By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
GOOD HOPE —
Winning playoff games is nothing new for the Good Hope girls’ basketball team. Seeing a player reach 2,000 career points, on the other hand, was a fresh experience for the Raiders against Hanceville on Thursday night.
Kayla Tillman entered Round 1 of the Class 3A, Area 13 Tournament needing 14 points to pull off the feat, and that was exactly how many the senior sharpshooter wound up with in Good Hope’s 59-34 victory over the Bulldogs. She drained a 3-pointer — her third of the night — with 4:15 remaining in the second quarter to account for her 1,998th, 1,999th and 2,000th points.
Raider coach Michael Oldacre called a timeout shortly thereafter and presented Tillman with a commemorative game ball while the PA announcer informed the crowd of her astounding accomplishment.
“I almost started crying out there, but I had to kind of keep it in,” Tillman said after the game. “It was tears of joys, though. Once I made that 3, my dad was cheering. I looked at him, and I was like, ‘Yeah, that was it.’”
Knowing all the talented student-athletes who have passed through the Raiders’ boys and girls basketball programs, the All-State shooting guard was extremely honored to stand alone at the top of the school’s record books. That doesn’t mean Tillman wouldn’t welcome any company, though.
“I hope somebody else can get to 2,000 points, but it’s awesome knowing I’m the first one ever here to have 2,000,” she said. “Just to think some people get 3,000, that’s a lot.”
To a competitor like Tillman, earning a postseason win meant a whole lot more than any statistic ever could. With the help of nine other teammates who also added at least one point, the senior got to have her cake and eat it, too, in that regard. Good Hope jumped out to a comfortable 43-18 lead by halftime and didn’t let it go despite sending its reserves out for most of the third and fourth quarters.
“Before the game, I was thinking it doesn’t matter,” Tillman said of the 2,000-point milestone. “As long as we get the win, 2,000 doesn’t really matter because we needed to win this game to keep moving on anyway.”
Kacy Thomas accompanied Tillman in double-digits with 10 points, while Katelyn Bishop pitched in seven. Cara Goodwin, Savannah Fendley and Kayla Scott all scored five points apiece for the Raiders, who also received contributions from Darcie Wilson, three points; Alannah Henke and Kami Calvert, two each; and Celest Whisenant, one.
“It’s a great night to get the first win in the area and also see her get 2,000 points,” Oldacre said of Tillman. “She’s been a special player since she’s played here, but she’s been surrounded by some outstanding players, too, that created shots for her and enabled her to get to that level.”
The outcome spoiled a terrific performance for Hanceville’s Taylor Hollingsworth, who piled on 18 points in the loss. Taylor Chambers was god for seven points; Katie Tankersley, four; Constance Wren and Niya Evans, two apiece; and Braylah Anderton, one.
Good Hope advances to Saturday’s area title game against Danville, which reached the championship by defeating Vinemont earlier in the night. Tip-off will be at 6:30 p.m.
The Raiders and Hawks are both assured sub-regional contests regardless of the victor.
At this time last year, Good Hope had only one loss en route to a second straight trip to the Final Four. This year, however, the Raiders started the season 1-6 and struggled heavily with a relatively new starting lineup before catching fire in the middle of the campaign. They’ve clawed their way back to a respectable 19-12 record following Thursday’s area triumph.
“At this point, we’re just trying to win,” Tillman said. “We just know when we finish the season, we’re a lot better than what we were when we started out. We’ll be proud of ourselves either way.”
% Danville 51, Vinemont 38: The Eagles hung around with their first-round opponent for three quarters but wilted in the last eight minutes, allowing the Hawks to swoop in for the win.
Vinemont trailed by a narrow 34-32 margin heading into the fourth quarter, where it was outscored 17-6 to seal the Eagles’ season-ending fate.
Jordan Melton knocked four 3-pointers and racked up 16 points for Vinemont, and Katie Fuller never stopped giving her all on her way to a nine-point night. Sydney Wallace was close behind with seven points, Savannah McAlpine scored three; McKenzie Newman, two; and Katie Speer, one.
Sydni Shelton led Danville with 19 points. Jesse Oliver chipped in 12.
The Hawks were swept by Good Hope in both meetings this season. The first was an 18-point decision, but the second was far closer, a 38-36 squeaker in late December.
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 257 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.