Briarwood holds off spirited Pelham rally for win in area opener

Published 10:28 pm Saturday, January 6, 2024

By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

NORTH SHELBY – The Briarwood Christian Lions opened their showdown with the Pelham Panthers in dominant fashion, but in the end, it was their ability to perform well with the game on the line that may have been the bigger statement to start area play.

Briarwood defeated Pelham 46-39 on Friday, Jan. 5 at home to claim the opening contest in Class 6A, Area 8.

The Lions came flying out of the gate and went on a 12-0 run to open the game, holding the Panthers scoreless for the first five minutes while shooting well from the field.

A Tee King field goal put the Panthers on the board with 2:42 left in the first, and Pelham would recover from its opening deficit to trail just 14-10 with less than a minute left in the quarter.

However, an Ann Tatum Baker three-pointer in the final minute of the first gave the Lions a seven-point lead after eight minutes of play.

Her long-range shot set the tone for the first part of the second quarter as Briarwood hit four three-pointers to extend its lead to 13.

That proved to be what separated the teams at halftime as the Lions and Panthers settled into a rhythm from there.

A Clara Crawford layup with less than two minutes remaining in the half forced a Pelham timeout with the lead at 16, but Karma Wynn cut the gap back to 13 on the Panthers’ last possession of the quarter to make the halftime score 31-18 Briarwood.

Pelham hit a three-pointer to start the second half and started clawing its way back into the contest with 11 third-quarter points.

While the Lions were outscored in the third quarter, Emma Kerley helped limit the damage with three baskets in the last four minutes of the third, including a pull-up from midrange, an impressive floater and a buzzer-beater to energize the crowd.

Briarwood took a 38-29 lead into the fourth quarter, but the Panthers would not go down without a fight.

The physicality between the two teams throughout the entire game came to a head in the fourth as King had to exit for a minute due to an injury, and after another Lions three, Wynn left for a couple of minutes with an injury as well.

However, Pelham rallied in Wynn’s absence, scoring a pair of field goals to cut the lead to four. Shortly after Wynn checked back in, she hit a pull-up jumper to pull within two with 2:38 remaining.

The teams battled it out throughout the next minute-and-a-half in hopes of taking the lead.

Pelham’s lineup took a hit after King fouled out with 1:43 left, and Briarwood’s Mary Beth Dicen shifted the momentum with a steal and a breakaway that sent her to the line after drawing a foul at the rim.

She made one of her two free throws to increase the lead to three, and as Pelham drew fouls in a bid to keep its comeback alive, her Lions teammates followed suit.

Baker knocked down a pair of free throws with 28 seconds left to put Briarwood up five, and she hit two more with nine seconds left to seal the 46-39 victory.

Baker led all scorers with 19 points, and she added four rebounds and two assists as well. Kerley also got into double-figures with 13 points while grabbing seven rebounds.

Crawford had one of her best performances of the season with eight points and six rebounds. Dicen also came up big around the court with four points, seven rebounds and four assists.

King led Pelham with 16 points, Wynn had a double-digit scoring night with 14 points and Gerren Ingram scored five points.

Briarwood will look for another area win on Tuesday, Jan. 9 as it travels to Helena for a 6 p.m. game. Pelham will have a brief break from area play with a road matchup against Montevallo at the University of Montevallo’s Trustmark Arena on Monday, Jan. 8 at 6 p.m.