Chelsea claims first area title since 2016 with win over rival Oak Mountain

Published 10:46 pm Thursday, February 8, 2024

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By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Publisher 

HOOVER – After losing their first five area games of the season by 10 points or less, the Chelsea Hornets faced a turning point at an opportune time on Friday, Jan. 26.

Knowing their fate was still completely in their hands, the Hornets took down rival Oak Mountain 59-51 on senior night to close out regular season area play and gain confidence heading into the area tournament.

On Thursday, Feb. 8, the Hornets capitalized on that confidence winning their third area game and fourth game overall in a row to claim their first area tournament championship since 2016 with a 58-48 victory over rival Oak Mountain once again.

The win came two nights after the fourth-seeded Hornets upset top seed and regular-season area champion Spain Park 46-45 to earn the spot in the title game and the Sweet 16.

That gave Chelsea redemption for a 10-point and seven-point loss from the regular season and kept the team’s season alive, while two nights later, they celebrated in the middle of the floor following a complete effort from start to finish to claim the area title.

From start to finish of the area championship game, the Hornets held control jumping out to an 8-1 lead early in the opening quarter and eventually extending that lead to 10 points at 14-4 following a Gavin Collett 3-pointer.

Kevin Jasinski hit big 3-pointer late for the Eagles himself to trim the deficit down to seven, but Jaxon Shuttlesworth responded with a basket to give the Hornets a nine-point lead through one quarter of play.

Chelsea carried that momentum into the second quarter, extending the lead to its largest of the opening half at 11 points on two different occasions.

Oak Mountain, however, finally found a rhythm and put together its best stretch of the game.

The Eagles hit a 3-pointer that cut the deficit back to seven before Kevin Jasinski hit two more down the stretch to make it a 24-19 game at the halftime break.

Oak Mountain took advantage of the momentum shift and came out in the second half with a motivated start.

The Eagles picked up a quick steal that led to a layup for a spark to start the half before drawing to within a point shortly after on another layup.

Following an Avery Futch putback for the Hornets, Jasinski hit another big 3-pointer to even the score for the first time since 0-0.

All of a sudden, Oak Mountain was even and held the momentum despite Chelsea’s control of the game up to that point.

That, however, added a spark back to the Hornets as they closed the third quarter with their best stretch of the game.

A Collett 3-pointer broke the tie before Futch and Shuttlesworth combined for the final seven points of the period to give Chelsea 40-28 lead going to the final period after a 14-2 run.

With their largest lead of the game, the Hornets continued to create separation in the fourth quarter, extending the lead to 15 points at 44-29.

That crated too deep of a hole for the Eagles, and despite trimming the deficit down to six points, time ultimately ran out on their comeback attempt as the Hornets closed out the 54-48 win with strong free throw shooting.

Futch, in particular, was key from the free throw line, going 6-6 from the line in the final quarter and 12-12 from the line in the game.

He finished with 23 points to lead all scorers. As a team, the Hornets finished 13-18 from the line in the final quarter, while Collett was 3-4 and finished as the team’s second leading scorer with 15 points.

The Hornets will now head to Jacksonville State University for a matchup with Grissom on Tuesday, Feb. 13.

Oak Mountain was led by Jasinski with 12 points, while Emanuel Johnson and Grey Williams both finished with 10.

The Eagles will now take on No. 1 Huntsville in the Sweet 16 at Jacksonville State on the same day.