Hillcrest Escapes Chilton Co. to Advance to the Elite 8
The Hillcrest Patriots defeat the Chilton County Tigers 52-50 in overtime in the AHSAA Regional Semifinal. Osa Alohan, a sophomore, led the Patriots with a game-high 23 points. Senior Shah Hall ended with nine points, 12 rebounds, and eight blocks, while junior DJ Hamlett finished with 11 points and four assists. Latavion Floyd and Jakeveon Bolding both scored 15 points for the Tigers.
The better team appeared to be Hillcrest at the start of the game. The team jumped out to a massive early lead, leading by as many as 12 points. Alohan was on fire in the first half, scoring 11 points. Hamlett did not play well in the first half, scoring just one point without connecting on a field goal.
Mostly, they controlled the game until Chilton County began to press up on the Patriots. Hillcrest played well in the first half, not turning the ball over. They forced a handful of them on the Tigers, but things began to shift in the third quarter.
The Patriots played conservatively in the second half to kill the clock, with Chilton Co. employing a 2-3 zone to slow down Hillcrest's high-powered offense, and it worked for the most part. The Tigers gained momentum after forcing several stops and turnovers on the Patriots.
After going scoreless in the first half, Hamlett scored three of his next five shots in the third. Hillcrest led by 11 points in the third quarter.
Throughout the second half, Chilton County's top big man Floyd began going after Patriots big man Hall. That was crucial for the Tigers because, while Hall was getting several block shots and his rebounding total was high, Floyd did a good job of frustrating the 6'7" 190-pound senior by going after him with his 6'6" 205-pound size.
After a pair of steals and finishes by Bolding and Georgia Bulldog football commit Demarcus Reddick, the Tigers took their first lead of the game with less than two minutes remaining. Hillcrest knotted the game on a lob from Ja'kari Andrews to Hall, which ignited him. Chilton Co. missed the game's final shot.
After Chilton Co. took the lead with less than a minute remaining in the game, Hamlett was fouled and tied the game with both free throws in overtime. With 3.1 seconds left in the game, the Tigers had an opportunity to shoot for the win, but the shot was no good, and Andrews grabbed the rebound and was fouled, putting the Patriots in the double bonus. Andrews sank both free throws to give the Patriots back the lead, and Alohan intercepted the inbound pass to seal the victory.
“Really proud of the resiliency,” Hillcrest head coach Scott Suttles said. “Threw the ball to them a couple of times which was uncharacteristic. Big Ja’kari Andrews made some huge free throws right there in overtime and obviously, Osa carried us with 11 big points in the first half. You survive and advance in this juncture.”
Suttles on Hall's frustration during the game and his battle with Chilton County.
“I think it was tough, you got to give #52 (Latavion Floyd) a lot of credit for them,” Suttles said. “I told him that just to keep his head up and I know he was tired. He literally played 36 minutes tonight. He got substituted none. He is tough, he’s a warrior and those eight blocks were big. He altered three or four more for everyone he did not block.”
Suttles talked about how Hamlett got going in the second half after not scoring a field goal in the first.
“Just do what he does,” Suttles said. “He has been scuffling lately and it’s kind of gotten in his head a little bit. His defense is gotten a whole lot better, his decision-making is tough and Chilton County is some grown men. They have played with each other for a long time. They are tough we were not getting them on our hip ever, so credit to Chilton County.”
Suttles applauded Alohan's 23-point performance in helping the team win.
“He’s been a wonderful addition,” Suttles said. “It has always been somebody different. DJ [Hamlett] carried us the first month of the season. Shah [Hall] does what he does man in the middle. Every one of those points was necessary by Osa throughout the game.”
Suttles’s last thoughts on his team’s performance.
“I told them before the game I’m not proud of the now 6 out of 7 that you have won, I am proud that you have become one. It took this group a long time to do that, roughly 3 ½ months. We just told them to stick with it and good things would happen but we are here because of our defense.” Suttles said.
Hillcrest will not play until Wednesday, February 22. The opponent has yet to be determined but it will be the winner of the Paul Bryant vs Pelham contest.