Chelsea wins Husky Holiday Shootout with three straight victories

Published 10:55 am Thursday, December 21, 2023

By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

HELENA – The Chelsea Hornets got themselves an early Christmas gift with a first-place finish at the Husky Holiday Shootout at Helena High School after defeating the Tuscaloosa County Wildcats in the finals on Wednesday, Dec. 20.

In the championship game against the Wildcats, the first quarter was tight as the teams felt each other out to begin the game. Christen Whetstone got going from the field early with five points, and the Hornets ended the quarter with an 11-8 lead.

Chelsea limited Tuscaloosa County’s second quarter offense to just Jackson Moore, who had all eight of his team’s points in the period.

The Hornets responded on the other end by getting the ball out to multiple shooters around the court to extend their lead before the break, but a Moore buzzer-beating three-pointer trimmed the lead to 21-16.

After halftime, Chelsea came out of the gate slow and allowed the Wildcats to threaten the Hornets. However, they recovered well as the quarter went on, securing steals and drawing fouls to regain momentum.

Avery Futch went 6-6 on his third quarter free throws and scored nine of his team’s 13 points in the quarter.

Tuscaloosa County would respond with another buzzer-beater to end the third, which left Chelsea with a 34-31 lead going into the final period.

In the fourth quarter, the Hornets put together their best effort on both ends of the quarter to pull away. They scored 17 points on offense, including seven more from Futch and four from Whetstone, and limited the Wildcats to eight points to win 51-39 and take the title.

Futch led all scorers with 17 points, while Whetstone scored 13 and both Gavin Collett and Braden Macon had six each.

After the finals, Whetstone was awarded with the tournament MVP award, and his teammates Futch and Macon joined him on the All-Tournament Team.

Chelsea started the tournament with a 48-42 first round win over the Page Patriots from Tennessee.

While the first quarter of that game was close, Chelsea had the early edge as Whetstone scored four points and the team outscored Page 12-9 in the opening period.

The Hornets took advantage of their trips to the free throw line to extend their lead in the second quarter. As a team, Chelsea went 8-12 on its second quarter free throws to extend its lead by two to 22-17 at halftime.

The Patriots offense kicked into gear in the third quarter and scored 15 points, but Chelsea continued hitting shots from the field and getting to the free throw line to keep pace with 13 points of their own.

With the Hornets holding just a one possession lead at 35-32, they kept Page at bay to see out the win. A 10-12 stretch from the line helped Chelsea score 13 more points and win by six without Futch in the lineup.

Whetstone led the way with 16 points, Collett scored 10 and Jonathan Loughlin added seven.

That let them advance to the semifinals to face the Hartselle Tigers, and Chelsea won that matchup 62-49.

Much like their other two games at the tournament, the Hornets started out slower on offense before kicking into gear. They scored nine points in the first quarter and trailed 11-9 at the end of the quarter.

Chelsea came alive in the second quarter thanks to Futch. In his return to the lineup and having already scored four points in the first quarter, he added seven more in the second to give him double-figures at halftime.

Macon scored five points to help the Hornets outscore the Tigers 20-9 in the quarter, and Chelsea led 29-20 as the teams went into the locker room.

After halftime, Hartselle cut into the Hornets’ lead as it outscored Chelsea by three in the third, but the Hornets scored 16 points to keep pace.

Chelsea then pulled away to a double-digit advantage in the fourth quarter, using a 5-6 quarter of free throws by Whetstone and a pair of three’s by Collett to secure the win and advance to the title game.

Four Hornets scored over 10 points in the game. Futch led the team with 15 points, Whetstone had 14 points, Collett scored 12 and Macon added 11.