Pelham wins area tourney, headed to sub-regionals

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

PELHAM – The Pelham Panthers are once again atop the area after taking down both Chilton County and Helena on Tuesday, Oct. 13, in the area tournament in straight sets.

With the two wins, the Panthers not only won the area title, they earned a spot in the sub-regional round of the playoffs to keep their season alive and attempt to battle back to another state tournament berth.

The night started against Chilton County in the first round of the tournament, and it was a strong start for the Panthers, who opened with a straight-set victory with set wins of 25-7, 25-14, 25-11.

And that dominance led into the championship match against county foe and rival Helena with Pelham feeling confident.

After getting to rest during Helena’s 3-0 sweep of Calera, the Panthers took to the court again in the title matchup and were taking on a Huskies team that was forced to play back-to-back matches.

Pelham also had the confidence of beating the Huskies during both head-to-head matchups this season. But the last outing, Helena did force the match to go to five sets, almost pulling off the upset.

This time around, however, the Panthers were confident and clicking. They stormed out to big leads in every set and never looked back en route to another 3-0 sweep.

In the opening set, the teams battled through the tightest contest of the night, but it was Pelham that led throughout the set. After a few early ties, the Panthers grabbed an 8-5 lead and then went on a run to take a 12-7 lead.

That was followed by a 9-5 run from Pelham, but Helena had one run left in them and used a 6-1 stretch to make it 22-18 late in the opening set.

But from there, the Panthers were able to win three of the next four points to claim a 25-19 victory and take a 1-0 lead in the championship match.

That’s also all the confidence Pelham needed to continue a dominant night.

In the second set, the Panthers fed off of the momentum and jumped out to a commanding 12-2 advantage that put the Huskies deep in a hole. Helena never could get any closer than eight points the rest of the way as Pelham pulled away for a 25-12 set victory.

Now up 2-0 and one set away from claiming the championship, Pelham was in great shape.

Helena, in a 2-0 hole, was battling to fight back early in the third set, but ultimately faced too much of an uphill climb needing to win three sets in a row with no momentum.

After the first half of the set saw competitive play with the Panthers leading between four and five points, but that’s as close as the set was at any point.

Pelham closed the championship match out with a strong 12-4 run to pick up a 25-13 third-set victory and a 3-0 sweep.

With the two wins, Pelham advanced to sub-regionals on Oct. 16 and are two wins away from advancing to the state tournament.