By John Goolsby, For the Tribune
MOUNTAIN BROOK – Shades Valley’s Sean Crawford stood at the free throw line with 9 seconds remaining in the opening game of the 6A, Area 10 tournament.
Crawford, an All-Area player, had just seen his Mounties’ lead over Pell City cut to one point with 52 seconds remaining.
“I was thinking I have to make these so I can put my team in a position to win the game,” Crawford said. The senior guard calmly sank both baskets to extend the Valley lead to 47-44.
Earlier in the night, the Mounties (14-12) jumped out to a 7-0 lead over the Panthers. Pell City finally got on track and cut the lead to 15-11 as the two teams headed to the second period.
The Panthers gained momentum and built a 7-point lead over the Mounties. Freshman Carter Berry pulled the Mounties to within 3 points, 25-28, on a driving layup as time expired in the first half.
The Mounties took back the lead, 29-28, on a short jumper by senior Kendarius Irvin at the 6:21 mark of the third period.
Pell City turned up the defensive pressure and regained the lead and then extended their lead to 8 points with 1:12 remaining in the 3rd period. A huge JaMarcus Jackson 4-point play cut the Panther lead in half with less than a minute in the quarter.
Pell City held a 41-36 lead as the two teams headed to the final stanza. The Mounties went on a 7-2 run over the next three minutes and tied the game on a pair of free throws by All-Area player Jeremiah Williams. With 4:01 remaining, Crawford hit two free throws to give the Mounties a 45-43 lead.
After the Panthers made one free throw to cut the Valley lead to one point, Crawford extended the lead to three points, 47-44. Pell City again cut the lead to one point with with 7 seconds remaining in the game.
Pell City could not foul Crawford on the inbound pass, and the Mounties escaped with a 47-46 win.
With the win, the Mounties advance to the championship game against Mountain Brook and make a return to the 6A playoffs after a two-year absence.
“We pulled out a hard-fought game,” said Valley head coach Audwin Howard. “We made some mental mistakes down the stretch, but we overcame those for the win.”
Crawford led the Mounties with 15 points, Jackson, who hit three 3-pointers, tallied 12 points, and Irvin added 11 points.
The Mounties face the number 2 ranked Spartans at Mountain Brook Saturday at 6 PM.