BUFFALO WILD WINGS CHRISTMAS CHALLENGE: Bearcats, Aggies take 2nd place finishes


The Bearcats with their second-place trophy from the "Boneless Bracket" in the Buffalo Wild Wings Christmas Challenge. / Nick Griffin

HANCEVILLE – It was a tale of two halves for the Cullman Bearcats Thursday night in the Buffalo Wild Wings Christmas Challenge "Boneless Bracket" Championship game against the Ramsay Rams. The ‘Cats got off to a great start defensively, holding Ramsay to just six points in the first quarter, but they couldn't keep up the intensity for the second half.

Cullman went into the locker room down 21-20 but couldn’t keep pace with the Rams once the third quarter began. Rams guard Brian Sims led a big run to start the third quarter for Ramsay and finished the night with a game-high 18 points. The Rams also got 12 points from guard Lee Battle and 11 more from guard Roderick Harrington on their way to a big second half and a 66-47 win to take first place in the "Boneless Bracket.” Sims was selected as the bracket's tournament MVP and was named to the All-Tournament Team along with Harrington and Cullman forward Dylan Finch. Finch had the game's only double-double performance with 14 points and 12 rebounds.

Cullman got a good shooting performance out of guard Trey Tucker and a strong showing on the boards from forward Zane Manley. Manley pulled in nine rebounds to go along with eight points while Tucker finished with nine points on three shots from three-point range.

Cullman's half-court defense was solid all night, but Ramsay generated 16 steals that led to a lot of fast-break points in the second half and the Bearcats couldn't score enough to stay in the game.

Cullman will take a few days off for the rest of Christmas break before hitting the road to play Belgreen on the 26th.

Tanner 59, Fairview 58

Playing before Cullman, the Fairview Aggies came up just short against the Tanner Rattlers in the "Wingin' It Bracket" Championship game. Fairview survived a dramatic finish against Mobile Christian in game one, but the ball didn't bounce their way in the championship game. It was a tight game from the opening tip with teams trading baskets and momentum for all four quarters.

Fairview trailed the Rattlers 45-39 at the start of the fourth quarter, but the Aggies quickly closed the gap with three buckets from three-point range early in the quarter. Fairview guard Luke Yarbrough put up 11 of his game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter and kept Tanner from pulling away. Fairview took its first lead since early in the first quarter on a Yarbrough layup that made it 51-49.

Neither team would go away as the clock started to wind down and the pressure continued to build after Aggie forward Cameron Guthrie knocked down two free throws to tie the game at 55 with just more than a minute left to play. After the two teams traded trips to the free-throw line, Yarbrough drove his way to the basket and put the Aggies up 58-57 with 20 seconds left in the game. The Aggies' half-court defense had been consistent throughout the game, but Tanner's BJ Lucas was able to knock down a jumper as time expired to give the Rattlers a 59-58 win and the first-place trophy.

Fairview wasn't able to take advantage of enough possessions during the game due to the defensive speed of the Rattlers that led to 13 steals and a lot of points in transition. Guard Malik Atkins was the standout for Tanner on both sides of the floor putting up 20 points, six rebounds and coming up with five steals. Atkins was selected as the "Wingin' It Bracket" Tournament MVP. He joined his teammate Jireh Jackson and Fairview's Yarbrough on the All-Tournament Team.

The Aggies drop to 7-5 and will enjoy the rest of their Christmas break before traveling to play Albertville Dec. 27.

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