Chelsea celebrates seniors with win over rival Oak Mountain

Published 11:23 pm Friday, January 26, 2024

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Publisher

CHELSEA – Leading by one point late in the final quarter of a rivalry battle with Oak Mountain on Friday, Jan. 26, the Chelsea Hornets had seen an 11-point lead evaporate in the blink of an eye.

On their home floor, however, two key possessions shortly after a made 3-pointer from Oak Mountain’s Kevin Jasinski made the difference for the Hornets.

Entering with a loss by 11 points or less in all of their area games this season, the Hornets used the past heartbreak to drive them down the stretch, leading to extra effort on two game-changing shots.

The first came from Avery Futch, who immediately sprinted up the floor and buried a 3-pointer without giving it a second thought. Then, after a defensive stand, the Hornets took it the other way and quickly got it to Jaxon Shuttlesworth, who pumped and sent two defenders flying before laying the ball in to give the Hornets a 55-48 lead late.

That sent the crowd into a frenzy, giving Chelsea the boost needed to finish off a 59-51 area victory over the Eagles.

The win gave the Hornets their first area win of the season in the final regular season area game ahead of the area tournament, gaining momentum after five losses to Spain Park, Hewitt-Trussville and Oak Mountain all by 11 or less.

The game saw two different styles throughout, starting with a more methodical approach in the first half and ending with a chaotic second half that was back-and-forth.

A defensive first quarter never saw either team build more than a two-point advantage as they traded the lead seven different times in the opening period.

Oak Mountain struck first on a reverse layup from Christopher Kunard, but Chelsea struck back with a 3-pointer for their first made shot when Gavin Collett drained one to make it 3-2.

The two teams then traded four straight layups that led to a 6-5 advantage for the Eagles. Chelsea responded with three in a row before Skyler Williams hit a 3-pointer to end the period and give Oak Mountain an early 9-8 lead.

Chelsea, however, found an answer in Christen Whetstone.

He started the second quarter with seven quick points off a 3-pointer and two made baskets to make it 15-9 Chelsea.

Oak Mountain fought back to within two points on two different occasions, but Chelsea got the final basket of the period this time, taking a 19-15 lead into the halftime break.

The Eagles, however, used the break to their advantage.

They came out and started fast with a 3-pointer and layup to quickly gain the lead back at 20-18.

But Chelsea’s effort on the offensive end and aggressive drives to the basket became key.

The Hornets went on a 10-2 run because of that high level of play, taking a 28-22 lead midway through the period.

But the Eagles never did roll over. They used a 6-0 run to fight right back and tie the game.

Futch and Whetstone answered for Chelsea with six consecutive points, while a layup at the buzzer gave Chelsea a 36-30 lead going to the final quarter.

That’s when it looked like the Hornets may pull away. Chelsea got another strong drive to the basket from Aiden Owens to start the period, and while that was followed by a three from the Eagles, the Hornets quickly followed with back-to-back effort 3-pointers.

One was off an incredible save from Shuttlesworth to Futch, while the other came off a turnover that led to a Gavin Collett 3-pointer.

All of a sudden, it was a 44-33 lead for the Hornets.

As they did all night, the Eagles fought back, getting six points from Chase Lamey and four from Williams before Jasinski buried a 3-pointer to make it a one-point game at 49-48.

That, however, is when Futch and Shuttlesworth landed the final blow with their quick 5-0 run that led to the closing push for the Hornets in the eight-point win.

Whetstone led the way for Chelsea with 16 points, while Owens and Futch both finished with 14 behind powerful shots at the rim throughout the game. Collett also finished in double figures with 11 thanks in large part to a 5-6 mark from the free throw line.

Williams led the way for Oak Mountain with a game-high 17 points in the loss.

The Eagles will take on Hewitt-Trussville in the upcoming area tournament for a spot in the Sweet 16, while Chelsea will take on area tournament host Spain Park.