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February 7, 2014

PREP BASKETBALL ROUNDUP: Cullman boys, both Cold Springs squads extend seasons with semifinal triumphs

ATHENS — Cullman received West Point’s best shot, but the Bearcats were ultimately able to muster up enough offense to corral a hard-fought 73-64 triumph at Friday’s Class 5A, Area 15 Tournament.

Seth Swalve swooped in with 18 points, senior Auston Neal scored 12 and Lawson Schaffer had 11 for the No. 10 Black and Gold, who improved to 22-7, bumped their win streak to nine and assured their spot in sub-regional play.

Will Wrenn and Levi Laney topped the Warriors’ charts with 13 points apiece, Jordan McKenzie closed out his prep hoops career with 11 and Ryder Jones collected 10. The Maroon and White finished the season at 15-13.

Cullman had 41 points in the first quarter of its regular season finale last week but only 28 by halftime in Friday’s battle. The Bearcats were mostly back to their usual offensive antics in the second half, though, with 43 points over the stretch. West Point actually compiled 47 points during the last 16 minutes but couldn’t quite overcome a 28-17 deficit at intermission.

“West Point had a good plan tonight to play more of a deliberate game. They executed very well,” Black and Gold coach Bobby Meyer said of the Warriors, who hadn’t come near as close in the prior two meetings. “We just fought through and gritted it out to get the win.”

Lee Mattox and Chase Slocumb both added seven points to the victory. Other Cullman contributors were Lane Donaldson, six points; Keaton Dean, five; Austin Beck, four; and Jason McAfee, three.

Bryant Farley (nine points), Tristan Dubberly (seven) and Zack Tilley (one) rounded out West Point’s scorers.

Host East Limestone knocked out Hartselle Friday to set up a doozy of a tourney championship. Tip-off will be Monday at 7:30 p.m.

The Indians escaped the first meeting with a 69-63 win at home but dropped last month’s rematch by a decisive 85-70 final. With a likely trip to No. 3 Athens waiting for the loser of the rubber match, an Area 15 title could be the difference between an early exit or a coveted berth at the Northwest Regional Tournament.

% Cold Springs 71, Oakman 66: Coach Tim Willoughby’s seen Friday’s script play out a million times this season.

But in this instance, there was much more at stake.

After leading 59-46 at the end of the third quarter, the No. 9 Eagles let the Wildcats storm back and even take a four-point advantage with 2:30 left in the final frame — only for the Blue and Gold to answer with one last 9-0 tear to shut the door on Oakman and advance to Monday’s 2A, Area 14 title tilt.

Adam Carney started the game-winning run with a clutch 3-pointer, followed by a field goal inside the arc from Triston Chambers. Josh Freeman and Chambers proceeded to put the finishing touches on the comeback by each sinking a pair of free throws.

Despite playing with strep throat, Freeman pulled down a few “huge rebounds” in the final minute.

“It was just the same thing that’s happened so many times this season — we gutted it out at the end,” Cold Springs’ coach Tim Willoughby said. “I’m really proud of them.”

Chambers was electric with 35 points. Freeman was next in line with 13 points, while senior Layne Rice was good for eight. Other Eagle contributors were Carney, five points; Tyler Rice and Peyton Dickerson, four apiece; and Austin Moore, two.

Quinton Harris paced Oakman with 29 points.

Cold Springs will take an eight-game win streak and 20-9 record into Monday’s tourney final at 7 p.m. versus host Lamar County. Both teams defended their home court during the regular season.

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