Neither Wetumpka or Stanhope Elmore could take control through the first three quarters of the Elmore County Tournament championship on Saturday night. Both teams held a lead at some point in the first 24 minutes of the game but no one was backing down as momentum continued to swing back and forth.
The Mustangs (8-7) took a 2-point lead into the final frame and within two minutes of the quarter starting, the lead was at its largest point of the night. Stanhope Elmore never gave the lead back and went on to defeat its rival 75-65 to claim the county title.
“This is a huge confidence booster for our kids,” SEHS coach David Cochran said. “I wanted them to experience this success so to walk out of here as county champions is huge… Something good is happening here and the sky is the limit for this group.”
Wetumpka (8-5) was playing its third game in four nights and asked for a lot from its bench during the second half as it took up most of the minutes during Stanhope Elmore’s run. Robert Rose got back on the court with the lead at eight points and he quickly trimmed it to 63-60 with 3:22 to go in the game but that was as close as Wetumpka would get to the Mustangs.
“I think playing three games in four nights will wear on your legs a lot so it may have affected us a little bit but we can’t make excuses,” Wetumpka coach Byron Gaskin said. “We have a deep bench and we did have to go deeper than we normally would. I just feel like we didn’t play our best game.”
A 3-pointer from Dylon Williams was followed by a pair of free throws from Jay Tillman and Teddy Harris to help the Mustangs stretch the lead back out and they just needed to five more free throws in the final 90 seconds to finish off the victory.
“Definitely knocking down our free throws,” Cochran said. “We’ve had some trouble with those recently but tonight, we knocked them down down the stretch. We were able to handle some pressure from them and when they fouled us, we knocked down the free throws. Those determine whether we win or if we get beat by 15 or 20.”
Williams led the Mustangs in scoring with 14 points to go along with 10 rebounds but the hosts got production from several players. Tillman finished with 13 points and five assists while Harris, the tournament’s MVP, stuffed the stat sheet with 11 points, six rebounds, six steals and four assists. Trey Killingsworth had the hot hand from beyond the arc, adding 13 points while Reggie Duncan finished with 11 points on the inside.
“I told them I didn’t care if you are scoring in bulk or if everybody it pitching in a little bit,” Cochran said. “The goal tonight is to play for each other and to win the ball game. That’s what happened. Everybody played for each other and that’s the thing I’m most proud of.”
Wetumpka also spread its offensive production out with four players reaching double figures. Rose led all players with 17 points while Michael Bass added 16 points and four assists. Nate Rogers scored 12 while Lacorey Marshall finished with 11 points.
“There were a lot of things I think we could have done better,” Gaskin said. “We gave up too many fast breaks and too many second chance points. The good news is this doesn’t count as an area game. We have two more shots at them so we’ll fix a couple of things and we’ll be ready.”
The two teams will be back in action with area play beginning this week. They will meet again two more times in the regular season with the matchups falling on each of the next two Saturdays.
“Shoutout to coach Gaskin and his team,” Cochran said. “That’s a scrappy bunch and we still have to play them at least two more times. I have nothing but respect for him and he runs a great program.”