PREP BASKETBALL: Arab downs Lincoln County 76-64 to win 65th Holly Pond Thanksgiving Tournament

The Arab Knights defeated Lincoln County 76-64 to win this year’s Holly Pond Thanksgiving Tournament. (Martha Needham/The Cullman Tribune)

HOLLY POND, Ala. – Four local squads returned to Felton Easterwood Gymnasium Wednesday for the final day of the 65th annual Holly Pond Thanksgiving Tournament and the Arabian Knights clashed with Lincoln County in this year’s championship game. The Knights and Falcons were neck-and-neck at halftime, but Arab was able to pull away in the second half and win it 76-64 to claim this year’s tournament title. Fairview also collected a 65-49 win over Holly Pond in the losers’ bracket earlier in the afternoon and Cold Springs fell to Guntersville in the consolation game 60-51.

Arab 76 – Lincoln County 64 (Varsity Boys)

The Knights squared off against the Falcons of Lincoln County in Wednesday night’s championship game and a pair of quick baskets by Ed Johnson gave them a 4-0 start. The Falcons responded and tied things up at 6 but Case Couch drilled a three-pointer to put Arab back in front 9-6 midway through the opening period. A Will Cavender basket kept the Knights ahead 11-10 later in the first and Owen Thomas knocked down a three to make it a 16-10 game with just under three minutes to play in the quarter. Cavender laid one in to add to the lead and Dakota NeSmith buried a three-pointer of his own in the final minute to make it 21-12 going into the second quarter.

Lincoln County managed to cut the lead to 21-18 early in the second but a basket from Spencer Strickland and a pair of free throws by Thomas stretched the lead back out to 25-18. Ed Johnson drilled another three to make it a 28-22 game and Couch scored inside to give the Knights a 30-22 lead midway through the quarter. Cavender scored to keep Arab in front 32-24 and Couch split a pair of free throws to make it 33-26 with just over two minutes to play in the first half. Couch scored two more buckets off the glass to give the Knights a 39-28 lead, but the Falcons got one to drop in just before the buzzer to make it a 39-30 game at the halftime break.

Ed Johnson knocked down a three to start the third quarter and extend the lead to 42-30. James Reynoso put one up and in to give Arab a 47-36 advantage with just over five minutes remaining in the third and Couch drilled another three-pointer to make it a 50-36 game. Back to back baskets from Cavender and Strickland added to the lead midway through the period and a pair of free throws by Johnson put the Knights in front 56-40 with around two minutes to play in the third. Lincoln County was able to cut the deficit to 10 late in the quarter and Arab’s lead was down to 56-46 going into the final frame.

Strickland threw down an emphatic dunk to get the fourth quarter started, making it a 58-46 game and Wes Johnson drained a three to extend the lead to 62-47 later in the period. A layup from Ed Johnson and a pair of free throws by Wes Johnson made it 66-49 midway through the quarter but the Falcons managed to trim the lead 66-56 as the fourth went on. Strickland drilled a three-pointer to build the lead back up to 13 with just under three minutes to play but Lincoln County wouldn’t go away. The Falcons cut the lead to 69-62 with less than two minutes remaining in regulation and sent the Knights to the free throw line but Wes Johnson knocked down three from the stripe to make it a 72-62 game. Cavender split a pair of free throws to keep Arab up by 10 with less than a minute on the clock and Couch laid in an easy basket in the final seconds to secure a 76-64 win for the Knights and a Holly Pond Thanksgiving Tournament title.

Ed Johnson led the way for Arab with 19 points in the win. Couch posted 15, Cavender finished with and Strickland and Wes Johnson each added nine.

Fairview 65 – Holly Pond 49 (Varsity Boys)

The Aggies and Broncos tipped off the tournament’s second game of the day at 3:30 Wednesday afternoon and after falling behind 5-1 early, Fairview responded with a 14-3 run to end the first quarter with a 15-8 lead over Holly Pond. Five different Aggies scored in the opening period.

The Broncos took the momentum back early in the second quarter, starting with a three-pointer by Blake Rickard and a basket from Kollin Brown that cut the lead to 15-13. Cylas Yarbrough drained a three to put Fairview in front 18-13 and a basket from Cade Arnold followed by a pair of free throws by Kobe Payne made it a 22-13 game. A layup by Brown and a three-pointer by Nathan Carter trimmed the lead to 22-18 and Christian Couch scored inside to make it a 2-point game midway through the second. Austin Johnson laid one in to keep the Aggies in front 25-20 later in the period but back to back buckets by Brown made it a 27-24 game with less than two minutes to play in the second quarter. Johnson scored another basket to give Fairview a 5-point lead with less than a minute remaining in the half, but Brown netted a free throw and Rickard added another bucket in the final seconds to trim the lead to 29-27 at the break.

Baskets from Landon Tweedie and Ethan Frasier stretched the Aggie lead to 33-27 early in the third quarter but back to back scores from Diego Garcia and Rickard made it a 4-point game. Frasier and Yarbrough each scored to give Fairview a 39-31 advantage midway through the third quarter, but Brown drilled another three to cut the lead to five. Two quick baskets from Frazier gave the Aggies a 43-34 lead with two minutes left to play in the period and they went into the final frame leading the Broncos 47-40.

Rickard scored the first basket of the fourth quarter to cut the lead to five but an and-one play by Tweedie followed by two more buckets from Arnold made it a 54-42 game midway through the period. Olinger drilled a three-pointer to hold the lead to 12 and Couch scored another bucket inside later in the fourth, but the Broncos couldn’t keep pace with Fairview and the Aggies pulled away to win it 65-49.

Guntersville 60 – Cold Springs 51 (Varsity Boys)

Cold Springs took on Guntersville after the battle between Fairview and Holly Pond and Brody Peppers put together a massive first quarter to give the Eagles an early lead. Peppers scored 11 of Cold Springs’ 18 first quarter points and the Eagles led the Wildcats 18-11 going into the second quarter.

Peppers stayed hot in the second period, scoring three more points to make it a 21-13 game early in the second but after a three-pointer from John Mark Smith, Guntersville began to rally. The Wildcats trimmed the lead to four and knocked down a three to make it a 24-23 game with about four minutes to play in the first half. A pair of free throws gave Guntersville its first lead of the night at 25-24 but Tanner Kilgo banked one in off the glass to put the Eagles back in front 26-25. A 4-0 run gave the Wildcats a 29-26 lead but a free throw and a basket by Seth Ingram tied things up at 29. After another bucket by Guntersville, Seth Williams drained a pair of free throws in the final seconds of the quarter to tie the game at 31 going into halftime.

The Wildcats came out firing in the third quarter, pulling ahead to take a 43-36 lead early in the period. A pair of Peppers baskets cut into the lead midway through the third, but Guntersville finished the third strong and led the way 52-40 going into the fourth.

Peppers drove to the basket and scored to make it a 55-42 game with just over five minutes remaining in the regulation. Williams laid one in to make it an 11-point game midway through the fourth quarter, but the Wildcats were able to build a 60-44 advantage with just over two minutes to play and they held on to defeat the Eagles 60-51.

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