, at the same time.