By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
HANCEVILLE — Holly Pond didn't have a speck of rust to shake off Wednesday at the Cullman County Basketball Tournament.
Fresh off a first-round bye, the second-seeded Broncos looked anything but sluggish, riding a red-hot first quarter to a 45-29 win over Hanceville.
Kelby Alexander blazed the path to victory with three 3-pointers and a game-high 15 points. Caleb Jones and Tanner Duke each had eight points apiece for the Green and White, who closed out the first quarter on a 10-0 run to take a 17-4 advantage into the second stanza.
That kind of hefty lead would have most coaches feeling pretty confident, but not Holly Pond's Bob Kusz. Not after the way his Broncos built an 18-2 cushion against the Bulldogs in a game earlier this season — only for the Purple and Gold to eventually tie the contest at 26-26.
Kusz and Co. didn't have to worry about a comeback this time around, however. Holly Pond coasted into halftime up 24-12 and put the nail in the coffin with a 9-0 tear in the third frame to hold a 35-19 lead at the final quarter break.
The Broncos' last points came on a slick sequence. Alexander swiped a steal right in front of his basket and didn't hesitate to dish it off behind his back to Zach Naler, who laid the ball in with ease.
Michael Lambert collected six points for the Green and White. Naler and Dylan Morton both had four.
“We had a little bit of foul trouble in the first quarter. There were three starters with two fouls,” Kusz said. “But the bench came in, played a great game, everybody contributed and it was a good game. Hanceville's a very good team. We knew we were going to be in for a dogfight, and we were.”
Hanceville's Tyler Turner capped off his freshman campaign with an eight-point performance. Kaine Yates and C.J. White each had six. The Bulldogs' other scorers were Luke Duffie, four points; Ethan Yarbrough, three; and Casey Guthrie, two.
Next up on the docket for Holly Pond is two-time defending-champion West Point. The top-two seeds will kick off Championship Saturday at 1 p.m.
Kusz, who's coached this bunch of Bronco boys since the seventh grade, called the Warriors his team's “bugaboo.” Over that time, the Green and White are 0-5 against their county rival. Three of those contests were decided by single digits, including both matchups this season. West Point won by four points at home and seven at Holly Pond.
From John Welborn (middle school) to Jimmy Harbison (ninth-grade) to Scott Brown (junior varsity) to Randy Jones (varsity), Kusz said he considers the Warriors “about the best-coached group of boys.”
“When they get to the next level, they're not having to relearn new plays,” Kusz said of West Point. “They have a set pattern, and they're very fundamental. You look at their JV, they've won three in a row. Then their ninth-grade team's won several in a row. We've got our work cut out for us big time.”
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 138 or at email@example.com.