Cullman’s varsity boys didn’t exactly turn in their best shooting performance of the season on Friday night.
In fact, the Bearcats matched a season-low in scoring output and made just five 3-pointers in their area game with Hartselle.
Fortunately for Bobby Meyer and his Black and Gold squad, it doesn’t always come down to offense.
Cullman badgered the Tigers on D — turning in its best effort through 14 games — and made a basket here and there to pull away from its heated rival by a final count of 63-46.
“We just kept with our pressure on defense, and it eventually created some turnovers for us,” Meyer said. “We didn't make a lot of shots, though. They did a great job on us in the first. We got it going a little bit in the second quarter, but we still didn’t make a lot of shots. I don't know what our overall percentage was, but it couldn't have been very good.”
Trailing 24-20 midway through the second quarter, the Black and Gold finally found some rhythm. Lawson Schaffer dropped in a pair of layups, Auston Neal netted a couple of free throws and Chase Slocumb connected on a deep 3-pointer to put the final touches on an 11-0 Bearcat run that flipped a four-point deficit into a seven-point cushion heading into the locker room.
The 10-minute break did nothing to stave off Cullman’s mojo, as the Bearcats outscored Hartselle 21-9 in the third stanza to all but take the air out of the raucous home crowd.
“Tonight was one of those nights you just scrap,” Meyer said. “It was a good crowd for both teams in a tough rivalry contest. We are always glad to come in and get a victory against a fine program like Hartselle.”
Cullman’s tenacity on the defensive end of the floor provided ample opportunities for many Bearcats to get in on the scoring.
Seth Swalve led the way with 13 points, while Lane Donaldson and Schaffer each collected 11. Lee Mattox, Neal and Slocumb were good for seven apiece. Austin Beck provided five and Keaton Dean, two.
“Our D is predicated on five guys creating opportunities for each other,” Meyer said. “Our balanced scoring was a product of that tonight.”
Meyer’s squad will break five days before heading to Wallace State to compete in its second annual Yule Tide Classic, where they are set to take on Boaz at 8 p.m. on Thursday.
“We want to play well there,” he said. “If we can do that, we go into January with some big momentum.”
% Cullman 44, Hartselle 37: Speaking of suffocating defense, the Lady Bearcats were in top form on Friday night in their big area victory over the Tigers.
Cullman (8-5, 2-1) allowed just six made field goals after a bit of a tepid first-quarter start, while sophomore Christina Skinner propelled her team offensively with a game-high 19 points.
“I’m very pleased with the win, but I wish we’d have played a little better down the stretch,” Black and Gold coach Jonathan Hayes said following the triumph. “It made the game closer than it should have been.
“Defensively, our girls did a great job. These two teams are very familiar with each other. We are young, but there’s a whole heck of a lot of potential with us right now.”
While the Bearcat D more than did its part, Skinner and junior Baylee Johnson provided some serious offensive fireworks. The former came up huge in the second quarter — scoring 10 key points in the frame — to give her team some breathing room heading into halftime. Johnson provided the pop early with a seven-point first quarter but made her living running the point and keeping the Tiger D on its heels with her dribble penetration.
“Christina had a huge game,” Hayes said. “She showed some glimpses of that last season. She scored, rebounded well, got some loose balls and found open teammates when needed. I’m proud of her tonight. She’s been wanting that kind of game.”
Johnson finished her night with 15 points, while Hayden Short (six), Oakleigh White (three) and Madison Cobbs (one) rounded out the scoring for Hayes’ squad.
Cullman will play Northridge High on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the first round of the Yule Tide Classic.
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 136 or at email@example.com.