Pelham wins Minor Tournament off Joe Wimberly buzzer-beater

Published 11:19 pm Tuesday, January 2, 2024

By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

ADAMSVILLE – The Pelham Panthers brought home a first-place trophy after Joe Wimberly hit a shot as time expired to win 49-48 over the Minor Tigers on Friday, Dec. 29 in the championship game of the Minor Christmas Tournament.

In a contest that saw multiple lead changes and momentum swings, it was Minor which took command early on.

The Tigers came out shooting the ball extremely well, which gave the hosts an early 16-11 lead after the first quarter.

However, Pelham’s defense flipped the script in the second quarter, which sparked a comeback rally for the Panthers.

After a solid eight minutes of defense, Jayden Robinson gave Pelham even more momentum with a dunk that put his team up 26-22 heading into the halftime locker room.

Pelham’s defense only continued to improve from there, allowing Minor to score just four points in the third quarter.

However, the Tigers defense came out of the break strong as well, and the Panthers posted just seven points to respond during the third.

With Pelham leading 33-26 going into the final quarter, that seven-point gap was enough for Minor to come back from.

The Tigers stormed back to take a 48-44 lead with only 10 seconds remaining in the game, but with the title on the line, it was Pelham which threw the final knockout punch.

The Panthers got the ball to Dynarian Long, who hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to one point. Then, a Minor turnover gave the ball back to Pelham with six seconds remaining in the game to give the visitors a chance to win the game.

From there, Wimberly took the ball off the in-bounds pass and went all the way across the court. He then hit a shot at the buzzer to give Pelham the lead and the tournament championship.

That game-winner was just part of an impressive game from Wimberly as he led the Panthers in scoring with 13 points. In addition, Jordan Henshel added eight and Eli Lewis chipped in seven.

The win capped off a great week for the Panthers where they went 3-0 at the Minor Christmas Tournament.

Their run to the title started with a 50-31 first round win against the Leeds Green Wave on Wednesday, Dec. 27.

Pelham started the game off with excellent defense and balanced offense as five different players scored to help the Panthers claim a 17-9 lead after one quarter of play.

The second quarter featured even more defensive pressure from Pelham as it held Leeds to only four points in the quarter to take a 32-13 lead into the half.

The Green Wave began to find their rhythm in the third quarter, but Pelham had a response on the other end of the court for every basket from Leeds.

Pelham still led 42-25 going into the fourth quarter and that led the Panthers to ride out a low-scoring final eight minutes for the 19-point victory.

The Panthers had nine different players score and were led by Joe Wimberly’s 15 points followed by Daniel and Henshel with seven each.

That momentum from their first-round win helped in the semifinals on Thursday, Dec. 28 as they took on the Murphy Panthers in a tight game which Pelham won 48-44.

Murphy came out of the gate as the better team, posting 18 first-quarter points and holding Pelham to just eight during that time.

However, much like it did the next day in the championship game, Pelham flipped the script in the second quarter to cut Murphy’s lead to 30-23 going into halftime.

The Panthers came out of the locker room in the second half focused on their defense and allowed Murphy to score just five points in the third quarter.

On the other end of the floor, baskets from Sam Tolbert, Lewis and Wimberly helped Pelham take a one-point lead into the fourth quarter.

In the final period, Pelham kept up the effort on defense, keeping Murphy within single-digits again to hold on to the lead.

The defensive prowess from the entire team was enough for Pelham to see out the win, as it took a 48-44 victory to advance to the championship game, where it brought home the championship from the other side of Birmingham.

Lewis led the Panthers in scoring with 18 while Wimberly chipped in nine.