Chelsea downs Oxford to earn historic trip to Elite Eight

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

CHELSEA – With 0.7 seconds left to play in the third quarter of a Sweet-16 matchup on Thursday, Feb. 18, Ellen Fleming and Mary Cartee met just on the other side of the ‘C’ logo in the middle of the court.

Fleming shared words of encouragement before Cartee laughed and jogged to the far corner in front of Chelsea’s bench and to the left of Fleming, who was inbounding the ball on the other side of half court in front of the visiting bench.

In what appeared to be a designed moment, nobody followed Cartee to the other side. Fleming took note and immediately fired a pass to the corner where Cartee caught the ball, stepped into her shot and drained the jumper as the buzzer to put Chelsea in front of Oxford 35-21 going to the final quarter.

That one moment seemed to sum up the year and the night for Chelsea, who went on to take down Oxford 50-38 to advance to the Class 6A Elite Eight.

It marked Chelsea’s second win in 24 hours after weather forced the Hornets to take on Jasper in the sub-regional round a night earlier.

But a team that has been selfless and full of leadership all season won that game 64-38 and came back to control most of the night against Oxford, who was a 20-plus win team. 

The Hornets used their hounding defense, which has been present all year, to jump out to a seven-point lead in the first quarter.

They limited Oxford to five points for the first six minutes of the period before the Yellow Jackets found a way to bounce back to end the quarter thanks to a 6-2 run, which brought them within three points at 14-11 to end the quarter.

But Chelsea’s resilient effort defensively continued in the second quarter, sprinting seemingly the entire period.

That helped the Hornets again have a strong start after scoring the first five points to take a 19-11 lead following a 3-pointer from Cartee.

Like the first quarter, Oxford answered back with a 4-0 run to get within four points at 19-15.

Chelsea, however, got two perfect plays to end the first half.

After several passes trying to find the open hole to the basket, Ashley Washington took off to the hole and laid one in through traffic for a six-point lead.

That was followed by a called out play from head coach Jason Harlow on the sideline, which led to Sydney Schwallie driving to the left side of the free throw line before hitting Ellen Fleming on a backdoor cut for another layup to put Chelsea in front 23-15 at the half.

Then, to start the second half, Sophia Brown came out and stole the ball away from the Jackets before going all the way to the basket for a layup to put Chelsea up 10.

Though the Hornets had led the entire game, that seemed to be the big momentum boost that gave them the confidence to pull away.

Fleming added a layup shortly after to make it a 12-point game, then a defensive battle ensued.

Chelsea didn’t score again for a few minutes, while Oxford cut the deficit back to eight points with 2:38 to play in the quarter.

The Hornets, however, responded with an 8-2 run to end the quarter, which was capped off by the Fleming to Cartee play.

Oxford started the final quarter with an and-1, but Chelsea followed with a 6-0 run to extend the lead to 17 points with five minutes to play.

The Jackets made one final push, cutting the deficit to single digits at 47-38 with 45 seconds to play, but the Hornets closed the game out with three free throws to ice the win and keep their season alive.

Fleming led the way with 15 points in the win, while Brown and Schwallie each added 10.

Chelsea will now take on Huffman in the Elite Eight on Tuesday, Feb. 23 at 9 a.m. on the campus of Jacksonville State University.