In a game where points were at a premium in the fourth quarter, the No. 4 Tigers found a way to score late and defeat No. 1 Huffman 59-58 Friday night.
“This was a great job by our guys tonight,” said Hartselle coach Faron Key. “This was a tremendous win over a talented and well-coached team on their home floor.”
Hartselle opened up with an 8-2 run to start the game. Kiah Key and Brody Peebles hit three-pointers to give the Tigers the early lead and force an early Huffman timeout, just three minutes into the game. The Vikings scored four straight out of the timeout to cut the Hartselle lead to 8-6. Ryan Dunn drained a corner-three to push the lead to 11-6.
Huffman grabbed their first lead of the game, 12-11, with a 6-0 run. Peebles answered with five straight, including his second three-pointer of the quarter to give the Tigers a 16-11 lead. The Vikings scored the quarter’s final six points to take a 17-16 lead into the second quarter.
Huffman pushed their run to 9 straight points to open the second quarter and take a 20-16 lead. Hartselle answered back when Luke Ward ignited a 9-0 run with a left-handed layup. Peebles connected on seven straight, including his third three-pointer of the first half to give the Tigers a 25-20 lead.
Following a Vikings basket, Ward drained a three-pointer from the right corner, and Key scored a layup off a Huffman turnover to extend the lead to 30-22. The teams traded baskets over the next several possessions, with the Tigers extending their lead to 35-26 with less than a minute to go in the first half. The Vikings scored four straight to close out the half and cut the Hartselle lead to 35-30.
Huffman opened the third quarter with a 14-3 run to take a 44-38 lead, their largest of the game. Key’s second three-pointer of the game was the Tigers’ only points in the early stages of the second half. Hartselle answered the Vikings’ run with an 8-2 run to tie the game at 46-46. The run was capped off by a steal and an emphatic slam dunk by Elijah Kellick. Huffman scored the third quarter’s final three points to grab a 49-46 lead heading into the fourth.
Huffman scored the first two points of the fourth to extend their lead to 51-46. Peebles and the Tigers fought back with a 6-2 run to cut the Vikings’ lead to 53-52 with a little more than four minutes remaining in the game. Huffman pushed the lead out to 56-52 with less than three to go.
Ward’s layup with 2:22 left cut the lead to 56-54. The Tigers took a timeout following the basket to set up their defense. On the ensuing Viking’s possession, Key came up with a steal in the lane and then drove the length of the court and drew a foul as he played through contact to hit a left-handed layup to tie the game at 56-56.
Following a Huffman timeout, Trent Wright pulled down a rebound and was fouled. He went to the foul line and hit one of two to give the Tigers a 57-56 lead with 1:05 left. A Tiger turnover at mid-court led to a Vikings’ layup and a 58-57 lead with less than thirty seconds remaining.
With just under nine seconds remaining, Wright took a Peeble’s bounce pass in the lane and put it up and in to give Hartselle a 59-58 lead. With time running out, Huffman quickly advanced the ball across mid-court. One of the biggest defensive plays of the year came with 2.8 seconds left when Wright drew a charging call that gave the ball back to the Tigers. Hartselle ran out the final seconds to secure the one-point victory.
The Hartselle defense stepped up big in the fourth quarter as they held Huffman to nine points. They had eight steals and a block along with a couple of big rebounds late in the game.
“Kiah had a huge steal and basket to tie the game,” Key said. “And then Trent made two of the biggest plays of the game on back-to-back possessions to give us the win.”
Peebles finished with 28 points to lead Hartselle (19-2). Key added 10 points, while Ward had nine points. Wright finished with five points and seven rebounds.
Dequarian Ezell and Johnathan Murray each finished with 15 to lead Huffman (13-3). Ezell finished with eight steals.