No. 9 Chelsea girls fall to No. 2 Sparkman in Sweet 16

Published 1:10 pm Wednesday, February 15, 2023

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By LAUREN SEXTON | Sports Reporter

JACKSONVILLE – When the final buzzer sounded inside Pete Matthews Coliseum on Wednesday, Feb. 15, the Chelsea Hornets were on the wrong end of a 61-41 game, but for the seniors, the loss didn’t deter from the continued positive direction of the program.

Under head coach Jason Harlow, Chelsea has yet to finish a season shy of the Sweet 16, and that streak continued this year during the team’s first in Class 7A, something Harlow was proud of.

“We thought they played extremely hard today,” Harlow said. “I’m extremely proud of my seven seniors for what they’ve been able to accomplish with Chelsea over the course of the last four years. They’re just amazing human beings, and I felt very fortunate that I’ve been able to coach them at Chelsea over the course of these past four years.”

Despite the loss, Chelsea battled to the very end and proved themselves to be a worthy adversary against Sparkman.

‘We struggled with it a little bit,” Harlow said. “Struggled to rebound the way that we would have liked to, but I think that’s been the trend with these players and the character that they have, which is to play extremely hard.”

Chelsea kept the game evenly matched in the first quarter. More impressively, the offense matched the effort.

The Hornets overcame an early 5-1 deficit against Sparkman with Madison Moore and Sadie Schwallie to even the score.

Sparkman fought back with an aggressive defense toregain the lead;

however, the Hornets kept the game close as they trailed the Senators 17-13 before the second period.

Chelsea had a slight advantage at the beginning of the second quarter as Sparkman lost some of its first-quarter defensive mindset. An offensive-driven Chelsea managed to trail the Senators by five points with a little more than four minutes remaining of the first half.

The Senators shifted gears back with the clock counting down to the halftime break. Chelsea slipped behind as Sparkman knocked down back-to-back buckets.

Despite Chelsea’s last-minute efforts, the Hornets trailed 36-24 going into the second half. 

Haley Trotter led the Hornets with two field goals, two free throws and four rebounds, while Moore

followed with five points and three rebounds. Sophia Brown tacked on four points and one rebound.

Returning from the break, Chelsea picked up some momentum late in the third quarter on the defensive side after another back-and-forth battle. The Senators were limited to a single field goal in the final minutes to make the score 44-32 going to the final quarter.

From there, however, it was Sparkman who pulled away late with a big finish in the fourth quarter to claim the 61-41 victory.

“I’m really proud of how my kids handled themselves over the course of the year,” Harlow said about Chelsea’s first season as a 7A team. “When we got placed in a situation where we moved up to class seven, I think a lot of people doubted what we had been able to accomplish within class six. To win 23 games, the Mountain Brook Turkey Jam and then on top of that when the Oak Mountain tournament, I couldn’t be more proud.”

Trotter finished the game as the leading scorer with 13 points and added 10 rebounds, while Brown followed Trotter with 10 points and five rebounds. Moore finished with eight points and five rebounds.