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The Hartselle Tigers basketball team gathers near midcourt prior to their Northwest Regional Championship game with Bessemer City on February 18th. Special to the Enquirer/ Mariann Parker

Memorable season comes to an end for Tigers’ basketball

After a stellar regular season, which saw the Tigers win an area championship for the second consecutive season and have a thrilling start to the postseason, the Hartselle boys’ basketball team saw its season come to an end with a loss to Bessemer City.

The season-ending defeat for the Tigers came in a 41-40 game in the Northwest Regional Tournament.

Hartselle finished the season with a 27-7 record. This is a five-win improvement over last season and a nine-win increase over the 2018 win total. The 27 wins are the Tigers most since 2001 when they went 31-5.

The Tigers passed several milestones during their season including coach Faron Key winning his 100th game at Hartselle and Brody Peebles scoring his 2,000th point.

Despite losing starters Tad Sivley and Jackson Raley to graduation, the Tigers should challenge for their third consecutive area title and a berth in the AHSAA Final Four.

“It’s been a great year for this team,” said Sivley. “I have the best teammates and coaches that anyone could ask for. We have faced so much adversity throughout the season. We always found ways to be successful.”

Hartselle will welcome back three starters next season, including Peebles, a two-time All-State honoree, who averaged 29.1 points per game. Also returning will be forward Trent Wright and shooting guard Kiah Key.

The Tigers will graduate seniors Jackson Boyer, Trent Hill, Ian Bodine, and CJ Gholston. They will return Luke Ward, Ryan Dunn, Coleman Mizell, Tevin Shields, and Elijah Kelick.

Regular Season

Hartselle went 12-3 before Christmas break. They picked up wins over 7A Regional semi-finalist Austin, 6A Region semi-finalist Muscle Shoals, and had a 17-point victory over Pontotoc (MS), who is still alive in the Mississippi State Playoffs.

After Christmas, the Tigers went 15-4. Their victory over 7A Oak Mountain may be one of their most impressive wins of the season. Oak Mountain has gone 13-1 since the loss to Hartselle and advanced to the Final Four. Hartselle also won the Morgan County Tournament for the fourth consecutive season.

Jackson Raley drives for a layup against Oak Mountain in the Metro Tournament at Homewood. Photo by James Meadows.

Postseason

Postseason play began with a 79-48 victory over Cullman in the 6A Area 14 championship game.

In their sub-regional game with Columbia, the Tigers avenged last season’s five-point loss with a 22-point victory. The win earned them a berth in the Northwest Regional.

Northwest Regional

Hartselle, playing in their first regional game since 2003, won a 71-67 double-overtime thriller with Minor to advance to the Regional Championship. Peebles scored a tournament-high 36 points while Sivley added 24 in the victory.

“We fought to the very end. We had times to give up or give in and we simply outlasted them,” said Peebles.

The celebration was short-lived. The Tigers had to take the court again four days later to face Bessemer City in the Regional Championship game.

Behind the play of Peebles, who finished with 12 first-half points, the Tigers stayed within striking distance of Bessemer City, who led 23-20 at the half. Sivley added five points and Wright had three in the first half.

The Tigers held Bessemer City to just eight points in the third quarter. Hartselle scored 12 points to take a 32-31 lead into the fourth quarter. Peebles had six points while Sivley added four, and Wright had two.

Brody Peebles drives around a Bessemer City defender in the Northwest Regional Championship game. Photo by James Meadows.

The fourth quarter saw the Tigers hold Bessemer City to four points in the first 6:12 of the final period. Hartselle jumped out to a 39-35 lead at the same time. Peebles had five points while Sivley had two in the Tigers run.

Bessemer City cut the lead to one, 39-38, after hitting a three-pointer with 1:48 left. The Tigers extended their lead back to two on a Peebles free throw with just under thirty seconds to go. Bessemer City ran the clock down looking to take the final shot. With seven seconds to go, they called a timeout. Coming out of the timeout, Bessemer City’s Thaddeus Williams hit a 3-point basket with four seconds left to give them the 41-40 lead.

“We knew what they were going to do coming out of the timeout,” said Hartselle head coach Faron Key. “He made a nice shot to take the lead.”

Hartselle had a chance as the inbounds pass went to Sivley just across midcourt. His pass to a streaking Peebles was deflected by a Bessemer City defender. The ball went out of bounds with one second left on the clock.

“We had a good play call at the end to win the game,” Key said. “But the pass ended up behind Peebles and they got their hand on it to deflect it out of bounds.”

On the final play of the game, Jackson Raley was unable to get the ball to Peebles. The ball went to Sivley. He was double-teamed and unable to get control of the ball. The horn sounded to end the game as the ball was laying on the floor.

“I would not be where I am right now without my teammates,” said Peebles. “They found me in the right spots in these two games. They deserve the credit.”

Peebles and Sivley were named to the Northwest Regional All-Tournament team. Peebles led all scorers with 30 points per game in the tournament.

“I am proud of our guys!” said Key. “Our seniors went from one win in the seventh grade to five in the ninth to a regional final and 27 wins.  This is a testament to their hard work. We have a lot of guys who are coming back next season. W have to continue working to get to where we want to go.”

Coach Faron Key talks to his Tigers in a game earlier in the season. Special to the Enquirer/James Meadows.

“This isn’t a culmination of anything. We have put in six years of hard work. I believe that the best is out in front of us,” said Key.

“It means the world to this team to see the support our community has given us this year,” said Peebles.

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