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.