PREP BASKETBALL: No. 4 Cullman rallies to top No. 8 Hartselle 57-49

The Cullman Bearcats outscored Hartselle 18-6 in the fourth quarter to come from behind and defeat the Tigers 57-49. (Nick Griffin/The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Cullman returned home to Bearcat Arena Friday night to host a fast, physical area battle against the Hartselle Tigers and after trailing for most of the first three quarters, the ‘Cats outscored the Tigers 18-6 in the final frame to come back and win it 57-49. Cullman trailed 43-39 at the end of the third and had trouble putting up points on the offensive end against a stout Hartselle defense but the Bearcats started the fourth on an 11-0 run to move out in front for good and pull away from the Tigers.

“That’s what we’re all about,” Cullman Head Coach Stu Stuedeman said. “We’ve got a bunch of guys with something inside of them that God gave them and they’re just a bunch of competitive warriors. A lot of people have that inside of them but its hard to bring it out. Our guys have found a way to bring it out of them and they’re just never going to go away because they’re champions. They’ve got the hearts of champions and they’re never going away, no matter what the lead is. We didn’t play very well but they played great, and we just stuck with it and stuck with it and made enough plays.”

Nate Zills turned a steal into an easy layup to give the Bearcats a 2-0 lead to start the game and after a response from Hartselle, Garrison Sharpe split a pair of free throws to make it a 4-3 game. Tucker Cagle drained a three-pointer to trim the Tiger lead to 8-6 later in the first but a 13-3 run from Hartselle put the ‘Cats down 21-9 at the end of the opening period.

A Colton Echols basket and a pair of free throws from Jake Dorough cut the lead to 21-13 early in the second and Dorough knocked down a three to make it 23-16. Another score from Echols and another three-pointer by Dorough brought the Tigers lead down to 24-21 at one point late in the second quarter and after a pair of Hartselle baskets, Evan Wilson drilled a three to make it a 28-24 game with two minutes remaining in the first half. The Tigers continued to add to their lead, but Sharpe buried a three-pointer just before the end of the second to trim the lead to 31-27 going into the halftime break.

Sharpe and Dorough each scored early in the third to tie things up at 31 and following a three-pointer from Hartselle on the other end, Dorough drained his third three of the night to keep the score knotted at 34. Nate Zills scored inside to keep the score tied at 36 later in the third and after a 7-1 scoring run by the Tigers, Echols laid one in to make it a 43-39 game going into the fourth quarter.

The final eight minutes belonged to the Bearcats, starting with a Sam Duskin basket and a three-pointer by Kase Nixon that gave Cullman a 44-43 lead, its first since the opening possessions of the game. Landon Tweedie scored inside and after splitting a pair of free throws, Nixon buried another three to make it a 50-43 game midway through the fourth quarter. Cullman locked things down on the defensive end as well, holding Hartselle to just six points in the final frame. The ‘Cats did the rest of their damage at the free throw line in the final two minutes and went on to collect a 57-49 win over the Tigers.

Dorough led the way for Cullman with 15 points in the win, followed by Sharpe with 10 and Nixon with nine, seven of which came in the fourth quarter. Echols posted seven points and Cagle added six.

The ‘Cats improve to 17-3 with the win and will be on the road next Friday for another area matchup at Decatur.

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