HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — Led by senior guard Jonathan Walden, the Oakwood Academy boys basketball team overcame a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit to win the Northeast regional title for the first time in program history. For that, Walden earns Hiley Mazda Key Athlete of the Week!

“In the huddle we were like, the game’s not over, until the last buzzer we’ve got to try our hardest. Getting that feeling of relief that we finally made it, it was tears of joy,” Walden said.

“He was just completely all over the floor, he demonstrated what tenacity is all about, and playing until the final end,” Oakwood Academy boys basketball head coach Melvin Allen added.

But getting to the Final Four hasn’t been easy for Walden as he’s battled health issues over the past year.

“In May, I had gotten my appendix taken out, I also had to go the hospital because my face had swollen up a couple of times. And then after our area championship, I had passed out after the game due to dehydration. Emotionally, it’s been a roller coaster,” Walden said.

And last year, Oakwood had to end its season early after forfeiting due to a religious observance during its scheduled regional semifinal game. But all of these challenges have just kept Walden even more focused.

“Last year it was a struggle but we knew that we had the opportunity last year and it motivated us even more to get to this point this year so I definitely knew that we were going to get here. I wasn’t taking it for granted, we weren’t taking it for granted, we knew we had to put in a lot of work,” Walden said.

“He’s worked through a lot of those challenges and for him to work as hard as he did and wanted that game and to be rewarded as the most valuable player of the regional, that was really special for him and special for me,” Allen added.

As Walden’s high school career comes to a close in the Class 1A state championship game, he will leave an even bigger impact within the Oakwood Academy community.

“You can overcome whatever obstacles you have. This kid demonstrated what hard work and commitment is all about,” Allen said.

We are always looking for standout student-athletes in the Tennessee Valley to feature! If you have a high-school-aged athlete that you would like to nominate for Hiley Mazda Key Athlete of the week, you can email, or