Hoover needed one final victory against a familiar area opponent to secure their first ever AHSAA boys basketball state championship, and they did just that, knocking off the defending two-time state champion Mountain Brook Spartans 50-43.
Hoover got off to a hot start in front of a packed BJCC Arena, as Austin Cherry and Kevy Eason connected on two 3-pointers. Then, a steal and layup by Sam Bowman gave Hoover an 8-0 lead with 4:26 left in the first quarter.
Mountain Brook would settle down and fight back to tie the game at 8 until Hoover’s Leonard Wood made a jumper with 5 seconds left in the first quarter to give Hoover a 10-8 lead going into the second quarter.
The second quarter was a back and forth affair that saw Hoover and Mountain Brook trade numerous baskets. Despite shooting just 27.3 percent from the field in the first half, Mountain Brook only trailed Hoover 21-20 going into the half.
Hoover would open up the second half similar to how they did in the first quarter. Cherry and Wood both made lay ups, and Wood stole the ball from Mountain Brook’s Hunter Lucas and made another lay up, extending Hoover’s lead to 27-22.
Mountain Brook used some key offensive rebounds and connected on back-to-back and-one drives by Terrell Guy and Hunter Lucas to give Mountain Brook its largest lead of the game at 30-27, with 3:52 remaining in the third quarter.
Hoover got help off the bench in the third quarter as 11 of the Bucs 15 points were scored from the help of bench players.
Shaquille Bracey was one of those players who came in and made a big play for the Bucs off of the bench. Bracey stole the ball from Mountain Brook’s Drew Smith and dunked the ball, giving the Bucs a 36-32 lead and the momentum.
Jack Kline made two free throws at the end of the third quarter to pull the Spartans to within 36-34 going into the fourth quarter. Kline finished with 15 points in the game.
Cherry’s clutch free throw shooting was the story of the fourth quarter as Hoover outplayed Mountain Brook in the last two minutes of the game to secure the victory.
Cherry finished the game with a team-high 14 points and tied for a team-high 9 rebounds as he was awarded the championship MVP.
“Winning the games the way we’ve been winning them just further cements our philosophy as far as defense wins basketball games,” says Hoover head coach Charles Burkett after the game. “It gives you an opportunity to win basketball games. At the end of the day, you have to put the ball in the basket. But our defense gave us countless opportunities, and eventually it came around.”
A disappointing stat for Mountain Brook was their shooting percentage, particularly from behind the 3-point line, as the Spartans made just one 3-pointer out of 18 total attempts in the game.
“Tonight we were 1 for 18,” says Mountain Brook head coach Bucky McMillan on his teams poor shooting. “Percentage wise, we shot 18 threes and made 5 percent of them. That’s tough against anybody, but it’s extremely tough against somebody like Hoover, because they have such athleticism that you can’t just take advantage of them inside.”
Mountain Brook shot just 27.9 percent from the field in the game.
Hoover players, coaches and administrators exchanged numerous hugs and high fives following the hard fought victory in a school that is well known for being a football powerhouse in the state.
Hoover finished the year with a 27-9 record and claimed the first ever AHSAA Class 7A state boys basketball title.
[This article originally appeared in the March issue of Hoover’s Magazine. Pick up your free copy at one of these locations.]