By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times
When Cullman battled its way to an inaugural Yule Tide Classic title last season, it certainly did so in a rather thrilling fashion.
The Bearcats eked past their three opponents by one, three and four points each, respectively, en route to a well-deserved championship trophy.
This year, however, coach Bobby Meyer’s squad took a less diplomatic approach in their opening-round contest with Boaz.
Cullman jumped on the Pirates from the opening whistle, as 12 different Bearcats scored at least two points in a 75-39 runaway thumping on Thursday night.
“We came out, shot well and built a nice lead,” Meyer said. “I thought we played well on offense. I was afraid we might look somewhat lethargic after the long break, but we didn’t. We had fresh legs, and we shot the ball a lot better because of that.”
Junior Lawson Schaffer led the first-quarter charge, notching 11 points in the frame to help his team build an insurmountable 26-6 cushion early in the contest.
The Bearcats extended their advantage to 25 points heading into halftime following a half-court shot from Jason McAfee — his second 3-pointer of the frame — as time expired.
The second half was merely a formality, as Cullman continued to substitute in waves to rest players all the way until the very end of the blowout victory.
Schaffer finished with 18 points, while senior Lane Donaldson was good for nine. Auston Neal, Chase Slocumb and McAfee all collected eight points in the win as well.
Other Bearcat contributors included Keaton Dean, six points; Seth Swalve and Nick Handley, four; Lee Mattox and Austin Beck, three; and Fletcher Reeling and Joseph Franey, two.
Meyer’s squad is now 9-5 on the year and will face Class 6A Gardendale in the semifinals Friday at 8 p.m. The Rockets beat Cullman 74-73 earlier in the season.
“They're a tough team,” Meyer said. “We’re looking forward to a rematch. Our transition defense wasn't very good when we played them last. We gave up too many easy buckets, so we need to improve on that in order to win.”
‰ Cullman 60, Northridge 42: Junior Baylee Johnson scored a game-high 29 points as the Lady Bearcats doled out a bit of revenge on Thursday evening with a lopsided victory over Northridge High in the first round of their Yule Tide Classic.
Cullman fell to the defending-champion Lady Jags 54-43 during last year's tourney but was never in danger of dropping this contest thanks in large part to a blistering effort on both sides of the floor.
"We ran some great sets in this game," Bearcat coach Jonathan Hayes said. "We had some girls knock down some shots, too. Coming into the game, we knew we wanted to make them play from behind and we did that. Defensively, we played a little stronger in the second half. Overall, I was happy with our play."
Johnson got the Black and Gold off to a hot start, scoring 13 first-quarter points to stake her team to a 21-10 lead after one before Northridge closed the gap to nine at the half.
Whatever hopes the Jags had of making it a game quickly came to a screeching halt in the third quarter.
The Bearcats outscored their opening-round opponent 22-7 in the frame — Johnson dropped in 11, while Oakleigh White added nine — to double-up Northridge 52-26 with just eight minutes left to play.
Johnson was simply magical for Cullman on the evening, collecting numerous dimes, steals and tipped balls to go along with her scoring output.
"Baylee did a great job for us tonight," Hayes said. "She makes my job easy. She's a great worker and player. I wouldn't take any other guard in the state, I really wouldn't. She did it all for us tonight. Scoring, steals, D, assists. I wouldn't trade her for anybody."
White finished the night with 13, while Hayden Short added eight. Christina Skinner was good for seven of her own in the win. Madison Lee netted four to round out the scoring for the Bearcats.
Cullman will take on Hartselle Friday at 6:30 p.m. The Tigers defeated Brooks earlier in the day.
"Hopefully we can play like we did tonight," Hayes said.
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 136 or at email@example.com.