By Lee Davis
A lot of people considered the Mountain Brook boys’ basketball team’s stunning run to the state 6A championship last year to be a once-in-a-lifetime event.
Those people might be wrong.
The Spartans’ fast start in the new season is offering new evidence that a trend might be developing–and Mountain Brook just might have a shot at two crowns in a row.
Coach Bucky McMillan’s team had sprinted to a 13-4 record coming into the Big Orange Classic immediately after Christmas. The Spartans had handled Hoover, the tournament’s host, by a 74-54 count earlier in the month. Taking the top trophy in one of the holiday season’s most prestigious classics seemed to be a more difficult task–particularly if they had to defeat Hoover again to do it.
But once more, Mountain Brook was up for the challenge. The Spartans won the Classic with a hard-fought 68-61 victory over the Bucs on Dec. 28.
Patrick Keim led the winners with 17 points and was named the tournament’s most valuable player.
“Patrick’s a warrior,” McMillan said. “He’s the best leader I’ve ever been around in athletics. The team always knows that he always has their best interests at heart.”
Jack Kline scored 13 for Mountain Brook, and TaWarren Grant chipped in 10. Ben Shearer added nine points, seven of which came in the final three minutes of the game.
Hoover’s Quamauri Hardy led all scorers with 26 points, and teammate Austin Cherry scored 17.
The teams seemed to swap baskets in the first two quarters, as Hoover moved to a 30-29 halftime advantage. The Bucs opened the third quarter with six consecutive points before Mountain Brook went on a 20-9 run to move ahead 49-46 early in the final period.
“It said a lot that we were able to rally after getting behind at Hoover’s place,” Keim said. “We could have given up, but we kept battling. I couldn’t be any prouder to be a part of this team.”
Thanks largely to Ben Shearer’s efforts, the Spartans successfully fought off Hoover’s late rally. Keim injured the back of his head while going for a rebound and soon afterward found himself in the unusual position of holding an icepack on his head while posing for the team picture with the tournament trophy.
“That’s never happened before,” Keim deadpanned.
Hoover coach Charles Burkett said he thought the Spartans’ impressive record in big games was a key to their victory.
“Experience was the difference tonight,” he said. “We just haven’t learned how to execute against a really good team when it comes down to the stretch run.”
Mountain Brook’s victories in the Big Orange Classic ran its record to 16-3 overall. Hoover fell to 14-5.
The Spartans earned their way to the tournament final with a 65-47 rout of Smiths Station. Shearer led Mountain Brook with 17 points–with 15 coming from the three-point line–and Keim followed with 12 points. Spencer Einhorn and Alex Peters scored 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Patrick Keim may have had an icepack on his head after his team defeated Hoover, but Mountain Brook is going give a lot of opponents migraines before this season ends.