Bearcats, Bulldogs and Saints hoop it up at Wallace State

Johnny Thornton

St. Bernard guard Caleb Guthery trying to advance the ball against Cullman's Noah Bussman (5) at the Wallace State summer shootout

HANCEVILLE – Tom Drake Coliseum rolled out its welcome mat for three local teams Wednesday, hosting the Wallace State basketball summer shootout.

Cullman, Hanceville and St. Bernard left the campus with accomplishments from the busy three-game assignment, but also realizing, plenty of work is still to be done, using this time as a training camp for the new season in the fall.

Cullman was the only school of the six participants to go undefeated in three decisions, turning back Hanceville 48-41, outscoring St. Bernard 51-33 and pulling away from Whitesburg Baptist 52-21.

Hanceville rebounded from the Cullman loss to knock off Whitesburg 41-22 and finish with a 43-32 win against Belgreen.

St. Bernard had satisfaction in its last game of the agenda. After losing the opener to Belgreen 50-21 and 51-33 to Cullman, the Saints pulled off an astounding comeback, edging Cleveland 35-32. The Saints were down by 12 with 14:00 remaining and never allowed the Panthers a point for the rest of the way.

Cullman is looking to be better in 2017-18 under coach Bobby Meyer. The Bearcats return leading scorer Dylan Finch, along with other experienced personnel in Jayden Sullins, Noah Bussman, Nic Williams, Zane Manley and Jake McAfee.

The Bearcats went out to a 24-14 lead with 20:00 to play in the game as Hanceville stormed back and closed to 32-29 on a 3-pointer by Brendan Flanigan.

Finch delivered a 3-point play with 8:00 to go that upped the lead to 35-29. Two minutes later, Finch scored again near the basket and Cullman led 41-32. Hanceville never recovered; free throws by McAfee in the final 28 seconds completed the scoring for the 'Cats and a hard fought nine-point triumph.

Hanceville, like Cullman, has experience returning after the Bulldogs won the 3A, Area 12 regular season title last year.

Coach Daniel Wakefield is delighted to see Fred Ellis, Flanigan and Alex Campbell return in the backcourt, with R.J. Evans, Josh Stanley, Damien Johnson and Raden Morgan providing experience on the front line.

Flanigan was a highlight in the Cullman game, hitting six field goals, four from three-point range. Flanigan loves playing at Drake Coliseum, remembering his magical moment in January 2016, when he hit a 3-pointer as time expired in the fourth overtime, giving Hanceville a victory over West Point in the semifinals of the Cullman County Tournament.

Stanley was a spark in the win against Whitesburg by scoring 14 points on six shots from near the basket and a couple of free throws. Stanley scored four times in five possessions during a 14-0 run that allowed Hanceville to snap a 6-6 tie and take a 20-6 lead on the Baptist school from Huntsville.

Hanceville went ahead to stay against Belgreen when Evans scored with 19:32 remaining making it 16-15. The Bulldogs were never behind the rest of the assignment, gaining some breathing room in the final minutes.

Flanigan got 11 in the win with Evans adding eight to the total, Campbell five and Ellis with five.

St. Bernard played short-handed all day at the Coliseum. With only seven people available, Greg Boatright's Saints gave an all-out effort against Cullman and did in the finale with Cleveland.

The Saints had to fight through fatigue, playing on a college regulation floor of 94-feet long, 50-feet wide that at times, affected their play.

Cullman took advantage of a St. Bernard drought early in the contest to build a 24-2 cushion 11 minutes after the opening tip.

But with their dynamic scoring duo of guard Christian Peterson and forward Elijah Price, the Saints showed a lot of heart, scoring 16 points in the final 10:00 with Price producing five, Peterson five and baskets by Carson Holmes and Caleb Guthery.

Cullman was led by Finch with 14 points, Trey Tucker eight, McAfee seven and Sullins six.

St. Bernard looked at a 32-20 deficit to Cleveland when the Panthers hit a trey with 14:20 to go in the game. Peterson was running on fumes as was Price as they played the entire game against Cullman an hour earlier in the day.

But the Saints got help from others with Peterson and Price getting a few minutes to rest on the bench. Guthery tossed in a jumper then followed with a pair from the line and the Saints were down 32-26 with 8:45 to go.

Gavin Whaley converted a shot to narrow it to 32-28 at the 7:35 mark. Price returned to the floor, scoring a three, with the Saints trailing 32-31 and 6:56 showing. He took a pass from Peterson, laid it off the glass with 2:32 to go and the Saints led for the first time at 33-32.

Price landed a foul line jumper with 1:54 remaining and the Saints were able to hang on and avoid an 0-3 visit to Wallace State for the day.

Price tallied 11 in the win, Peterson chipped in with nine, Guthery scored nine, Whaley and Alex Von Thuelen scored two each.

In the last game of the day, Cullman was given a good test by Whitesburg Baptist for the first 14:00. The Bearcats could not shake the Warriors and were ahead 21-19.

But then the Bearcats showed their experience against a young Whitesburg lineup and finished the contest on a 31-2 spurt.

Finch scored seven in the run, with Sullins providing two baskets, Williams getting a pair, Tucker knocking down two treys and Bussman scoring twice.

Cullman shut out Whitesburg for the final 10 minutes. The key was not giving the Warriors easy looks and getting into an up-tempo rhythm that Whitesburg could not slow down due to the many different players Cullman had scoring in the 31-2 run.

This is the sixth year Wallace State coach John Meeks has conducted the summer shootout. A group of teams came to the Coliseum Tuesday with play days scheduled for three days next week and two days the following week.

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