Chelsea overcomes double-digit deficit to down Pelham for area title
By SETH HAGAN | Special to the Reporter
CHELSEA – The Chelsea Hornets withstood a first half barrage from the Pelham Panthers, but held on in the end and protected their home court to take the Class 6A, Area 8 championship Thursday, Feb 6.
Down by as many as 14, the Hornets put on a defensive clinic after halftime, allowing just six points to secure the comeback victory, 39-37.
“We talked about it in the locker room if we rebound, we win 50-50 balls and we play defense, defense wins in February,” said Chelsea head coach Jason Harlow.
The championship served as the rubber match for the two county foes, who won each of their home games in the regular season series.
The Panthers took the most recent match with a dominant 58-46 win back on Jan 17. Pelham (21-6, 5-3) looked just as confident on the road this time around, and after Chelsea scored the first five points of the game, the Panthers took over with a 15-3 run.
Their frenetic pace and half court press threw the Hornets off, and if not for a couple of 3-pointers, the deficit may have gotten out of hand much sooner than it did.
Myriah Tate and Tamia Nelson were everywhere in the early going, getting in passing lanes and making Chelsea pay on the other end. Pelham also dominated the boards, grabbing five offensive rebounds in the first quarter alone.
The duo of Tate and Nelson were responsible for 10 of the Panthers’ 15 points, as Pelham took the early lead, 15-11.
Pelham continued to pour it on in the second quarter, as freshman Laci Gogan got hot from long range hitting once in the first quarter and twice in the second.
With the offense running on all cylinders, the Panthers not only scored with ease, but also didn’t turn the ball over the entire half until the game clock ticked under a minute.
Jason Harlow knew something had to change.
“The second half rolled around we wanted to change the pace up,” He said. “In the first half we played their style and in the second half we decided ‘Let’s get back to what we do and make sure we pick up this pace now’ because we knew that their guards were so tough in transition.”
Chelsea (25-5, 7-1) flipped the switch after halftime and emerged with a new energy, especially on defense. The Hornets forced seven turnovers and didn’t allow the Panthers’ only basket of the quarter until the 2:16 mark.
Pelham’s Emma McKenney, who was a defensive force in the middle, also got into foul trouble with her third personal foul just 1:10 into the second half.
Pressley Rains poured in all seven of her points in the third as well sinking two from beyond the arc in the process. Ellen Fleming scored five of her 11 in the fourth and hit six of her 10 free throw attempts for the game.
Neither team hit a field goal in the fourth until Jordan Parker’s baseline jumper gave Chelsea the lead for good with 3:02 remaining.
Parker, who was a steady hand for the Hornets, led the team in scoring with 14 and scored at least once in every quarter. Parker, Rains and teammate Sydney Schwallie were all recognized as part of the All-Area Tournament team.
Gogan led Pelham with 11 points, while Myriah Tate added eight.
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