By Rubin E. Grant
A day after Oak Mountain won its first ever boys basketball state championship, senior forward Noah Young was still processing what the Eagles had accomplished.
“It’s still unbelievable,” Young said. “I am still trying to grasp my feelings. It’s a goal we set at the beginning of the season and the journey we took to get there was incredible.”
The Eagles navigated the COVID-19 pandemic, injuries and a difficult postseason schedule.
In the end, they came away with the Class 7A crown, defeating Enterprise 41-37 in the championship game last Wednesday at UAB’s Bartow Arena in the 99th AHSAA State Basketball Championships.
Young sank a clutch 3-pointer with 2:30 remaining in the fourth quarter to put Oak Mountain ahead for good, 32-31.
“I just let it fly,” Young said. “They had told me to take the shot if I got a chance. I expected it to go in.”
Young finished with 10 points, three rebounds, a steal and a blocked shot to earn 7A state tournament MVP honors.
Junior center Will Shaver had a field goal and free throw, and junior guard Evan Smith sank five free throws in the final minute to seal the win.
“If we need a big throw, Evan’s the one we want at the line,” Oak Mountain coach Chris Love said.
Smith had 13 points and four assists, and the 6-foot-11 Shaver had seven points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots while being tabbed for the All-Tournament team.
All 14 Guys
“It took a whole team effort,” Young said. “We all faced adversity throughout the season and we all just pulled together.”
“It’s been a different guy all year for us,” Love said. “I told the team before the game it was going to take all 14 guys.”
Enterprise (22-7) had reached the championship game with a 57-56 semifinal victory over Spain Park in double overtime on a tip-in at the buzzer.
The Eagles (24-9) played suffocating defense throughout their title run, holding their final three opponents below 40 points. They beat Hoover 43-30 in the Northwest Regional final and Auburn 45-37 in the Class 7A semifinals before holding Enterprise to its season low of 37 points in the championship game.
“I don’t think there is any question that we won because of the defensive end of the floor,” Love said. “Coach (Donald) McMahon did a good job of preparing us defensively.
“Everybody wants the ESPN highlights, but these guys don’t mind playing ugly and understand what we need to do defensively and rebounding to win games. We never could get any continuity offense, but our defense was solid throughout the game.”
Love also said the experience of playing in the Final Four for the first time in school history in 2020 was a factor. The Eagles lost to eventual champion Lee-Montgomery 65-57 in the Class 7A semifinals
“I don’t think the moment was too big for us,” Love said. “The whole process of getting ready was similar to last year. It helped having that experience.
“I am so proud of our kids and coaches. I have a special love for this team. To see them go through a tough and gritty season and come away with a state championship is pretty awesome.”