By Rubin E. Grant
Until 2020, the Oak Mountain boys basketball team had never been to the Alabama High School Athletic Association State Finals.
Now, the Eagles are on the verge of making it two straight trips to the Final Four.
Oak Mountain (21-9) will play either Hoover or Florence in the Class 7A Northwest Regional final at 11:30 a.m. Thursday at Wallace State in Hanceville. Hoover (17-8) hosted Florence (11-13) Monday night in the regional semifinals after the game had to be rescheduled from Friday.
If Oak Mountain wins the regional championship, it will advance to the state tournament next week at UAB’s Bartow Arena.
Eagles coach Chris Love said the team has had to overcome a number of obstacles to get back to this point.
“This has been hard with COVID and some other things,” Love said. “We struggled a lot early and had some losses. We had some injuries and we didn’t have some of our football guys. It took us some time to find ourselves, especially not having a summer to work together as a team.
“We knew it would take some time for things to come together. We kept moving forward, trying to get better every day. In high school basketball, you want to be playing your best ball now. We’ve been playing well the last eight or nine games.”
The Eagles have won eight of their last nine games, including a 64-53 victory at James Clemens last Friday in the Northwest semifinals.
Senior forward Noah Young led Oak Mountain with 18 points. Will Shaver, a 6-foot-11 junior center added 14, junior guard Brady Dunn, 13, and junior guard Evan Smith, 10.
Young and Smith are two of the football guys Love mentioned. They were key contributors on last year’s Final Four team.
“Those two guys have started for us for three years,” Love said. “They’re a big part of what we do.”
The 6-5 Young is the team’s second-leading scorer, averaging 12.4 points. Smith averages 7.4.
Shaver leads the team in scoring at 14.2 points. Dunn averages 8.1 and junior guard Wilder Evans averages 8.3.
“We just really kind of spread it around,” Love said.
Love expects a challenging game in the regional final whether its Hoover or Florence. The Eagles split two regular season games against Hoover, but they lost to the Bucs 54-43 in the Class 7A, Area 5 championship game on Feb. 13.
“Either one will be hard to beat,” Love said. “When we were swapping film with James Clemens, I got to see Florence and they’re really good.”
Oak Mountain is one of several Over the Mountain schools competing this week with a berth in next week’s state tournament, March 1-3, on the line.
Mountain Brook Boys
The Mountain Brook boys (27-6) were scheduled to play Huffman (22-4) at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday in the Class 6A Northeast Regional final at Jacksonville State University.
The Spartans, the 2020 Class 7A runners-up, earned their spot in the regional final with a 58-48 victory over Oxford (30-3) in the semifinals last Friday, extending their winning streak to 16 games.
Mountain Brook trailed 42-40 entering the final quarter but opened the period on an 11-0 run while outscoring the Yellow Jackets 18-6 to end Oxford’s 26-game winning streak and season.
“It’s been a strange year with COVID and everything,” Mountain Brook coach Tyler Davis said. “They (players) have grinded all year. I think the one thing we learned is Mountain Brook isn’t going anywhere.”
Spain Park Boys
The Spain Park boys (26-7) will play Huntsville (23-6) in Class 7A Northeast Regional final at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at Jacksonville State. The Jaguars advanced with a 55-45 victory over Sparkman last Friday, while Huntsville routed Vestavia Hills 58-34.
Vestavia Hills Girls
The Vestavia Hills girls (30-3) will play Area 6 rival Hewitt-Trussville (27-4) in the Class 7A Northeast Regional final at 9 a.m. Wednesday at Jacksonville State. The Rebels advanced with a 66-42 semifinal victory over Huntsville. They are 3-0 against Hewitt this season.
The Hoover girls (29-1) will play Austin (18-10) in the Class 7A Northwest Regional final at 9 a.m. Thursday in Hanceville. The Lady Bucs advanced with a 79-35 semifinal victory over James Clemens.