Replaying 2020: A look back at the year in Pelham sports

FROM STAFF REPORTS

2020 was the ultimate year of ups and downs in local sports, not just with the triumphant wins and heartbreaking losses, but also with the uncertainty of whether sports could even be played amidst a pandemic. And there were plenty of inspirational stories along the way.

JANUARY 

Panthers push rival Chelsea to the brink in competitive overtime

Fireworks were set to put on a show when two of the most improved teams in Shelby County met to open area play on Tuesday, Jan. 7, as the Chelsea Hornets hosted the Pelham Panthers in a rivalry matchup. The two teams went blow for blow through not just one overtime, but two overtimes, before Chelsea was able to capitalize on a few late free throws to put away a tightly contested 66-63 victory.

Allison has career night against UM

Ironically in one of the sharpest shooting performances of the season, the University of West Alabama men’s basketball team put up a relentless effort in an 84-55 win over the Montevallo Falcons Thursday, Jan. 23, in Gulf South Conference action in Trustmark Arena.

The win moved UWA to 14-4 overall and 7-3 in the GSC and marked head coach Allen Sharpe’s 100th victory as the Tigers’ coach. Montevallo falls to 11-8 on the season and 7-3 in the league with a third consecutive conference loss.

Pelham girls receive recognition

The first ASWA basketball rankings since before Christmas were released on Wednesday, Jan. 8, and a strong presence of 13 county teams were featured, while six of those 13 were inside the top 10 of their respective classification and three were ranked inside the top three.

Pelham girls win third consecutive area matchup

After falling to Helena earlier this season, the Pelham Panthers girls’ basketball team is getting hot at the right time and came away with a big road win defeating the Huskies 56-43 on Tuesday, Jan. 21.

FEBRUARY

Maddox hits last-second shot in 1-point win

Having lost their two regular season games to the Helena Huskies by a total of 41 points, and only winning one area game during the regular season, no one gave Pelham much of a shot.

The Panthers came in, slowed the game down, dictated pace and came up with the game-winning basket off a drawn up play that saw Blake Floyd drive the baseline before lobbing a pass to Kendan Maddox for a tip in as time expired to lock up a playoff bid and a spot in the Class 6A, Area 8 championship with a 35-34 win.

Pelham girls down Helena, advance to sub-regionals

A fast start offensively and a strong close defensively helped the Pelham Panthers keep their season alive on Tuesday, Feb. 4, with a 58-41 win over Helena in the opening round of the area tournament.

Pelham girls finish runner-up at state track meet

The Pelham girls never were higher than fourth in the Class 6A Indoor State Track and Field Championships heading into one of the final events, but the 4X400-meter relay team changed that with a drastic win.

Pelham advances to Sweet 16

Standing at the line with 0.3 seconds to play and down by one point, Roy Gonzalez had the weight of Pelham’s entire season on his shoulders.

Then, with some of the pressure off his shoulder, he found himself with a chance to win the game and send the Panthers to their fourth final four in school history. Gonzalez didn’t hesitate at all. He grabbed the ball off the pass from the official, took his stance and released a perfectly-rotating ball that hit nothing but the net to lift Pelham to a 39-38 win.

Pelham downs Chelsea in PKs for title

We got an early edition of the Pelham-Chelsea rivalry on Saturday, Feb. 15, when the two met in the championship of the Lakeshore Shootout Gold Division.

It looked as if Chelsea had answered with a big save, but it was ruled that Gage moved early, which gave Pelham another shot, and this time, the Panthers capitalized to take a 3-1 lead. The Hornets hit on their next shot, but Pelham stepped back up with a chance to win on its next attempt. The Panthers took advantage and buried the final shot to take the 4-2 PK win.

PHS wrestling has two finish 2nd at state

The Von Braun Center once again played host to the AHSAA State Wrestling Tournament between Thursday, Feb. 13 and Saturday, Feb. 15, and Shelby County was well represented. A total of 57 wrestlers from eight different schools from across the county were in attendance, 27 of which stood on the podium at the conclusion of the tournament.

MARCH

Pelham claims Bronze at Lakeshore shootout

Following a Lakeshore Championship from the boys a week earlier, the Pelham girls soccer team wanted to prove it had what it took to bring home a title as well. But the Panthers took it a step further than that and finished the tournament with a perfect record of 4-0 to take home the title.

Pelham soccer honors graduate battling cancer

In between games for Pelham’s soccer programs, the teams came together for a special moment. On a field that saw two showdowns, teams instead came together for a brief moment to share their respects for one of Pelham’s own.

Lana Turner was recently diagnosed Leukemia on Feb. 7, almost a year after her father passed away unexpectedly, and on Tuesday, March 10, the Pelham graduate and current freshman at Troy University was honored by the Panthers in between the varsity girls and boys soccer games against Shades Valley.

Pelham baseball provides special moment for Bice

While sports and schools were shutting down across the state and country on Friday, March 13, there was a glimmer of hope at Pelham High School, as Bibb County’s Hunter Bice was honored by the Panthers.

In their last game until at least April 6 due to COVID- 19 cancelling schools and sporting events, the Panthers honored Bice, who had been through a battle of his own, by having him throw out the first pitch ahead of a baseball game between PHS and Bibb County.

APRIL

Coaches adjusting for 2020

Coaches across the country are having to game plan for an extra opponent this offseason: COVID-19. Nothing truly prepares you for the challenges this disease now presents our country and people around the world trying to remain productive in their respective craft.

When the job includes keeping up with over a hundred players and staff, local high school coaches are finding a way to lead in a crisis.

Pelham’s Long, Nelson named Bryant Jordan regional winners

It was a clean sweep in Class 6A for the Pelham Panthers, who had two athletes take both available spots for the Class 6A, Region 4 Bryant Jordan regional award.

For Class 6A, Region 4, Pelham’s Erin Long and Tamia Nelson took home the two awards, making the Panthers one of eight schools to win two honors.

Battle for sanctioned girls wrestling in Alabama

There is a new brand of athlete emerging, breathing life into a sport that had been dwindling in numbers. All across the U.S. these athletes have tripled in number in the last 10 years, and now, there is a push for Alabama to give them a place of their own.

Throughout the 2019-20 sports calendar year, surveys landed on the desks of principals and athletic directors in the state of Alabama asking them which sport they would like to see sanctioned. Among the six sports on the survey was girls wrestling.

Regional award winners named

Three local senior athletes have been honored as regional winners of the Bryant- Jordan Scholarship-Athlete program from the North Shelby County area.

Briarwood’s Christian Ferguson, Indian Springs’ Peyton Miller and Westminster at Oak Mountain’s Payton Metcalf were three of 104 seniors honored as regional winners.

MAY

State announces wrestling changes for 2020-2021

After the AHSAA met last Thursday the verdict wasn’t quite what the advocates for girls’ wrestling in Alabama were hoping for, but it’s a promising start, as three events for girls have been added to the 2020-21 calendar.

State’s best soccer players honored

The All-State team featured 17 players from Shelby County, including five first teamers, six second teamers and six honorable mention players. The All-Metro team featured an even more dominant presence of Shelby County players with 46 total boys soccer players from the county making the team, including eight on the first team, 15 on the second team and 23 honorable mention players.

Floyd leaving Pelham for job at Spain Park

A basketball coach and teacher at Pelham High School since 2007, the time has come for Joel Floyd to make his next move after officially resigning at a Pelham Board of Education meeting on Monday, May 19.

Ingram earns All-State honor

It was shaping up to be another dominant soccer season for girls teams in Shelby County. The amount of talent was no more evident than when both the 2020 All-State and All-Metro teams were released honoring the best players from the state and the Birmingham-metro area.

Among those teams, a total of 44 made the All- Metro team, while 11 made the All-State team, including nine on the first team. Those nine players included Pelham’s Kori Ingram.

Sports returning for state’s youth athletes

In her latest amendment to the safer-at-home order on Thursday, May 21, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced athletic activities could resume for team sports starting at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 22.

JUNE

County has 4 named to girls’ soccer North All-Star team

From Shelby County, four different girls were named to the 2020 North All-Star team after special seasons, including Oak Mountain’s Kaitlin Maynard, Chelsea’s Haley Duca, Spain Park’s Vivian Gray and Pelham’s Kori Ingram.

Kiel honored with Making a Difference award

Kim Kiel has left an imprint on athletics in the state of Alabama as she continues to represent athletic directors across the state, showing that her impact is felt both by the athletes and coaches she oversees at Pelham High School on a daily basis, as well as those across the state.

On Tuesday, June 2, the Alabama High School Athletic Association released its June/July newsletter, in which seven individuals across the state involved in athletics were honored with this year’s Making a Difference Award.

Dickinson tabbed as next Pelham coach

After a successful seven-year stint at Montevallo that saw him pick up more than 100 wins and advance to the Sweet 16 two years ago and the Elite Eight this past year, Greg Dickinson has now been hired by Pelham to take over the Panthers’ vacant head coaching job.

Pelham’s football team returns to prepare for 2020 season

It normally would have been one of the more boring days of practice for the Pelham Panthers as the football team flooded into the practice facility on the first day of June.

But after almost three months of no conditioning, practice or workouts due to COVID-19 abruptly cancelling all activities, their first moments together turned an otherwise boring day of physicals and conditioning into a reunion full of excitement.

Tamia Nelson honored with top scholarship

Pelham’s Tamia Nelson, who spent her final two years of high school at PHS, was honored with the Willie Scoggins Jr. Achievement Scholarship given out each year to someone who excels both in the classroom and academically.

White earns Gatorade POY

After a remarkable career that saw her start all four years at Westminster School at Oak Mountain ended with heartbreak due to COVID- 19 cutting her senior year short by close to two months, Morgan White now has one last memorable moment to claim from her high school days.

On Wednesday morning, June 17, the Westminster graduate was named Alabama’s 2020 Gatorade Girls’ Soccer Player of the Year to honor her remarkable career and strong start to the senior season.

American Legion baseball season gets underway

Despite the cancellations of many summer sports, the baseball season for American Legion Matthew Blount Post 555 officially kicked off on June 18.

JULY

Mackey: Fall sports, including football, will be played

During his press conference on Friday, June 26, regarding the roadmap to reopen schools this fall, State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey was asked about the return of sports this fall and the response was something fans were hoping to hear. “Those activities will look different, but they will resume,” he said.

Flip Side Watersports at OMSP offers fun place to cool off

Summer is heating up and the nee d to find a local place with a lot of cool water, shade trees and fun is a must. The good news is that place can be found at Oak Mountain State Park. Flip Side Watersports located inside OMSP on Beaver Lake has taken water sports to the next level.

Committees discuss 2020 fall season

The AHSAA met with its Fall Sports and Football Coaches committees Tuesday through an online virtual meeting and heard updates from the AHSAA Medical Advisory Board Committee and the Alabama State Department of Education.

AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese, Associate Executive Director Alvin Briggs and the AHSAA executive staff discussed the upcoming fall sports season and current COVID 19 challenges that still loom ahead.

Pelham coaches get promoted

Nathan Collins and Michael Wheeler have spent the last several years together coaching the Pelham Middle School football team and preparing them for the bright lights of Friday night.

Now, they find themselves readying for new challenges as 2020 will take on a new look for each after both received promotions this offseason, and while they’re both still part of the Pelham program they’ll have to part ways.

AUGUST

Jefferson-Shelby Youth Football League cancels 2020 season in Helena

After a meeting on Sunday, July 26, the Jefferson-Shelby Youth Football League board members voted 6-5 in favor of canceling the upcoming 2020 season due to the threat of COVID-19. The JSYFL, which consists of “Over the Mountain” teams in Jefferson and Shelby Counties, normally consists of more than 2,000 football players and cheerleaders.

24e Health Club opens in Pelham 

24e Health Club, an Alabama based gym franchise, is set to open its sixth location within the state in the city of Pelham in September. 24e was first started back in 2010 by Wayne Alford when the first location opened in Hoover.

PHS volleyball gets off to strong start

Replacing a lot of last year’s talent from an Elite Eight team, the Pelham Panthers were hoping to gain experience early in the 2020 season, but through their first seven games, they’ve done more than that.

Following a 4-2 start to the season, the Panthers got back to the court on Tuesday, Aug. 25, and extended that record to 5-2 with a 3-0 sweep of the Hartselle Tigers.

Pelham grinds out win in opener

After a first half that featured defense-optional football, Pelham settled in to 28-21 non-region win Friday night, Aug. 21, at Mortimer Jordan.

Gabe Gamble’s dominating second half performance, capped with a 1-yard touchdown run with 10:06 left in the fourth quarter provided the margin.

SEPTEMBER

Panthers sweep Tigers for dominant area win

After losing four of their last five matches, the Pelham Panthers responded in a big way on Tuesday night, Sept. 1, when they traveled to Clanton to take on Chilton County in the opener to area play.

The Panthers overcame four losses in the always difficult Mayor’s Cup tournament over the weekend and bounced back to not only pick up a 3-0 sweep of the Tigers to start area play with a win.

Oak Mountain hosts mountain bike races

Oak Mountain State Park was visited by more than 300 racers competing in the 26th annual Bump N’ Grind mountain bike racing event over the Labor Day weekend.

The event was put on by the Birmingham Urban Mountain Peddlers, who build and maintain more than 50 miles of trails at the park for recreation and competition use.

Pelham’s Brooke Monti wins Calera XC meet

After their original meet scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 12, was canceled, the Calera Eagles worked with the city, school and others to turn George Roy Park into a beautiful cross country course for their own event.

But the race belonged to Pelham’s Brooke Monti. The Panthers’ senior finished the race almost a minute faster than Doss in second to claim the top spot with a time of 22:18.40.

Pelham sweeps Helena to pick up area victory

The first month of the 2020 volleyball season has featured some up-and-down play for both the Pelham Panthers and Helena Huskies leading into their first matchup with one another on Tuesday, Sept. 15.

But when the two rivals squared off against one another at Pelham High School, the Panthers were able to capitalize on recent success to pick up their third win in the last four matches.

Pelham sweeps Calera in area win

With a young roster coming into the season due to the loss of the majority of their starters, the Pelham Panthers seem to be hitting a stride at the right time of the season.

After a strong showing in a weekend tournament, the Panthers came back on Tuesday, Sept. 22, for a 3-0 sweep in an area match with county foe Calera.

Pelham ground game leads to 47-28 victory

After falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter and 28-27 at the half, the Pelham Panthers scored 20 unanswered points in the second half behind a strong run game to beat county rival Chelsea 47-28 on Friday, Sept. 25.

OCTOBER 

Pelham downs Wildcats for 3rd region title in school history

The Pelham Panthers (7-1, 5-0) clinched the Class 6A Region 3 title with a 37-12 win over the Benjamin Russell Wildcats (0-4, 0-7) Thursday night, Oct. 8 at Ned Bearden Stadium. The title is Pelham’s first since 2006 and third in school history.

Pelham off to best start since 2006 after win at Wetumpka

It was a near-perfect start for Wetumpka in Friday night’s showdown between the only remaining teams who were unbeaten in Class 6A Region 3 play entering the game.

But it only took bad fortunes on three consecutive plays to turn the tide in favor of Pelham as the Panthers grabbed a hold of the momentum late in the first half and never gave it back, rolling in the second half to a 34-18 victory.

Pelham beats Helena in area championship

The Pelham Panthers are once again atop the area after taking down both Chilton County and Helena on Tuesday, Oct. 13, in the area tournament in straight sets.

Pelham jumps into top 10 football rankings

Throughout the 2020 football season, the Thompson Warriors have held steady in the state’s high school football rankings and a few others have jumped in and out of the top 10, but on Tuesday, Oct. 13, a new local team entered the top 10.

The Pelham Panthers, who are now the No. 9 team in Class 6A, were ranked inside the top 10 for the first time this season after spending time receiving votes the last few weeks.

Pelham finishes one win short of state tourney

The Pelham Panthers didn’t make it to the state tournament for the sixth time in seven years after coming up one win short on Wednesday, Oct. 21, in a Super Regional loss to Northridge.

Despite a spirited effort late, the Panthers lost 3-1 (25- 12, 25-20, 25-27, 25-23) in the matchup with the Jaguars, which prevented them from advancing to the Sweet 16 at the state tournament a week later.

NOVEMBER

16 named to AHSVCA All-State team

As another volleyball season ends, Shelby County once again saw a spectacular run with eight teams advancing to the postseason, including runs to the Elite Eight for the Thompson Warriors and Spain Park Jaguars.

And on Monday, Oct. 26, the best players from across the state were honored by coaches on the Alabama High School Volleyball Coaches Association’s All-State team with 16 players making the cut.

Pelham falls to Lee-Montgomery in first round

Pelham’s record-setting season ended with a disappointing first-round playoff loss to Lee-Montgomery on Friday, Nov. 6 at Ned Bearden Stadium. Pelham’s comeback effort fell just short, as a safety early in the first quarter provided the Generals with enough separation for a 23-21 win.

Pelham Racquet Club announces new tennis pro

To better serve those involved in and interested in participating in the Birmingham-metro tennis community, the Pelham Racquet Club is welcoming a new tennis pro.

Ryen Valentine took over the position following the retirement of Ann Etheredge Aug. 1.

Dickinson looks forward to 1st year at Pelham

In his first season as head basketball coach of the Pelham Panthers, Greg Dickinson will not have the help of top contributors Xavier Lankford and Blake Floyd, but the team is keeping Kendan Maddox and Evan Pate—two players Dickinson is looking to lead the team into 2020- 2021.

PHS starts season with 2 wins

Thanks to a strong night from Laci Gogan and a dominant defensive performance, the Pelham girls basketball team picked up their second win of the season on Tuesday, Nov. 10, for a 2-0 start to the season.

Pelham runners advance to state

With the pressure of a spot in the state championship on the line, several Class 6A cross country runners across the county came through in their section meets during the biggest moment of the season thus far on Thursday, Nov. 5.

Of the five teams from the 6A classification, Briarwood, Calera, Chelsea and Helena all advanced their entire teams to the state meet, while Pelham also had several of its boys and girls advance as well.

Dickinson nabs first Pelham win

It’s already been a rollercoaster ride for new Pelham boys head basketball coach Greg Dickinson in his first week leading the Panthers during the 2020 season, but on Friday, Nov. 13, the ride got a little smoother for the longtime county coach.

On Nov. 13, Dickinson and the Panthers traveled to Fultondale for Friday-night matchup, and thanks to a balanced attack throughout, he and the team picked up their first victory.

DECEMBER

Pelham grabs back-to-back wins at Chelsea, Stanhope

For the first time in Greg Dickinson’s time at Pelham, the Panthers have won two consecutive games after taking down county rival Chelsea on Thursday, Dec. 3, and Stanhope Elmore one night later.

PHS wins OT thriller

Determined to will the Pelham Panthers to a victory on Tuesday, Dec. 15, Evan Pate flipped into a new gear when the Panthers’ matchup with Pell City went into overtime.

His presence on both ends made the difference, helping prevent points from Pell City while outscoring the opposing Panthers 6-4 on his own. That helped break a 39-39 tie at the start of the overtime period by propelling the home team to a 46-43 overtime victory.

Pelham competes in Swede Umbach tourney

The Pelham Panthers and Spain Park Jaguars both put together strong performances at Auburn’s Swede Umbach Duals wrestling tournament Dec. 11-12.

Both emerged undefeated following the first night of the event on Friday to the contenders bracket.