PREP BASKETBALL: Cullman cruises past Clay-Chalkville 64-37, advances to NW Regional

Cullman’s Nate Zills throws down a dunk during the Bearcats’ 64-37 Sub-Regional win over Clay-Chalkville Tuesday night. (Martha Needham/The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Cullman returned home after winning the 6A, Area 14 Tournament at Hartselle last week and welcomed Clay-Chalkville into Bearcat Arena for Sub-Regional matchup. The ‘Cats took control early in the first half and pulled away as the second half went on to collect a 64-37 win over the Cougars and punch their ticket back to the Northwest Regional.

Bearcats Head Coach Stu Stuedeman was pleased with the way his team applied what they have been doing in practice to their game against Clay-Chalkville.

“Our guys took what we worked on in practice and took it into the game right from the opening tip. They ran and trapped us, and we got a wide-open dunk because we knew it was coming, we prepared for it and our kids executed it, offensively and defensively. That’s what it takes to win playoff basketball, taking what you learn from practice into the games and going out there and letting it rip and have fun.”

This Cullman team has plenty of players from last year’s state title run still on it and Stuedeman hopes that experience will help the ‘Cats as they prepare to make their way back to the Northwest Regional Tournament at Wallace State.

“I hope it’s valuable experience, it should be, but we’ve got soldiers, man. Warriors that are going to bring it no matter what and they have no reason to be nervous at all because they’ve done so much already. It’s just time to go enjoy this last ride and let it all hang out. Let it fly, lock up and rebound.”

The Bearcats built an early lead right out of the gate, starting with a dunk from Nate Zills. A pair of Sam Duskin baskets made it a 6-0 game and Colton Echols and Tucker Cagle each scored inside to give Cullman a 10-4 lead midway through the first. Jake Dorough netted a pair of free throws to make it 12-4 and Duskin scored the next six points for the ‘Cats to close out the opening period and put Cullman ahead 18-6 going into the second.

Cagle laid one in, and Garrison Sharpe knocked down a three to stretch the lead to 23-12 early in the second quarter. Echols scored back to back buckets to make it a 27-14 game with just over a minute remaining in the period. The Bearcats added to their lead in the final minute with baskets from Sharpe and Zills and went into the locker room leading 31-15 at halftime.

Dorough buried a three to get the second half started for Cullman and baskets by Duskin and Zills extended the lead to 38-15. Landon Tweedie laid one in to make it a 40-17 game with three minutes to play in the third and Cagle scored the next six points for the Bearcats to give them a 46-23 lead with 36 seconds on the clock. Duskin scored one more bucket for the ‘Cats in the final seconds of the period and Cullman went into the final frame leading Clay-Chalkville 48-25.

Duskin drilled a three to stretch the lead to 51-25 at the start of the fourth quarter and Zills threw down another dunk to make it 53-28 with around six minutes remaining. Kase Nixon knocked down a three from the left corner to add to the lead with 3 minutes to play and the ‘Cats cruised from that point on to a 64-37 win over the Cougars.

Duskin led the way for Cullman with 17 points in the win. Cagle added 14 and Zills and Echols each finished with eight.

The Bearcats will now turn their attention to a Sweet 16 matchup with Buckhorn at Wallace State Friday at either 10:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m.

Other Sub-Regional scores

Hanceville 64 – D.A.R. 62

The Bulldogs will now advance to play Jacksonville in the Northeast Regional Tournament at Jacksonville State University Saturday at either 10:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m.

Meek 88 – Lynn 66

The Tigers will advance to play Covenant Christian in the Northwest Regional Tournament at Wallace State Thursday at either 4:30 p.m. or 7:30 p.m.

Tanner 65 – Holly Pond 59 (2OT)

Marion County 77 – Addison 71

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