The Cullman Times
Jonathan Hayes’s lucky number on Thursday night was undoubtedly four — and for good reason, too.
For the fourth time this season, Cullman’s varsity girls battled and defeated Hartselle — this one a 53-42 outcome in the first round of the Class 5A, Area 15 Tournament. By doing so, the Lady Bearcats also clinched a sub-regional playoff spot for the fourth straight season under Hayes.
“I’m proud of the girls and the way they played,” the coach said. “We’re all happy about being back in a playoff game. We want that to be a staple here at Cullman. It was a tough one today.”
The Black and Gold raced out to a 14-8 first-quarter cushion before kicking it up a notch in the second. They outpaced the Tigers 13-3 in the frame to secure a 16-point halftime advantage.
“We came out hot and put a big lead on them,” Hayes said. “We struggled a bit in the second half, but we made enough free throws and got some stops that Hartselle never got any closer than nine or 10 points.”
Hayes lauded his defense for an insane amount of steals, as well as tipped passes and tremendous hustle.
Baylee Johnson had nine of those takeaways to go along with a game-high 29 points. Oakleigh White contributed 14 points; Kaitlyn Brannon, five; Christina Skinner, four; and Hayden Short, one.
Cullman (18-10) will take on East Limestone Monday at 5:30 p.m. for a chance at its second straight area title. The Bearcats have fallen in both of their contests to the Indians this season, the last an overtime thriller at home a couple of weeks ago.
“We want to come back to Cullman hosting a sub-regional,” Hayes said. “We’ve got a tough game on Monday to do that.”
% East Limestone 58, West Point 35: The Lady Warriors saw their season come to an end on Thursday night with a 23-point loss to the No. 1 seed Indians.
Junior Mallory Walker (eight points) and senior Jamie Beasley (seven points and 10 rebounds) gave all they could in an effort to extend their playing days that ultimately came up a bit short.
Other contributors were Bailee Yearwood, six points; Daeshia Smith and Jeri Beasley, four apiece; Tess Hembree and Tanner Quick, two each; and Alexis Bell and Madison Roberts, one.
Class 3A, Area 13
% Good Hope 33, Hanceville 26: It was a battle every step of the way for the Lady Raiders on Thursday evening against the county- and area-rival Bulldogs.
In the end, though, Good Hope received just enough balanced scoring and outlasted Hanceville 15-8 during the fourth frame to break open a tie contest and take home a seven-point win.
“We survived that game,” Raider coach Michael Oldacre said. “We didn’t shoot it well, but give Hanceville credit. They played aggressive, physical ball. They’re an improved team.”
Kaylee Maddox and Celest Whisenant each scored nine points to pace the Raiders on offense. Katelyn Bishop added six, while Kacy Thomas and Kayla Scott contributed five and four apiece.
It was the fourth win in as many tries for Good Hope against the Bulldogs this season.
“We didn’t want to stop playing today,” OIdacre said. “I was glad for our team that we got to move on and play Saturday.”
Bebe Flanigan notched 10 points for Hanceville to spearhead her squad’s attack. Taylor Hollingsworth netted seven; Mariah Twitty, five; and Niya Thomas, four, to round out the scoring.
The Raiders play Danville Saturday at 2 p.m. for an area title, while Hanceville’s season came to a close with the loss.
% Danville 66, Vinemont 17: The top-seeded Hawks had little trouble dispatching the Eagles on Thursday eve in the opening round of the Area 13 Tournament.
Stats for Vinemont — which saw its season end with the defeat — were unavaliable by presstime.
Class 2A, Area 14 and Class 4A, Area 13
Cold Springs and Fairview each had to wait another night for their area clashes, as inclimate weather conditions halted play in their respective tournaments on Thursday night.
For the Eagles, their game against Oakman will take place at 7 p.m. Friday, while the Aggles’ bout with St. Clair County is also Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Each team’s championship matchup remains the same — Saturday at 7 p.m. for Cold Springs and Saturday at 2 p.m for Fairview.
% The Times’ sports writer Jake Winfrey contributed to this report.