Tuscaloosa v. Birmingham Challenge pits top high school basketball teams at Brookwood

·4 min read

Brookwood boys basketball coach Joe Childers wanted to do something unique for many high school basketball programs in Alabama.

Childers has led the formation of a midseason challenge between Birmingham and Tuscaloosa area basketball teams, both boys and girls.

The Birmingham v. Tuscaloosa Challenge is at Brookwood on Monday , Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The seven-game schedule is below. Here's what to watch for.

Final Four contenders

The Chelsea girls made the Final Four in 2021 and are off to strong start behind two Division II commits, Mary Cartee (USC-Aiken) and Sydney Schwallie (West Alabama). At 15-5, Chelsea brought back most of its squad from last season.

The Hornets are No. 5 in the latest ASWA poll. They have a two-point win over Hillcrest and win over No. 7 Pelham. Chelsea will face one of Tuscaloosa's best teams, Northridge, at 1 p.m. in the first girls game.

Northridge (16-5) is led by junior shooting guard Fantasia Wilson, averaging 14.1 points, four rebounds and four steals. Junior Aniyah Cabbil averages 12.2 points and eight rebounds, shooting 37% on 3-pointers. Alana Green flirts with double-doubles on a nightly basis.

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Players to watch

Other standouts are Chelsea boys 6-foot-4 junior Paul Lanzi, who's on pace to break many records over the next two years, averaging 19 points, 3.5 rebounds, two assists and two steals. He leads a young Chelsea team (10-12) that starts sophomore Avery Futch and freshman Aiden Owens, who takes on many of the toughest defensive assignments.

Futch averages 11.7 points and 5.9 rebounds, playing inside and out. Chelsea will face Central, led by Javion Taylor's 16.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game.

Pelham (16-5), a Sweet 16 team in 2021, is led by 6-2 senior guard Michael Jones, who holds Division I offers from Southern Miss and Portland State. He pours in 23 points per game and averages five rebounds and four assists with 38% shooting on 3-pointers. Jones and Pelham face Hillcrest (15-3) in the final game.

Hillcrest is white-hot, winner of its last 12 games, last losing Dec. 3. Austin Evans, 15.5 points, and Shah Hall, 11 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game, pace Hillcrest. Mason Jones leads the Patriots with a team-high 5.3 assists per contest. Forward Cam Knox averages 12.1 points and 7.1 rebounds.

Brookwood High Head Coach Joe Childers answers questions with his players during basketball media day for Tuscaloosa City and County Schools Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021, at Shelton State's Fredd Campus. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]
Brookwood High Head Coach Joe Childers answers questions with his players during basketball media day for Tuscaloosa City and County Schools Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021, at Shelton State's Fredd Campus. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

Host Brookwood (7-14) has a rematch against Gardendale (10-5), which won the first matchup 100-78 behind sophomore Ryan Burkett's 46 points. The 5-10 guard averages 22 points and 4.6 rebounds. Taj Crumb averages 12 points and nine rebounds.

Brookwood's Kaleb Davis' averages 13.4 point, Gehrig Donaldson 10.6 points and Wunton Lee 7.9 rebounds.

Northridge boys (15-6) senior guard Bodie Vail leads the Jaguars averaging 13 points and eight rebounds. Taylor Halperin and Patten Curington both average eight points and make Northridge one of Tuscaloosa's top teams. Northridge faces Thompson (11-12), which is 2-2 since the calendar turned to 2022.

Junior Carson Pringle leads the Warriors with 13 points and seven rebounds per game on 43% 3-point shooting. Thompson's lone returning starter is 6-6 Wesley Roberson, who averages 10 points and five rebounds per game.

Class 4A Holt (9-7) plays 7A Hewitt-Trussville, led by junior Ray Rolley, who is averaging 15 points. Holt has three players averaging 10 or more points, led by KeUnta Jordan's 16 points per game. Jordan is a 1,000-point career scorer.

The Hillcrest girls (11-8) lost two seniors for the season to injury before Christmas, Niijah Atos and Olivia Russell, but Brooksie Suttles has taken a bigger role since. Briyanah Turner averages seven points and 7.6 rebounds.. The Patriots face Thompson in the final girls game.

Schedule

Game 1: Brookwood boys vs. Gardendale, 10 a.m.

Game 2: Central boys vs. Chelsea, 11:30 a.m.

Game 3: Northridge girls vs. Chelsea, 1 p.m.

Game 4: Holt boys vs. Hewitt-Trussville, 2:30 p.m.

Game 5: Hillcrest girls vs. Thompson, 4 p.m.

Game 6: Northridge boys vs. Thompson, 5:30 p.m.

Game 7: Hillcrest boys vs. Pelham, 7 p.m.

Contact Jerell Rushin at 205-600-4015 or jrushin@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JerellRushin_.

This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: Birmingham v. Tuscaloosa basketball challenge at Brookwood preview

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