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Chambers Academy forward Brandalon Rombokas hits a free throw during the Rebels semi-final win.-- Photo by Cody Estremera

Chambers girls reach championship

MONTGOMERY — With seconds remaining on the clock, Chambers Academy senior Shelly Keebler hit both free throws to give the Rebels a five-point lead, so it didn’t matter that a Sparta guard hit a buzzer-beating runner. The Chambers Academy girls’ basketball team was heading to the AISA Class A State Championship with its 40-38 win against Sparta.

“Its about eight girls that believed in a guy that has done this for a long time. It’s about a school that took a chance on me,” Chambers Academy head coach Jeff Hines said. “I’m just so happy for Chambers Academy.”

The Rebels offense was ice cold to start the game, as they didn’t score their first point until the 3:06 mark of the first quarter. Junior center Britten Stephens got the ball rolling with a layup through contact that sent her to the line. After a made free throw 30 seconds later, the Rebels had their first lead of the day.

The first quarter ended in a 6-4 defensive battle.

“It’s almost like you hear the cliche that we needed to see the ball go through the basket,” Hines said. “Once it went through, it was like ‘okay, there’s not a lid on it.’ Let’s start doing what we do.”

While their offense struggled for most of the quarter, the Rebels defense was stout, allowing just two points until the last minute of the first. Sparta’s first two points were scored immediately after the tip.

The Rebels started the second quarter in a groove, as they were able to knock down a couple of jump shots. Sophomore guards Claire Allen and Lexi Smith each drilled a 3-point attempt.

The Rebels were also able to get to the free-throw line, as they made four of their six attempts in the quarter.

The Rebels continued to press in the second quarter, which forced the Warriors into bad offensive possessions.

“We may not have gotten a lot stale out of it, but we wore them down,” Hines said.

The press yielded just five points in the eight-minute quarter, which included a 4:27 span where the Rebels allowed just one point.

Both teams came out of the half with defense as the focus. They each scored 10 points in the third. Chambers did most of its damage at the free-throw line, as six of their 10 points were scored at the line.

Even though it had a double-digit lead heading to the final quarter, the Rebels weren’t in the clear just yet.

Their lead started to disappear in the fourth, getting as low as five with 38 seconds left. The key to the Warriors’ comeback was the Rebels’ inability to rebound for most of the quarter. This gave Sparta several shots per possession, eventually resulting in points.

“We got into a position where we started watching the gamed instead doing stuff we’re supposed to do,” Hines said. “But when it became crunch time, I think [Stephens] pulled down some big rebounds.”

The Rebels were able to hit a couple of free throws with just seconds remaining to ice the game.

Allen and Stephens each finished with 10 points. Sophomore forward Brandalon Rombokas finished with seven points off the bench.

The Rebels will playa in the AISA Class A State Championship game against Southern Academy on Friday at 5 p.m. CT.