Chelsea wins thrilling area opener at Pelham

Published 11:46 am Wednesday, January 9, 2019

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

PELHAM – Tied at 45 in their first area game of the season against the Pelham Panthers, Chelsea went on to hit one of two free throws in their next three possessions to take a three-point lead in the final minute of the game.

The Panthers had several chances to tie or take the lead during that same span, but turnovers and missed shots saw their chances slipping away.

Still trailing by three with 10 seconds left, Pelham still had a chance.

After a few passes the ball ended up in the hands of no. 1 in the corner nearest Pelham’s bench. Head coach Joel Floyd then turned to the official closest to him and tried yelling for a timeout repeatedly, but wasn’t heard, which led to no. 1 taking the shot and hitting the front of the iron before bouncing off to end the game with Chelsea (9-10, 1-0) picking up a 48-45 victory.

It was a thrilling start to the season for the two teams and was part of a night for Class 6A, Area 8 that also saw an overtime game between Helena and Calera to set up an exciting run toward a playoff spot in February.

Last time out for the Panthers, Pelham (12-8, 0-1) saw Chris Brown and Kendan Maddox combine for 50 points in a dominant win against Chilton County.

Early in the first quarter of the first area contest of the season, the Brown-Maddox duo was dangerous yet again.

After falling behind 2-0, Maddox went on to score Pelham’s first six points of the game before Brown added four to give the two players 10 of the Panthers’ 12 points in the opening quarter.

It also didn’t help Chelsea that they out-fouled Pelham 7-1 in the quarter, was down both Michael Gibbs and Matthew Lanzi—two of the best players on the team—due to injury, and was without Daniel Washington in the post for a chunk of the period with two fouls.

All of those factors were a big reason the Hornets got stuck at six points, which allowed the Panthers to end the period on a 12-4 run after falling behind 2-0 to take a 12-6 lead into the second quarter.

That trend continued early into the second quarter as Chelsea struggled to get the foul calls, while Pelham continued playing well to extend its lead to 15-7 early in the quarter, but then Washington started making his presence known in the post.

He hit a post shot followed by layups from both Matthew Marquet and Jacob Tierney before Washington hit two more post moves including an offensive put back.

All of that led to a 10-0 run that eventually gave Chelsea its second lead of the night at 17-15 late in the quarter.

Pelham, however, was able to answer back with five points of its own from Blake Floyd thanks to two free throws and a 3-pointer, which put the Panthers back in front by one point at 20-19 heading into the halftime break.

Now nearly even in the score column, the two teams started going after each other in a thrilling back-and-forth affair in the third quarter, a typical occurrence in a rivalry featuring two head coaches that know each other well.

Chelsea jumped in front with a 3-pointer from Andrew Messier to start the scoring.

Both teams went basket-for-basket over the next several minutes with neither team taking more than a two-point lead all the way up to a 29-28 Chelsea lead.

The Hornets then went on an 8-3 run to take their largest lead of the game at 37-31, but thanks to a 3-pointer from Pelham’s Nate Rottier late in the quarter, the Panthers were able to pull within three points at 37-34 heading to the final quarter.

In the fourth, the Pelham eventually overtook the lead at 41-40, but Chelsea’s KJ Hall answered immediately with a 3-pointer and that’s the last lead change that occurred.

The game ended up tied two more times late in the game, but eventually, Chelsea, who was struggling to get to the line early in the game, got there late and went on to make their free throws to pick up the three-point victory.

The Hornets were led by 14 points from Washington and 12 points from Jacob Tierney, while KJ Hall hit three 3-pointers. Chelsea has now won six of their last seven games.

Pelham was led by Chris Brown with 16 points, nine rebounds and three assists while Kendan Maddox added 12 points and six rebounds.