Hoover coach Charles Burkett instructs his team during a timeout in a game against Woodlawn at the Steel City Invitational on Saturday, December 19, 2015, at the Pete Hanna Center at Samford University.
Finishing in the top two in the area tournament is the only criteria to qualify for the state basketball playoffs. But don't tell Oak Mountain or Hoover that the regular season area championship doesn't matter.
Winning the regular season area crown is a goal that each team shoots for from the outset of the season. It emphasizes and rewards the body of work a team has put together throughout the season. Not to mention, it has a nice perk: the right to host the area tournament.
The Class 7A, Area 5 boys basketball regular season title has come down to one game; Hoover at Oak Mountain.
The Bucs and the Eagles will battle it out on Friday night. The winner gets the area tournament at its place, and would only need to win one game in the tournament to etch into stone a postseason berth.
"It would be great to win the regular season and host the area tourney. That is our goal," Oak Mountain head coach Chris Love said, as his team boasts a 16-7 overall record and a 4-1 mark in area play. The Eagles have also won a school-record three regular season tournaments.
The two teams have some history on the hardwood already this season. Hoover's Kevy Eason sent the Bucs to a 62-60 victory in the first matchup with a three-point basket with five seconds remaining.
Hoover struggled early, as nine seniors and 98% of the offense from last season's state championship team were replaced, but have turned a 2-8 start into a 12-12 overall record. The Bucs find themselves fortunate to be in this position.
"Sitting here with one game remaining and in a position to win the area and host the area tournament, I'm amazed and extremely proud of this team," Hoover coach Charles Burkett said.
The season is by no means over for either team after the game, as Hoover still faces the likes of Spain Park, Mountain Brook, and Woodlawn, while the Eagles play Spain Park and Pelham. The goal for Oak Mountain is to simply improve from here on out.
"Whatever happens, we are going to focus on getting better and being the best basketball team we can come the first round of the area tournament," Love said. "Our area is very competitive. Anybody can beat anybody."
The game is slated for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff, following the varsity girls game.