Pelham outlasts Briarwood to claim area championship

Published 2:14 am Wednesday, February 7, 2024

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

NORTH SHELBY – Facing the top seed in the area who beat them twice during area play, the Pelham Panthers had to draw on their years of playoff pedigree to pass their latest road test.

Like their first two matchups, the Panthers were a close match for the Briarwood Christian Lions, but this time, they passed the test and took their spot atop Class 6A, Area 8.

Pelham prevailed in the area championship 50-42 over Briarwood on Tuesday, Feb. 6 at Briarwood Christian School to claim the title and the right to host a sub-regional game on Friday, Feb. 9.

Both offenses got off to a strong start as they looked to gain control of the matchup in the early minutes.

Emma Kerley got going early from long range as she hit a trio of three-pointers to score 11 points in the first quarter alone. She and Clara Crawford contributed all 14 first-quarter points that their team scored.

Pelham responded with a balanced attack of five different scorers in the opening period. Despite the ball being spread out, there was no mistaking Karma Wynn’s contributions in the first as she opened the game with six points.

That helped the Panthers lead 15-14 at the end of the first quarter, giving them the slight early advantage.

Mary Beth Dicen scored five points for Briarwood in the second quarter, but as a whole, the Lions were slightly less productive on offense with 11 additional points before halftime.

That wouldn’t matter as Briarwood’s defense stepped up and limited the scoring from multiple Panthers shooting threats.

One player for Pelham to find success on offense in the second was Tee King, who added to her three points in the first quarter with two three-pointers to take her to nine points for the half.

The Lions won the quarter and tied up the game at 25-25 going into halftime.

With the game balanced on a knife’s edge at the start of the third quarter, King took over the game and dominated all around the floor on offense in the third.

She scored two more three-pointers to take her to four long-range baskets for the evening, and she also made a pair of field goals to score 10 third-quarter points.

On the other end of the floor, the Panthers defense held Briarwood to nine points in the third, which let the visitors take the lead and go up 37-34 heading into the fourth quarter.

The Lions flowed their offense through Crawford in the final quarter. She rose to the occasion, scoring all eight of her team’s fourth-quarter points as Pelham kept Briarwood’s other scoring options quiet.

However, the one-two punch of King and Wynn struck back throughout the fourth as King scored seven points in the quarter and Wynn had six more points.

In the end, the Panthers’ guard play and defense helped seal the eight-point victory and the area championship.

King was named area tournament MVP after the sophomore dropped 26 points in the finals. Wynn had 12 points and eight rebounds for the Panthers while Shea Gallagher scored six points and Alana Noble had five points.

As for Briarwood, Kerley had 15 points, Crawford scored 14 points and Dicen had seven points.

Both teams will now move on to the sub-regionals, and while neither team’s opponent is set as of yet, the Panthers will host their game at Pelham High School on Friday, Feb. 9 while the Lions will hit the road.