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January 14, 2013

PREP BASKETBALL: Smith, Schaffer lead Bearcat girls, boys to Arab sweep

CULLMAN — Senior years are meant for making memories.

On Monday night, Cullman’s Morgan Smith made one heck of a memory, smoothly sinking a game-tying 3-pointer with less than a minute remaining and then swishing a game-winning trey with just 4.2 seconds left on the clock to clinch a courageous 50-49 comeback at home versus Arab.

After leading for much of the first quarter, the Bearcats allowed the Knights to claw back in the second, pull ahead in the third and take a 41-33 advantage into the early moments of the final frame.

From there on out, it was all Cullman, all the time, with Baylee Johnson sinking 3’s from both corners and knocking down a pair of field goals to set the stage for Smith.

Down 47-44, the senior received a pass behind the arc from Johnson, who had tried to set up a shot for herself, and launched it up, tickling the twine to tie the ballgame with 36.5 seconds left.

“I was really expecting Baylee to keep it in her hands because we were both hitting,” Smith said. “When she gave it to me, I thought I had to step up and make something happen. But I tried and it went in, thank goodness.”

Skylar Holmes connected on an inside attempt on Arab’s ensuing possession, leaving the Bearcats behind yet again.

But not for long.

Cullman ran the play coach Jonathan Hayes dialed up to perfection, resulting in Smith nailing the game-clinching 3 from straightaway. She immediately jumped in the air, let loose a smile and ran to celebrate with her teammates.

“It was really exciting because you don’t get this big shots all the time,” Smith said. “I was just focused on helping my team anyway I could.”

Smith finished with a game-high 23 points, barely edging out Johnson’s 20-point total. The duo combined for seven 3-pointers and accounted for all of the Bearcats’ points in the second half.

“That’s just exciting basketball,” Hayes said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the way they fought through adversity.”

Shelby Beam got off to quite a hot start of her own, scoring 11 of her 16 points in the second quarter to bring the Knights back in the ballgame. Cullman caught on in the second half, however, limiting Beam to just two points in the third quarter and three in the fourth.

“Shelby Beam is just a tremendous player,” Hayes said. “I thought we did our job with her in the third and fourth quarters.”

Blair Nall pitched in four points for the Bearcats, who improved to 12-8 with the thriller. Hayden Short had three points.

Cullman won’t have much time to celebrate the victory, hosting Mortimer Jordan tonight.

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