CAPSHAW — With its season on the line against its biggest rival and Andrew Winfrey joining them on the bench, Cullman's boys basketball team had all the motivation it needed in Friday's Class 5A, Area 15. Tournament semifinal against West Point.
The Bearcats blindsided the Warriors from the get-go, jumping out to an overwhelming lead after eight minutes of play and holding on tightly the rest of the way to put an exclamation point on a 61-42 victory.
Lawson Schaffer piled on the points from all over the court, Lane Donaldson was silky smooth from behind the arc and Troy Forrest imposed his will down low, allowing the Black and Gold to enjoy a comfortable 23-4 advantage at the end of the first quarter and 40-16 cushion by halftime.
Like that, the script was flipped. The squad with the three-game losing streak coming in was well on its way to ousting its bitter rival, which had headed to East Limestone with a three-game run in the opposite direction.
“We just wanted to come out with defensive intensity, move the ball on offense and get open shots,” said Donaldson, who scored 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the 3-point line. “Coach told us to drive it, shoot it or sit the bench, so that's what we did.”
Cullman was up by so much late that it was able to put in a few underplayed reserves in the third and fourth quarters, drawing cheers from the starters on the bench whenever they made plays on either side of the court.
By the time the final buzzer sounded, however, the entire Bearcat (19-10) roster was left to celebrate the statement win over a West Point (20-10) bunch that had bested them two times earlier in the season.
“They're a county team, and we're a city school,” said Schaffer, who scored a game-high 17 points. “You've always got to beat them. They're a good team, though, with great players and a good group of guys.”