PREP BASKETBALL: Cullman captures 3rd straight area title with 54-42 win over Hartselle

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Cullman defeated Hartselle 54-42 Wednesday night to claim its third consecutive area championship. (Nick Griffin/The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. — Cullman was back home at Bearcat Arena Wednesday night hosting the Hartselle Tigers in this year’s 6A, Area 14 championship game and the Bearcats collected their third straight area title with a 54-42 win. The ‘Cats went into the locker room with a 28-22 lead at halftime and continued to pressure the Tigers on the defensive end in the second half, allowing them to pull away with the win. Bearcats Head Coach Stu Stuedeman is proud of the way his team has improved as the season has progressed but knows they’ll have to stay focused for a quick turnaround Saturday when they host Lee-Huntsville in the Sub-Regional round.

“I’m very proud of our team simply because of where we were a month ago to where we are now. It’s just a testament to our leadership in our locker room and how hard they work and the culture of our program, to keep coming every day, keep working and getting better and better. We go and lose a heartbreaker at Hartselle and some people probably wrote us off but at the end of the we kept coming and kept coming,” Stuedeman said. “Our kids deserve this. I’m so proud of them and happy for them. Now this is not the end for them. We’ve got to keep going, we’ve got to have a good day of prep and get ready to roll for Saturday.”

Jake Dorough drained a three and Sam Dorough laid one in to give Cullman an early, 5-3 lead over the Tigers and Colton Echols knocked down a jumper to keep the ‘Cats in front 7-5 midway through the first quarter. Brodie Bannister scored the next five points for Cullman, stretching the lead to 12-8 and Kase Nixon drilled a three in the final minute of the period to give the Bearcats a 15-8 lead going into the second quarter.

A basket from Nixon and a three-pointer from Jake Dorough made it a 20-10 game early in the second. Cullman held a 24-15 lead later in the period and a steal by Bannister led to a dunk for Duskin that extended the lead to 26-15 with two minutes remaining in the first half. Nixon laid one in with 30 seconds on the clock to help give the ‘Cats a 28-22 lead at the break.

Cullman led 31-24 early in the third quarter and Bannister hit a pair of free throws to keep the Bearcats in front 33-28 later in the period. Baskets by Echols and Sam Dorough made it a 37-30 game with two minutes to play in the third and after Evan Wilson scored in the paint, Duskin hit a pair of free throws in the final 2 seconds of the quarter to build the lead up to 41-32 at the start of the final frame.

The ‘Cats spent a lot of the fourth quarter at the free throw line. Jake Dorough and Wilson each hit a pair of foul shots to keep Cullman ahead 45-34 and after Duskin sank a pair from the line, Echols laid one in to make it a 49-37 game. Jake Dorough and Bannister each hit a pair of free throws to stretch the lead to 53-42 with just under a minute to play and Echols split a pair of free throws in the final seconds to put the finishing touches on a 54-42 win for the Bearcats.

Bannister and Duskin each finished with 11 points in the win. Jake Dorough posted 10 and Nixon and Echols each added seven. Bannister and Dorough both earned all-tournament honors and Duskin was named tournament MVP.

Cullman will remain home to host a Sub-Regional matchup against Lee-Huntsville Saturday night.

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