E.A. Sports Today

Playoff-bound Panthers

Machristie hit two free throws with 4.4 seconds left to punch Panthers’ ticket to 3A Area 9 title game, spot in subregional; Hanson, Tucker reach milestones

Wellborn’s Blake Hanson (23) goes over Ohatchee’s Bayley Tillison for the basket that produced his 1,500th career point and a 52-48 Panthers lead. On the cover, Eric Johnson (3) provided Wellborn big points off the bench. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

WEAVER — No one had to tell Devin Machristie the importance of his two free throws at the end of Tuesday night’s game.

They were as big as any he ever took for the Wellborn basketball team, certainly the biggest in the Jordan Angle’ tenures. But the ease with which the junior approached them, they just as easily could’ve been shots in the middle of the second quarter as they were in the final five seconds with the game on the line.

Machristie calmly sank both shots in a two-point game with 4.4 seconds left to seal the Panthers’ 56-52 win over Ohatchee in an intense 2/3-seed semifinal in the Class 3A Area 9 tournament at Weaver High School.

“We had to hit to hit them; it was a must,” Machristie said. “If they came down and hit the 3, overtime. Or if I missed one of them, we could’ve lost.

“I’m not one to choke shooting free throws. I enjoy being in that position.”

The Panthers (11-12), who won only four games last season, won an area tournament game for the first time in either of Angle’s two stints as head coach and are guaranteed a spot in the Class 3A sub-regional for the first time since 2013-14 (opposite either Glencoe or Piedmont).

But before that they play top-seeded host Weaver for the area championship Thursday. Weaver swept the season series.

Wellborn put four scorers in double figures — Eric Johnson and Machristie had 15 points each, Blake Hanson had 13 and Jordan Montgomery 11. Machristie also had 10 rebounds. Ben Glass led Ohatchee with 19 points.

“I told the guys if we could hold those three (Machristie, Hanson and Montgomery) to 45 altogether we’ll win this ballgame,” Ohatchee coach Bryant Ginn said. “We did, but 3 (Johnson) got us for about 10 or 12 and that hurt us.”

The victory moved Johnson to tears. He enjoyed 6-of-9 shooting from the field and had one turnover as his minutes increased when the Panthers adjusted their approach after discovering Ohatchee big man C.J. Ray was not playing due to illness.

“It was an emotional win for the team,” Johnson said. “It means a lot to me, a lot to the team. It feels good.

“Over the years we really weren’t winning a lot of games. Like we only won four last season, and we came out and won 11 this year. We’ve still got a couple more games left, so maybe we can get more. I know coach has faith in us and I have faith in the team and I know they have faith in everybody else.”

Machristie got the chance to seal the game after Ohatchee’s Austin Tucker stepped on the end line driving through traffic for the potential game-tying layup. The Indians climbed back into the game after Wellborn broke off a 13-0 run midway through the third quarter to open the biggest lead by either team, 38-29.

Angle, a huge New England Patriots’ fan, said he was as nervous at the end of Tuesday’s game as he was Sunday watching the Super Bowl in a roomful of Falcons fans. But just like Sunday night, he walked away from this game extremely happy.

“That’s two adrenaline rushes I’ve gotten to have in the past couple of days,” he said, letting out a sigh. “Man, I’m pumped. If I don’t coach basketball another year I can say that I’ve been to the playoffs.”

Each team had a player reach a major career milestone in the game.

Tucker scored his 1,000th career point on the second of two free throws with 1:06 left in the second quarter, then hit his first basket of the game with 1.6 seconds left to give the Indians an 18-17 halftime lead.

Hanson fought through a head cold, early foul trouble and a tough shooting night and hit the 1,500-point plateau with 1:35 left in the game. He was 2-of-18 from the floor at the time, but that basket gave the Panthers a 52-48 lead and then he made his next shot to push it 54-48 with 1:01 to play.

He now has 1,502 career points but more importantly he has at least two more games to add to it.

“I wasn’t even worried about this to be honest because we came in focused on going to the playoffs for the first time with (Angle),” Hanson said. “That was our goal.”

Class 3A Area 9
Wellborn 56, Ohatchee 52
Blake Buckelew 0 0-0 0, Ben Glass 6 5-7 19, Carson Stone 0 0-0 0, Grayson Alward 2 0-0 4, Domonique Thomas 2 1-2 6, Kevin Williamson 3 0-0 8, Brennan Wink 0 0-0 0, Austin Tucker 3 2-2 8, Bayley Tillison 2 3-4 7. Totals 18 11-15 52.

WELLBORN – Mitchell Raines 1 0-0 2, Eric Johnson 6 2-2 15, Jordan Montgomery 4 2-2 11, Devin Machristie 5 2-2 15, Kameron Goodwin 0 0-0 0, Blake Hanson 4 4-5 13, Kelvin Evans 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 10-11 56.

Ohatchee 4 14 16 18 — 52
Wellborn 4 13 21 18 — 56

3-point goals: Ohatchee 5 (Glass 2, Thomas, Williamson 2); Wellborn 6 (Johnson, Montgomery, Machristie 3, Hanson). Fouled out: Alward, Johnson. Total fouls: Ohatchee 17, Wellborn 17. Officials: Dupree, Battles, Evans.

Ohatchee’s Austin Tucker drives to the basket with 1.6 seconds left in the first half to give the Indians an 18-17 halftime lead. A minute earlier he scored his 1,000th career point on a pair of free throws. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

To see more B.J. Franklin photos from the Wellborn-Ohatchee game, visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

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