In many ways the Thompson Warriors 2018-19 basketball season could already be categorized as a rousing success. Going from just a single victory to 21 in just a year’s time is about as big a turnaround as you’ll see on the high school level. But after their upset win over Oak Mountain in the opening round of the area tournament, Dru Powell’s crew had another massive goal within reach: an area championship.
With a spot in next week’s regionals already clinched, Thompson faced the only opponent they had yet to beat this season: the Hoover Buccaneers. The task was a tall one within the confines of Hoover’s arena in front of big crowd and despite a valiant effort the Warriors fell again at the hands of another signature big second half from the Bucs, 68-54.
Thompson (21-?) controlled the championship’s first half with a slow and steady tempo that threw off a Hoover team wanting to get out and run. After going down 6-0 the Warriors outscored the Bucs 8-4 the rest of the way by attacking the middle Hoover’s man defense. Tre Roberson led the way for Thompson scoring six points in the first quarter.
The Buccaneers burned Thompson twice on their half court trap with two three pointers, but otherwise were ineffective in the half court against the Warriors.
Thompson continued to stifle Hoover in the second quarter and get second chances off the glass. Seven first half offensive rebounds gave the Warriors plenty of opportunities and, more importantly, kept the ball away from the hometown Bucs. The halfcourt trap also began to limit the effectiveness of Hoover’s leader, Ahmon Ellington, who could only muster five first half points.
Six Warriors scored in the second quarter including threes from AJ Bonham and Jack Dorolek as they took a five point lead and hung on for a 24-20 lead at halftime.
Hoover has been a second half team all year falling behind multiple times only to charge back after the break and, unfortunately for Thompson, this night would be no different as Hoover got going in a major way.
Ellington found the hot hand and two consecutive three pointers from the young man capped a 14-2 run to start the quarter for the Buccaneers. All this coincided with a dry streak from the Warriors who could only score at the free throw line before Chaney Johnson’s jump shot with 37 seconds to go in the third quarter found its mark.
By that time Hoover had turned a five point deficit into a 14 point lead that they would not relinquish scoring more in the third quarter than they had in the entire first half for a 41-29 lead.
Both teams found themselves in the bonus fairly quickly resulting in a blizzard of free throws--33 to be exact--in the championship’s final minutes. Thompson had their best offensive quarter, but Hoover was able to keep them at a distance hitting 12 of their first 13 free throws in the quarter to ice the game. Ahmon Ellington finished with 21 second half points to give him a game-high 26 for the night.
Tre Roberson, an All-Area Tournament selection, led Thompson with 11 points while AJ Bonham chipped in seven. Sophomore Grant Hopkins was also selected to the All-Area Tournament team.
Thompson, who returns to the regionals for the first time since 2013, is set to continue their postseason run Thursday, Feburary 14 at 10:30 a.m. in Pete Mathews Coliseum on the campus of Jacksonville State University.