BROOKWOOD — Birmingham won the first Birmingham v. Tuscaloosa Challenge 4-3 as Brookwood hosted a seven-game midseason high school basketball competition Monday on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Pelham’s 70-69 overtime win over Hillcrest in the final game split the tie.
Here's what we learned:
Brookwood hopes to make challenge yearly event
Brookwood started with a 64-52 win over Gardendale, splitting the season series 1-1. It made for a proud Brookwood coach Joe Childers after the Panthers limited Ryan Burkett, who scored 46 in their first meeting, to 19 points.
Missing two main rotation players, including leading scorer Kaleb Davis to an ankle injury, Brookwood pulled away after entering the fourth quarter leading 46-44. The Panthers didn’t allow any more 3-pointers and outscored sharpshooting Gardendale 18-8 the rest of the way.
Brookwood has grown at putting together good stretches under third-year coach Childers, and the finish against Gardendale was a prime example. Gehrig Donaldson and Chris Sims have been huge for Brookwood since Davis was injured.
Childers hopes to make the challenge, which had an estimated 500 in attendance, a yearly event. He thinks it gave Brookwood an unusual game late in the season that will help for tournament play and hopes it did the same for the other 13 teams.
Whether the challenge can be seven games and strictly Birmingham vs. Tuscaloosa in the future, Childers wants it to grow. That could include making it a Tuscaloosa and surrounding county event.
“I’ve been really pleased,” Childers said. “We got some really competitive games and we had good crowds. People were able to come out and see some good basketball. We had one group of older guys here by 11 a.m. I went up to them and said, ‘Boy y’all have been here all day.’ They said, ‘And we’re going to be here all night, too.’
Hillcrest boys lose heartbreaker
The Hillcrest boys overcame a nine-point halftime deficit but lost 70-69 in overtime to Pelham. It'll be tough to knock off the Patriots in tournament season.
The Patriots fell behind again in the fourth quarter but fought to overtime. Hillcrest leading rebounder Shah Hall and RJ Boyd fouled out late in the extra period.
Pelham's William Lankford was fouled with 1.1 seconds left after an offensive rebound. He made the first free throw but had a lane violation on the second. Hillcrest guard Ethan Crawford's inbound pass was deflected and time ran out.
Pelham's 3-point shooting hurt Hillcrest early. Division I recruit Michael Jones – who has offers from Southern Miss and Portland State – made 10 3-pointers, six in the first half, and finished with 42 points. Jones tied the game at 69 with a 3-pointer on Pelham's possession before its game-winning free throw.
Hillcrest started the third quarter on an 18-5 run and led entering the final period, but Jones was an eraser. Cam Knox and Austin Evens led Hillcrest with 18 and 14 points, respectively.
Slow starts handicap a Tuscaloosa pair
The Northridge girls trailed by nearly 20 points to Chelsea in the second half. The Jaguars cut the lead to four with about three minutes remaining behind aggressive defense and fast-break offense but lost 47-40.
The Jaguars showed mental toughness by challenging a 2021 Final Four team that returned most of its production, including two Division II signees.
Fantasia Wilson finished with a team-high 15 points. The game could have swung Northridge’s way had it capitalized on a few more fast-breaks and with even a decent start.
The same can be said for the Central boys, who trailed 12-0 to Chelsea in the first quarter and lost 47-43. After Central coach Willie Moore called a timeout to regroup, his Falcons outscored Chelsea 43-35 the rest of the way.
Central held the lead twice in the fourth quarter, but Chelsea squeaked by thanks to the early cushion. Sophomore Javion Taylor had a Central-high 14 points. Central plays Selma on Wednesday and at Sipsey Valley on Friday.
Hillcrest girls and Northridge boys most dominant teams
Hillcrest built a quick 9-0 lead on Thompson and had a handful of extended runs en route to a 66-34 win. The Patriots were led by Brooksie Suttles, 15 points, and Briyanah Turner. The lead ballooned to 38 points before Turner, 11 points, was taken out for good.
Northridge’s defense stifled Thompson to two points in the first quarter and the Jaguars won 59-30. The Jaguars outscored Thompson 19-6 in the third quarter and Jonas Wilkin scored 16 points.
This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: Birmingham v. Tuscaloosa high school basketball challenge a winner