Big final quarter lifts Oak Mountain over rival Chelsea for 4th straight Sweet 16 berth

Published 9:24 pm Wednesday, February 8, 2023

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

NORTH SHELBY – Tied 43-43 with rival Chelsea early in the final quarter, Oak Mountain senior and leading scorer Matthew Heiberger became determined to keep his team’s season alive in the opening round of the area tournament on Wednesday, Feb. 8.

Heiberger scored six straight and eight of his team’s next 12 points to help spark a game-changing 13-0 run over a three-minute span that became enough to lead the Eagles to a 72-58 win.

That stretch was part of a 13-point quarter for Heiberger, as Oak Mountain took a game that featured 11 lead changes and made the 11th one the final one to not only advance to the area tournament championship game but the Sweet 16 for the fourth year in a row.

An entertaining first half of runs opened with an impressive start from Chelsea in the first few minutes as Aiden Owens knocked down two quick layups followed by a banked in 3-pointer from Avery Futch to make it 7-2.

Oak Mountain quickly responded with a 6-0 run to take its first lead at 8-7 after three consecutive offensive rebounds led to second-chance points.

Paul Lanzi responded with an and-1 that swiftly gave the Hornets the lead back before both teams traded baskets over the final two minutes of the quarter, which led to a 10-10 tie going to the second period.

Following a first quarter that featured three lead changes and three ties, the second quarter saw similar excitement with Chelsea quickly adding another lead change in its first possession of the second quarter, while Oak Mountain answered with a Heiberger 3-pointer for the game’s fifth lead change.

Heiberger followed with a steal and dunk to make it 15-12 immediately after, but the Hornets quickly regained the lead off two straight baskets to make it 16-15.

The Eagles then found success at the rim with a Heiberger and-1 poster dunk, a Tre Thomas dunk and a Kevin Jasinski floater off the glass that were all part of a 12-4 run in the quarter for a 22-16 lead.

Chelsea made one free throw after, but Thomas quickly answered on an alley-oop dunk off a Heiberger lob.

Trailing 24-17, the Hornets got one final 3-pointer from Lanzi with 50 seconds left that became big in cutting the deficit to four going into the break.

Chelsea quickly carried that momentum into the second half with six more points right off the bat, all from Dylan Brown. He knocked down a 3-pointer to bring Chelsea within one and then picked up an and-1 off a steal to give the Hornets a 26-24 advantage quickly.

That started the back-and-forth again as the Eagles came right back with three free throws and a Heiberger 3-pointer on a second look to make it 30-26.

The Eagles eventually saw the lead blossom to seven points, but a Jasinski and-1, two free throws from Lanzi and a steal and layup from Lanzi quickly sparked a run that made it 35-34.

Oak Mountain did come back with a basket from Heiberger to make it 37-34, but the Hornets responded with a 7-2 run from there to storm in front by two going to the final quarter.

That, however, is when Heiberger shifted into a different gear.

Thomas tied the game first on an offensive put back that was answered by Futch. Then, after two Devan Moss free throws, Heiberger scored six straight, followed by two from Thomas and a backdoor cut and dunk from Heiberger.

That was part of a 13-0 run that helped the Eagles overcome a two-point deficit and turn it into an 11-point lead.

Oak Mountain went on to score 33 points in the final quarter and Chelsea was never able to get closer than nine points the rest of the way, giving the Eagles a 24-point win.

Heiberger finished with 35 points to lead all scorers, while the Eagles went 23-29 from the free throw line in the final quarter. Jasinski added 10 points, while Grey Williams finished with eight and Thomas with seven.

Chelsea was led by Lanzi with 23 points in his final game for Chelsea.