FLORENCE — Harrison Chastain anchored the first half Monday night, Thomas Swinea handled the second and Mars Hill’s second-ranked boys ran away with the Area 16 basketball tournament championship in their first year competing in Class 3A.
Swinea scored 16 of his game-high 23 points in the second half and added nine rebounds to lead the Panthers in a 71-52 win against Deshler.
Chastain added 15 points and four steals, three of those coming in the first half, as Mars Hill used a 12-4 advantage in creating turnovers to take a 37-24 halftime lead.
“That’s just this team,” Mars Hill coach Mike Mitchell said. “Every night we have four or five guys who can go for double figures. We just keep working and find who had the hot hand or mismatch. That’s the way we’re supposed to play. It’s nothing I’m doing, it’s good things on their part.”
Chastain hit two quick layups, pushing the lead out to 41-26 in the third quarter.
Deshler pulled within 11 four times -- the final time on a Thomas Gamble basket that cut Mars Hill’s lead to 52-41 with 4 seconds left n the third quarter -- but got no closer.
“I don’t think we did a good job the third quarter keeping them out of the lane,” Mitchell said. “There were four or five times they had layups. Our defense wasn’t good, but we never let them make a run. Every time they got it down to 11, we kind of held them off.”
Landon Willis added 10 points for the Panthers, who also somewhat capitalized on a free-throw advantage.
Mars Hill made 16 of 26 foul shots while Deshler made 4 of 6.
B.J. Bailey was the only scorer to reach double figures for Deshler, with 14 points and five rebounds.
The game showed a difference in focus for Mars Hill’s players since their home loss to Deshler in January, Mitchell said.
“Back then when we played them, we were on a bad stretch,” Swinea said. “We were coming off a tough overtime loss in the county tournament championship. That was still in the back of our heads. Now, we are playing a lot better. We got together as a team and talked about a lot of things and worked stuff out.”
The reward for winning is a home game in Friday’s sub-regional round. However, the Panthers will have to face No. 4 West Morgan.
Deshler has to travel to perennial power Madison Academy.
Sub-regional winners advance to the Northwest Regional tournament at Wallace State-Hanceville for a shot at a state final four berth.
“I was looking at our radio guy’s notes today, and in sub-region games, we’ve never lost at home,” Swinea said. “We’ve lost four or five on the road. That’s important. As a senior, it’s great to have one more home game.”