PREP BASKETBALL: Bearcats open season with 85-50 win over Hayden, Lady Broncos earn OT win

Cullman’s Jake Dorough (5) led the Bearcats with 31 points in their 85-50 win over Hayden Tuesday night. (Nick Griffin/The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Basketball has returned to Bearcat Arena for another season and Cullman opened up its season with a matchup against Hayden Tuesday night. The ‘Cats led by just one at the end of the opening period, but several scorers got hot as the game went on, including Jake Dorough who led the way with 31, and Cullman pulled away to collect an 85-50 win over the Wildcats.

Tuesday night’s varsity girls contest was a little more dramatic. The Lady Broncos of Holly Pond traveled to Bearcat Arena to take on Cullman and Maggie Nail scored in the final seconds of overtime to help Holly Pond secure a 55-53 win.

Cullman 85 – Hayden 50 (Varsity Boys)

Hayden jumped out to a 9-4 lead early in the first quarter but baskets by Jake Dorough and Sam Duskin trimmed the lead to 9-8 midway through the period. Duskin laid another one in to give the ‘Cats a 1-point lead and Dorough buried a three-pointer to keep them in front 13-11 with two minutes to play in the first. Three-pointers by Jake and Sam Dorough in the final minute of the first quarter gave Cullman a 19-18 lead going into the second.

Colton Echols’ first basket of the night kept the Bearcats ahead 21-20 at the start of the second quarter and Cullman was able to extend its lead to 30-24 with three minutes remaining in the half. Another Echols basket made it a 32-24 game with two minutes to play in the period and Gray Hopper scored in the final minute of the half to keep the ‘Cats in front 34-27 at the break.

A bucket from Kase Nixon and a three from Duskin made it 39-29 early in the third quarter and after Evan Wilson split a pair of free throws later in the period, Jake Dorough drilled another three to give the Bearcats a 49-32 advantage. Cullman went into the final frame leading 60-44 and baskets by Dorough and Wilson stretched the lead to 20. Dorough buried back to back three-pointers to make it a 71-48 game with just over five minutes to play and to wrap things up, freshman Brooks Loftin went up for a dunk as time expired to put the finishing touches on an 85-50, season-opening win for the ‘Cats.

Dorough led the way with 31 points in the win. Duskin finished with 14 and Echols added 11.

Cullman Head Coach Stu Stuedeman thought his team looked tight when the game started but was proud of the way they settled in and found their rhythm as the game went on.

“We had a lot of nerves to start. That’s how it always is in first games. You’re going to foul too much; you’re going to take some bad shots because this is your first time playing in front of 2,000 people and we were a little nervous to start. This is the first time a lot of our guys are star players. They’ve been role players for two years and now they’re trying to figure things out,” Stuedeman said. “(Hayden) is a talented team, they’re very skilled and they did some things that really bothered us, and we were spotlighted a little bit, but we regrouped at halftime and played great. I’m proud of them.”

The Bearcats will be back in action at Wallace State’s Tom Drake Coliseum Saturday for this year’s Veteran’s Day Tip-Off Classic.

Holly Pond 55 – Cullman 53 (Varsity Girls) (OT)

Kadence Hanback knocked down a three to put the game’s first points on the board and give Cullman a 3-0 lead in the first. Emma Earl answered with a pair of free throws on the other end, but Ally Sharpe laid one in to keep the Lady Bearcats in front 5-2 with three minutes remaining in the first. Sharpe drilled a three later in the period to give Cullman a 10-4 lead and the ‘Cats went into the second quarter leading 10-6.

Taylor Au drained a three at the start of the second to give the Lady Bearcats a 13-6 lead, but the Lady Broncos pushed back as the period went on. Ava Thomas scored a pair of buckets and hit a pair of free throws to cut the lead to cut the lead to 16-12. Sharpe hit a three-pointer with two minutes on the clock to make it a 20-12 game, but Maggie Nail answered with a three on the other end to bring the lead back down to five. Holly Pond closed the half strong with a pair of jumpers from Ellie Burks and another basket from Nail that cut Cullman’s lead down to 22-21 going into the halftime break.

A pair of buckets from Molly Dorough gave the ‘Cats a 28-23 lead early in the third quarter but baskets from Nail and Kamryn Tankersley helped trim the lead to 29-27. Sharpe scored the next four points for Cullman to make it a 33-27 game, but the Lady Broncos were able to cut the lead to 36-33 by the start of the fourth quarter.

A three-pointer from Hanback put the Lady Bearcats in front 39-35 early in the fourth and she drained another three later in the period to keep them ahead 46-40. Madison Butts drilled a three on the other end to make it a 46-43 game and baskets by Earl and Thomas allowed Holly Pond to claim a 49-48 lead with 35 seconds on the clock. Butts sank a pair of free throws with 13 seconds remaining to put the Lady Broncos up 51-48 but this one was far from over. The ‘Cats brought the ball down the floor and after a timeout, Sharpe knocked down a three from the top of the key just before the buzzer to tie the game at 51 and force overtime.

Alana Phillips hit a jumper to give Holly Pond a 53-51 lead early in the overtime period, but Rachel Hoffman responded with a basket on the other end to keep the score knotted at 53. However, the Lady Broncos got the last laugh when Nail laid in the go-ahead bucket with 1.6 seconds on the clock and secured a hard-fought, 55-53 win for Holly Pond.

Thomas led the Lady Broncos with 12 points in the win, followed by Nail with 11, Earl with 10 and Butts and Burks with six. For Cullman, Sharpe finished with a game-high 19 points in the loss. Hanback added 13 and Hoffman posted eight.

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