By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
WEST POINT —
One game after West Point blew a sizable lead versus Danville and one night after erasing a double-digit deficit to stun West Morgan, Fairview’s boys basketball team entered Thursday’s game against Priceville with a simple gameplan — start strong and finish stronger.
That strategy undoubtedly worked to perfection for the Aggies, who received 16 points from Elijah Garrison and 13 from Andy Hendrix, to blast the Class 4A Bulldogs 68-40 and help Cullman County avoid a winless Day 2 at the West Point Classic.
The Purple and Gold made their fans wait till the final buzzer sounded to let loose a sigh of relief just 24 hours earlier but didn’t need much time in Thursday’s contest to grab a lead they would never relinquish. Fairview (11-4) took a 29-19 advantage into halftime, extended it to 46-29 by the end of the third quarter and pushed it even further with many of its second-string players on the floor for the last eight-minute stretch.
“The first thing coach (Greg Boatright) said was we’ve got to go out there and finish playing,” Garrison said. “West Point lost the 12-point lead they had, and last night we were down 14, so it can happen to anybody.”
Though Garrison topped his teammates for the highest point total in the Aggies’ third victory in a row, the guard was quick to deflect the credit to his supporting cast.
“We’re about team, that’s for sure. All five of us, actually all eight, could do anything depending on what night it is,” Garrison said. “It just happened to be the night that I scored. It was nothing I did. We rebounded well tonight, played good defense and they gave me open looks. We still have things to work on, but it was good.”
In addition to Garrison and Hendrix’s contributions, the Purple and Gold received nine points from senior big-man Blake Parker and seven apiece from Peter Kessler, Luke Bailey and Marco Rodriguez. Hunter Brewer used a late shot from behind the arc to boost his input to five points. Ethan Widner rounded out the team’s scorers with four.
Kaleb Barker paced Priceville with three 3-pointers — the same amount as Hendrix — and 15 points.
Fairview will wrap up tournament play versus Lawrence County today at 4:30 p.m. A win would secure the first-place trophy for the county team with the best record after three ballgames.
% Danville 58, West Point 51: According to coach Randy Jones, it just wasn’t the Warriors’ night.
In actuality, it was — for the 20 or so minutes they enjoyed a comfortable cushion over the Hawks at least.
The last 12 were where Jones was absurdly accurate, however.
Danville ended the third quarter on an 11-5 run to pull within six and then outscored West Point 19-6 in the last eight minutes to clinch the comeback. Patrick Doherty hit two of his six 3-pointers and scored eight of his 27 points in the Hawks’ game-ending 11-0 stretch.
“I kept telling the guys as long as we kept them in it, the tougher it was going to get,” Jones said of his squad’s collapse. “They’ve got some big shooters and hit some big shots down the stretch. They deserved it. They were better than us tonight.”
Nick Nuss, who sent the home-crowd into a frenzy with a one-handed dunk late in the second quarter, and Wesley Smith led the Warriors with 10 points apiece, while Ryder Jones and Nick Nuss each had nine. Austin Ray landed two attempts from behind the arc en route to an eight-point performance.
Justin Morgan joined Doherty in double figures for the Hawks with 12 points.
“What hurts so much is we got beat off the dribble so many times that we had to send help,” Jones said. “When you’re not playing good team defense, that’s what’s going to happen. You’re going to wind up leaving shooters open, and we did.”
The Warriors (12-5) will take on Priceville at 5:45 p.m.
% Lawrence County 63, Cold Springs 44: The bruised and battered Eagles saw two more players fall prey to the injury bug in a sloppy loss to Class 5A's pesky Red Devils.
With star senior Chayse Elliott already sidelined with a broken left wrist since late November, Cold Springs' coach Tim Burleson could only watch on in disbelief as Brandon Whaley and Josh Freeman were both forced to exit with foot-related injuries in the second half.
“It seems like we've got a dark cloud hanging over us here lately,” he said. “Of course there's Chayse's injury, then we lost another kid for another reason and then we got two hurt tonight.”
The Eagles trailed by 10 at halftime and at the end of the third quarter before Lawrence County clinched the Day 2 contest with a 24-point outburst in the final eight minutes.
Red Devil Jesse Childress put on a shooting clinic in the first half, knocking down four 3-pointers and scoring 18 points. He added six more in the fourth quarter to claim 24 points by game's end.
Freshman Triston Chambers hit three treys and posted 20 points for Cold Springs, while senior Layne Rice chipped in 13.
The Eagles (10-5) will close out the West Point Classic at 7 p.m. versus West Morgan.
“We've just got to keep playing hard and hopefully at the end, everything will work out for us,” Burleson said. “Right now, the kids are facing adversity. We've got to see how they react.”
Elliott is scheduled to visit a doctor next week with the intention of being cleared to play. His coach anticipates the senior will make his return for a key area matchup against Sulligent.
“We're just keeping our fingers crossed he'll be able to play Jan. 4,” Burleson said.
% West Morgan 82, Good Hope 46: Brandon Roberts almost singlehandedly took down the Raiders, scoring 30 points with ease in a blowout win for the Rebels.
Good Hope kept the score close for much of the first quarter before West Morgan closed out the frame on an 11-0 run for a 25-11 advantage. It only got uglier from there, as the Rebels tossed in 22 and 23 points, respectively in the second and third quarters to pull away for good.
Zack Sloan cracked double digits for the Raiders with 10 points. Andy Cofer contributed nine, Eli Marty scored seven and Johnathan Grigsby had six.
Tyler Stringer left Thursday’s contest with 3:30 remaining in the third quarter after taking a hard knee to the back of the head while trying to protect himself after falling underneath West Morgan’s basket.
Dustin Morgan and Keandre Swopes each had 10 points for the Rebels.
Day 3 of the West Point Classic will open at 2 p.m. with Good Hope facing Brewer.
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 257 or at email@example.com.