By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times
HANCEVILLE — The theme for Cullman’s varsity boys basketball team heading into this season was a relatively simple one — play fast.
After one quarter of play against J.O. Johnson, that seemed to be doing just the trick for the Bearcats.
Unfortunately, the three that followed weren’t as kind.
Cullman fell to last year’s Class 4A runner-up 90-78 during the first day of the inaugural Wallace State Regional Tip-Off Challegne at the Tom Drake Coliseum on Tuesday evening.
“Early on, we were making our shots,” Bearcat coach Bobby Meyer said of his squad. “Then, we lost our legs in the second quarter. To compensate, we have to drive the ball. We didn’t. We were just shooting 3's and not making anything. That eight-minute stretch from the middle of the second to early on in the third lost us the game.”
Making shots may be just a bit of an understatement, as the Bearcats were, quite simply, on fire out of the gate.
Meyer’s group made its first six 3-pointers of the contest — and nine of their first 13 — including four from senior guard Lane Donaldson in the first frame to get out to a 27-26 lead.
The two teams kept battling it out before J.O. Johnson got on a run itself, taking advantage of missed Cullman buckets with a handful of easy transition lay-ups on the other end to grab a 51-40 advantage heading into the break.
“We just had bad rotation on defense all game,” Meyer said. “They got lay-up after lay-up after lay-up and killed us on the offensive glass. On defense, we have got to be able to control the full court because we can’t control the half court.”
In the second half, the Jaguars’ John Petty and Lionel Love continued to dominate the Bearcats with their size and ability to rebound the basketball. They built up a 23-point lead early on in the fourth quarter before Cullman knocked down a few more treys — the Black and Gold made 14 on the night — to cut the final deficit to 12.
Seth Swalve led all Bearcat scorers with 22, while Donaldson finished with 18 — 12 of which came in the first half. Lawson Schaffer also added 16 points in the loss.
Petty (25), Love (20) and Justin Hawkins (20) were all huge for J.O. Johnson in the win. Damen Freeman was good 16 as well.
“They’ve got a good team,” Meyer said. “But we have got to get back to team basketball. We had a little too much one-on-one tonight.”
With the loss, Cullman (0-1) will take on Butler in the consolation game Thursday at 6:30 p.m. Johnson, meanwhile, will battle it out with 6A Huntsville for the Tip-Off Challenge title.
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 136 or at email@example.com.