Oak Mountain performs well at Spartan Turkey Jam

Published 1:30 pm Monday, November 29, 2021

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By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor 

MOUNTAIN BROOK – It didn’t start how they had hoped, but the Oak Mountain Eagles finished the 2021 Spartan Turkey Jam with two impressive wins.

Taking part in the Mountain Brook tournament Nov. 22-24, the defending Class 7A State Champs fell to Eufala by nine points, the Eagles responded with two huge wins in the consolation bracket.

It started with a 69-57 victory against Auburn in a rematch of last year’s Final Four game that sent the Eagles to the state championship game and ended with a 60-48 victory against Clay-Chalkville in the consolation title game.

With that 2-1 effort at the tournament, the Eagles improved to 3-2 on the season with both losses coming to Spain Park, a Final Four team in 7A last year, by four in overtime and Eufala, a Final Four team in Class 6A last year, by nine.

In the opening game of the tournament, the Eagles were forced to play from behind early in the game, trailing by 11 early in the second quarter, but they still fought throughout.

After falling into a 36-18 deficit late in the second quarter, the Eagles battled back to make the game much closer the rest of the way.

A 3-pointer from Brady Dunn to end the opening half made it more manageable of a deficit going into the break.

Eufala held around a 17-point lead for the first few possessions of the third quarter, but Oak Mountain answered with a big 3-pointer from Wilder Evers to trim the Tigers’ lead to 14 points.

That was the first of three consecutive from beyond the arc for the Eagles, as Dunn hit another shortly after followed by one from Ryan Giegel to bring Oak Mountain to within single digits for the first time since early in the game.

Trailing 42-34 at that point in time, the Eagles still had ground to make up, but eventually trimmed it to 51-45 in the final quarter.

A steal from Dunn gave the Eagles a chance to get even closer late in the game, but Eufala made clutch shots and free throws down the stretch to close out the 57-48 win, as the slow start was too much to overcome for Oak Mountain.

Dunn had 20 points in the loss to lead the way for Oak Mountain, while Matthew Heiberger finished with 11 points and nine rebounds and Giegel added 10 points.

The Eagles, however, didn’t start as slow the next two games after falling into the consolation bracket.

In the opening quarter against Auburn, the defense shined for Oak Mountain, as the Eagles held the Tigers to 11 points, which gave them a four-point lead thanks to 15 points offensively.

The lead blossomed to 22-14 early in the second quarter before Auburn put together a 6-2 run to get within four points.

Dunks from Evers and Heiberger helped the Eagles jump back up by six.

The Tigers, however, responded with an 8-2 run that evened the score at 28-28 late in the half.

But in the final seconds, Heiberger came up clutch with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Oak Mountain a 31-28 lead at the half.

That seemed to be the spark the Eagles needed, as they came out in the second half with a quick 5-0 run highlighted by an Evers 3-pointer to make it 36-28.

A back-and-forth stretch ensued after, as the Tigers battled to within three points at 42-39, but a clutch 3-pointer from Evers halted the run from the Tigers.

From there, Oak Mountain outscored Auburn 8-3 the rest of the quarter to take a 50-41 advantage into the final period.

Then came a dagger early in the fourth from Dunn on a 3-pointer, as he put the Eagles in front by 12 on the first made basket of the final frame.

Auburn did score 16 in the period, but Oak Mountain put up 19 points for the second quarter in a row to create the 69-57 final.

Heiberger had a monster game for the Eagles with 32 points and 11 rebounds, while Evers added 18 and six. Dunn also finished in double figures with 10 points and eight rebounds.

Oak Mountain outrebounded Auburn 35-16 in the game, which played a major role in the final score.

That led to one final game for the Eagles against Clay-Chalkville in the consolation bracket championship.

They jumped out to a 7-3 advantage early in the game, which sparked a fast start. Following a couple of fast-break opportunities, the Eagles were able to grab a 19-7 lead late in the period.

Clay responded with a short run to claw back within six points at 21-15, but Evers put a quick stop to that with a 3-pointer to make it a nine-point game with 5:30 to play in the second quarter.

The Cougars, however, had found a rhythm and fought all the way back to within three points with three minutes to play in the frame.

But another timely 3-pointer, this time from Giegel, ended the run from the Tigers.

The back-and-forth finish to the quarter continued, as the Cougars answered with a 3-pointer before Oak Mountain closed the half with one more from Dunn to make it 31-24.

The two teams battled in more of a defensive game after the halftime break, which led to a 36-31 game with 1:30 to play, but another big shot from beyond the arc off the hands of Dunn made it 39-31.

That was then followed by a dunk from Gavin Nelson off a nice find from Dunn, which made it 41-31 going to the final quarter.

A quick fast-break layup from Giegel then made it 43-31 early in the final frame, which kick-started an exciting offensive quarter.

Oak Mountain went on to total 19 points in the fourth quarter, while Clay posted 17, as the Eagles closed out a 60-48 win.

Dunn finished the game with 23 points and eight boards, while Giegel added 10 points.