Prep Basketball PREP BASKETBALL: Bearcats handle Fort Payne, 92-79; Lady ‘Cats outlast Lady Wildcats, 58-53; JV squads split, 9th-grade ‘Cats win | The Cullman Tribune

Prep Basketball

PREP BASKETBALL: Bearcats handle Fort Payne, 92-79; Lady ‘Cats outlast Lady Wildcats, 58-53; JV squads split, 9th-grade ‘Cats win

Cullman's Hannah Hoffman (22) iced the varsity girls' game when she forced a steal and knocked down two free throws with 12 seconds remaining on the way to a scrappy 58-53 win. / Nick Griffin

CULLMAN - The Fort Payne Wildcats traveled to Cullman Friday night for a regional matchup on the hardwood and the ‘Cats took four out of the night’s five games, starting with the ninth-grade boys. The ‘Cats started the game hot and didn’t slow down, blowing out the Wildcats 71-34 in an impressive performance on both ends of the floor.

The junior varsity girls played at the same time in the main gym and came up just short in a low-scoring affair, 39-28. The Lady ‘Cats held up on the defensive end but couldn’t score enough to keep pace with the Lady Wildcats.

The junior varsity boys followed, and the ‘Cats dominated Fort Payne from the opening tip. In an almost identical result as the ninth-graders, the JV boys routed the Wildcats, 69-36.

The varsity girls tipped off next and fought their way to a 58-53 win, overcoming a poor finish to the second quarter and a poor start in the third. The Lady Bearcats also got into foul trouble early, tying their hands defensively and giving Fort Payne an advantage at the free-throw line. The Lady ‘Cats started strong in the first half and finished the game strong. They started to pull away at the two-minute mark when forward Anna Evans came up with a steal and a layup to put Cullman up 52-51. Evans finished with 10 points and led the team with five rebounds. The Lady Bearcats made another big play late when forward Kennedy Wren drove to the basket and put Cullman back up 55-53 with 40 seconds to play, Wren finished with eight points and three rebounds, but it was the ‘Cats’ Hannah Hoffman who iced the game when she forced a steal and knocked down two free throws with 12 seconds remaining on the way to a scrappy 58-53 win. The Lady Bearcats will try and stay on the winning path Saturday when they travel to Decatur for a make-up game due to this week’s winter weather.

In the final game of the night, the Bearcats’ varsity boys put on one of the best offensive performances they’ve had this season. After losing to the Wildcats 99-84 in their first meeting back in December, the ‘Cats came out aggressive and didn’t take their foot off the gas all night. The Bearcats dropped Fort Payne 92-79 in a shootout that got heated late in the game as Cullman started to pull away late.

The ‘Cats scored 28 points in the first quarter, many of which came from forward Dylan Finch. Finch put up 16 points in just the first half and finished the game with a game-high 18 points along with six rebounds and a block. Two of Finch’s teammates, Trey Tucker and Zane Manley, were not far behind. Tucker finished with 17 points, knocking down five shots from 3-point range, and Manley came up one board shy of a double-double, finishing with 16 points, nine rebounds and a block.

While those three were the standouts, there were plenty of points to go around for Cullman. Guards Jaden Sullins and Jacob McAfee finished with 10 and 11 points respectively. Two more guards got in on the scoring as well, with Cullman’s Nick Williams scoring nine and Noah Bussman finishing with eight.

The ‘Cats have now won back-to-back games and will try build on the streak Saturday when they travel to Decatur.

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