PREP BASKETBALL: No. 7 Cullman falls to No. 1 Buckhorn 62-37 in NW Regional Finals

Jake Dorough led Cullman with 19 points in its 62-37 loss to Buckhorn Tuesday. (Martha Needham/The Cullman Tribune)

HANCEVILLE, Ala. – After defeating Muscle Shoals in the Sweet 16 Thursday, the Cullman Bearcats were back on the court at Wallace State Tuesday morning to face top-ranked Buckhorn in the Northwest Regional Championship Game. The Bearcats jumped out to an 8-0 lead over the Bucks and led 8-3 at the end of the first quarter but Buckhorn outscored Cullman 24-2 in the second quarter to take a big lead into the locker room at halftime. The Bearcats continued to battle in the second half but weren’t able to close the gap and the Bucks advanced to the Final Four with a 62-37 win over Cullman (23-9).

Bearcats Head Coach Stu Stuedeman though his team did a good job of starting fast and executing their plan in the opening period but once shots started to fall for Buckhorn it was tough to get the momentum back.

“I thought we played really well taking care of the basketball in the first quarter. I thought the defensive game plan was fantastic and we were rebounding but then I thought we lost a little poise there in the second quarter and started taking some ill-advised shots and started throwing the ball away a little bit and that’s on me. I didn’t have them prepared for some of the stuff they were doing defensively on our ball screens and (Buckhorn) really amped up it up,” Stuedeman said. “When they amp it up and put their hands on you, they’re really good and you have to really be special to beat that team. They’re just as deep as us if not deeper and they’re athletic, they’re physical, they’re well-coached and you have to have poise throughout the entire game, you almost have to be perfect and unfortunately, we were not. I should’ve used my timeouts better, should’ve had them better prepared for what they were going to do and how they were going to play us. Once they started seeing a couple balls go in, they started scoring a little bit and the wheels fell off.”

Buckhorn 62 – Cullman 37 (Northwest Regional Championship)

Sam Duskin drained a three to give Cullman a 3-0 start in the first quarter. Jake Dorough followed with a three of his own and sank a pair of free throws midway through the first to put the ‘Cats on top 8-0. Buckhorn got on the board in the final two minutes of the period to cut the lead to 8-3 at the start of the second quarter.

Things got tougher for Cullman on both ends of the floor in the second. Dorough laid one in to keep the Bearcats in front 10-8 early in the period but the Bucks took control the rest of the way, outscoring Cullman 19-0 in the remainder of the first half to take a 27-10 lead into the locker room at the break.

Dorough scored inside and hit a pair of free throws early in the third quarter to make it a 34-14 game. Colton Echols sank a pair of free throws midway through the period and Duskin buried back to back three-pointers in the final minute of the third to hold the Buckhorn lead to 45-22 at the start of the fourth.

Echols laid one in early in the fourth quarter and Dorough finished the game strong, scoring eight points in the final frame. Senior Devin Bates entered the game late in the fourth and knocked down a three from the right corner, but the Bearcats couldn’t overcome the early lead and Buckhorn advanced with a 62-37 win over Cullman.

Dorough led the Bearcats with 19 points in the loss and Duskin finished with 11 points. Kase Nixon led Cullman with six rebounds. Echols and Duskin each earned All-Regional Tournament honors.

This year’s senior class, Sam Duskin, Devin Bates, Peyton Bradley, Kase Nixon, Brodie Banister and Colton Echols is leaving Cullman as the winningest class in school history, collecting 92 wins in their playing years. Stuedeman is proud of all the accomplishments and milestones they reached on their court but what he will remember most about this group is the impact they made on their community and the people around them.

“They mean the world to me. You can talk about the stats, 92 wins over the course of four years, a state championship, the first Final Four since 1932, two Elite Eights, two area regular season championships and three area tournament championships in a row and they’re the all-time winningest class in Cullman Basketball history. You can talk about all that and all that sounds great on a stat sheet but if that’s all you’re talking about with these guys then you’re missing the bigger picture because what they have meant to our basketball program and how they’ve poured themselves not just into their senior class but their teammates and the younger guys,” Stuedeman said. “Not just the younger guys in our program, the youth kids playing basketball in Cullman, they pour into them. They have put something of themselves in everybody and have really just made their mark and made a positive impact on everything around them. At the end of the day if you can’t be happy about that and hold your head up high, there’s not much you can be happy about. All the winning and all the awards are great but the positive impact you can make on another person is where the real reward is, and no one has done it better than these guys right here.”

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