CULLMAN – The Cullman Bearcats and Lady Bearcats took on Athens in their next-to-last home games of the regular season Tuesday night. The JV Lady ‘Cats topped the Lady Golden Eagles, while the varsity girls and boys fell to Athens 47-37 and 54-52, respectively.
Cullman 39, Athens 30 (JVG)
The first quarter was a low-scoring affair between both teams. The Lady Bearcats nailed three treys in the opening quarter, two by Kinslee Borden and the other one by Emma Ray, and the three by the latter gave Cullman a 9-4 lead, but saw it slim down to 9-8 after one, thanks to layups by Eisley Gilbert and Kyndall Crutcher.
The three-ball continued to fall for Cullman as Kortlin Cuellar nailed two from there, along with another one by Ray, as part of a 9-1 run to start out the second period to increase the Lady Bearcats’ lead to 18-9. Cuellar hit yet another one from deep to stop a mini-run by the Lady Golden Eagles to make it a 21-13 game at the half.
Cullman's Lauren Grace Evans converted an and-one after grabbing three offensive rebounds on the play to give the Lady Bearcats a 24-13 lead a little bit into the third period. After that, they had trouble getting anything going offensively as Athens turned up the intensity on defense, allowing the offense to get it going as they finished on a 9-3 run, and the Lady Bearcats saw their lead cut to 27-22 after three.
The deficit stayed at five at 29-24 after a free throw each by Cullman's Cuellar and Mya Parker and a layup by Athens’ Adela Gonzalez. Later, a technical foul was called on the Lady Golden Eagles' Crutcher after she got called for a foul. Cuellar nailed the two personal foul shots, then the two technical ones, and she added a layup as she started a 6-0 run to push the Lady Bearcats’ lead to 35-24, and they went on to the nine-point victory.
Cuellar finished with 16 points and four rebounds for Cullman. Borden ended up with eight points. Ray had six points and four rebounds. Evans finished with five points and six boards.
Athens 47, Cullman 37 (Girls)
Cullman got off to a slow start offensively as it took them 3:31 before Anna Evans hit a layup for the Lady Bearcats’ first points of the game. But their defense was superb in the opening quarter for the most part, and they took an 8-7 lead on an Alex Barker layup. Athens' Jakayla Bridgeforth nailed a trey from the right wing before the buzzer to give the Golden Eagles a 10-8 lead after one.
Each team traded points back and forth to start off the second quarter. Barker started the quarter out strong, scoring the first seven points for Cullman, and Kennedy Wren added a layup off an Athens turnover, and that gave the Lady Bearcats a 17-13 lead. The Lady Golden Eagles, though, nailed three treys as part of a quarter-ending 15-0 run and the Lady Bearcats went into the locker room trailing, 28-17.
They cut it to nine multiple times in the third quarter, but couldn't quite get a run together to get back in the game, and the deficit was 15 at 40-25 after three periods.
The Lady Bearcats started the final quarter strong on both sides, as a 6-1 run, spearheaded by the duo of Wren and Evans, made it a 41-31 game, but costly turnovers and bad shot selection plagued Cullman the rest of the way and the Lady Bearcats wound up falling by 10.
Wren finished with 12 points, two rebounds and a pair of steals for the Lady Bearcats. Evans ended up with 10 points, three rebounds and four steals. Barker had nine points and five rebounds. They fall to 15-10 on the season.
Athens 54, Cullman 52 (Boys)
Cullman jumped out to a quick 7-3 lead behind a three by Trey Tucker, and layups by Nick Williams and Dylan Finch. After a Tyler Williams three gave the Golden Eagles a 10-9 lead, the Bearcats finished on an 8-2 run, including a Williams’ fade away jumper before the buzzer sounded, giving Cullman a 17-12 lead after one.
Finch had one heck of a start in the second period. He started it off with a layup, then he grabbed an offensive rebound and saved it before it went out of bounds, leading to a Tucker trey from the right corner. After a Jake McAfee three from the left corner, Finch converted a 3-point play to finish off an 11-2 run to start off the quarter, and the lead swelled to 28-14. A 7-0 run by Athens saw the Cullman lead dwindle to 28-21, then Drew Morton scored the next five points to make it a 33-21 game, and they kept that double-digit lead at the half at 36-26.
Four quick points by Finch had the Bearcats looking at a 40-28 advantage, but the Golden Eagles ripped off a 13-0 run, led by Williams, Marqueze Bone and Isaiah Gilbert, to give them a 41-40 lead, but just like the first period, Williams hit a floater just before the buzzer sounded to help Cullman reclaim a 42-41 lead after three, heading into what would be a very exciting few seconds.
A 7-3 Athens run to start off the fourth gave the Golden Eagles a 48-45 lead with 4:10 remaining in the game, and Bone scored five of those points. Then Finch tied the game with an and-one. It was a 50-50 game after a pair of Finch free throws with 2:29 remaining in the game. A free throw by Gilbert gave Athens a 51-50 lead with 42 seconds remaining.
After a series of timeouts by both teams, Cullman had the ball with 10 seconds remaining and neither side will forget the ending for a while. Williams hit a tough shot off the backboard with six seconds remaining to give them a 52-51 lead, but Gilbert took it the whole way and nailed a game-winning three from the right wing, sending the Bearcats to a crushing 54-52 loss.
Finch finished with 18 points, nine rebounds and a steal for Cullman. Williams ended up with 10 points and three boards. Morton had eight points. Tucker finished with seven points and three boards. Zane Manley scored four points and added four boards. McAfee had three points, two rebounds and a block. Jayden Sullins ended up with two points and four rebounds. The Bearcats drop to 16-12 on the season, and will host Hartselle on Thursday in their final regular season game.
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