Oak Mountain clinches Sweet 16 spot after second-half comeback to edge out Hewitt-Trussville
Published 2:04 am Wednesday, February 7, 2024
By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor
HOOVER – While the situation looked bleak for the Oak Mountain Eagles as they trailed the Hewitt-Trussville Huskies by 14 points early in the third quarter, they refused to give up when the pressure was the greatest.
The Eagles rallied behind a 19-2 run in the second half to take the lead, and they prevailed from a back-and-forth battle in the early minutes of the fourth quarter to pull away for the 50-45 win on Tuesday, Feb. 6 at Spain Park High School.
The victory ensures that Oak Mountain will return to the Sweet 16 after the Eagles battle Chelsea in the area championship game on Thursday, Feb. 8 at 6 p.m. at Spain Park High School.
Hewitt-Trussville started the game well with 14 points in the first quarter as the Huskies took the early lead.
Kevin Jasinski helped limit the damage early on for Oak Mountain with five points in the opening period. However, the Eagles trailed 14-7 at the end of the quarter and faced an uphill battle for the remainder of the half.
The Huskies got shots to fall inside the arc and on the free throw line as they had another double-digit scoring quarter on the offensive side.
Unlike the first quarter, Oak Mountain fought a closer battle, mainly thanks to Emanuel Johnson’s first six points of the night coming in the second period.
Like the first quarter though, the Huskies outscored the Eagles and extended their lead to 10 points at halftime.
Oak Mountain found itself in a double-digit hole at halftime down 26-16, which briefly got worse as Hewitt scored two baskets in the opening 58 seconds of the half to force a timeout.
However, that 14-point deficit would quickly shrink.
Grey Williams hit a three-pointer close to the midway point of the quarter to cut the gap to six and force a timeout. He also made five of his six free throws in the third to help the Eagles draw closer.
Soon enough, the deficit was only three after Chris Kunard made a three-pointer with 2:10 to go, which dialed up the pressure on the Huskies.
Hewitt comfortably retook a two-possession lead right after that three and eventually led 35-29 going into the fourth quarter.
While the Eagles briefly fell further behind, they used the confidence and energy from their initial run in the third quarter to power a strong final eight minutes.
Will O’Dell quickly hit a three to make it a one-possession game, and Williams scored again to draw within one just 46 seconds into the fourth.
While Hewitt made a free throw to go up two and held Oak Mountain silent for multiple minutes, Williams drained a three-pointer with 4:34 to go, and that gave the Eagles a 37-36 lead.
That was the first of five lead changes over the next two minutes as the teams went back and forth in hopes of landing a knockout punch.
The last of those five swings went in Oak Mountain’s favor, and O’Dell’s layup triggered a timeout with 2:18 to go.
From there, Johnson made two baskets to increase the lead, and another one in transition put the Eagles up 47-40, energizing their traveling fans with 53 seconds to go.
Hewitt cut that lead to just three with 28 seconds left, and after the ensuing timeout, neither team could get the ball inbounds as they remained in a high-pressure stalemate.
Once the Huskies got a shot off, their three-point attempt and put-back were both no good. Jasinski came down with the rebound with nine seconds to go and was quickly fouled.
He remained cool under pressure, making both of his free throws to ice the game, seal the five-point win and kick off the celebration as Oak Mountain clinched its place in the Sweet 16.
Williams led the way with 13 points. Johnson scored 12 points and O’Dell had eight points, including seven in the fourth quarter.
Jasinski scored seven points and Kunard had five points to help the Eagles reach the area championship game.