PREP BASKETBALL: Bearcats set to battle Huffman for 6A State title

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The Cullman Bearcats will return to The BJCC’s Legacy Arena in Birmingham Saturday to play Huffman in the 6A State Championship Game at 2:15 p.m. (Martha Needham/The Cullman Tribune)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The story of this year’s Cullman Bearcats is one that will be remembered in this community forever, but the final chapter still has to be written. The ‘Cats defeated Park Crossing 71-55 in the 6A State semifinals Wednesday and Saturday they’ll return to Legacy Arena to battle Huffman for this year’s 6A State crown. The Vikings topped McGill-Toolen in a 62-58 thriller Wednesday and like Park Crossing, they have some size and speed that’ll present another big challenge for Cullman (28-3) in the title game.

Bearcats Head Coach Stu Stuedeman has been in this game a couple times as a Mountain Brook assistant and helped the Spartans win a pair of state championships. This is the biggest stage in the state of Alabama when it comes to high school basketball and the pressure of that moment can be a big factor. Stuedeman and his staff are more than aware of that, and they’ve already discussed it with their team. His message is to ‘be who we are’ and attack Saturday’s game the way they’ve attacked every other game this season.

“We are constantly working with our team’s psychology so that they can have the proper mindset for every game we play. The key to win on this stage is to be who we are,” Stuedeman said. “We can’t go out there and try to be something different than who we have been all year. Our guys thrive when they play with confidence and are attacking and playing fearless basketball. We will have to keep that same mindset on Saturday.”

Cullman will square off against The Vikings (29-6) at 2:15 p.m. and they’ve been battle tested throughout the postseason. Starting with the Sub-Regional, Huffman has defeated Springville, Homewood, Mountain Brook and McGill-Toolen by a combined 13 points to get to this stage, so a close game won’t be anything new for the Vikings.

“Huffman is big and athletic. They play hard and have a dynamic scoring guard,” Stuedeman said. “They’ll be a tough challenge, as every team at this point in the season is.”

After this historic postseason run, kids in the Cullman community will grow up wanting to play like Garrison Sharpe, Jamar Kay, Tucker Gambrill, Tucker Apel and the rest of this Bearcat team. Through hard work and belief in each other, this Cullman team has risen to legendary status and Stuedeman could not be prouder of this group of guys for building that legacy and the way they have built it.

“It’s been a pleasure to coach these guys. I told my assistants on the bus the night before the Final 4 game that I just wanted three more days with this team because they’re so special. Watching them invest in each other, our younger players, and this community has brought me a lot of joy. Seeing these uncommon men selflessly bring it every day for one another has been a highlight of my life. This is a team Cullman will always remember and use as a measuring stick for all other teams that wear the black and gold and there has never been a more deserving group of men to earn that distinction.”

This basketball season will already go down as arguably the greatest in Cullman’s history but if the ‘Cats write the final chapter they’ve envisioned and finish things off with a win Saturday, they’ll remove all doubt.

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