It was déjà vu all over again for the Cornersville Bulldogs on Saturday. For the second straight game the Bulldogs (1-3) were unable to overcome a large first quarter deficit despite making a valiant comeback attempt, as they dropped a 63-55 decision to the Wayne County Wildcats (2-1) in the Noon Rotary Thanksgiving Classic at Columbia Central High School.
After falling behind by fifteen points in the opening period, Cornersville cut the deficit to 35-25 at halftime before pulling within a point late in the third quarter. Wayne County though managed to wrest the momentum away from CHS and outscored the Bulldogs 19-12 the rest of the way to claim the eight-point win.
While his team fought hard over the final three periods, Cornersville head coach Adrian Peterson did not seem interested in accumulating moral victories.
"We didn't learn anything from the previous game and fell into a big hole early. Yeah, we've played some good teams, but we have the potential to be a good team too," said Wilson. "We're not playing a complete game. We played well in the second and third quarters and didn't in the first and fourth. We did a lot of good things during the game, but also did a lot of bad things."
Although the Bulldogs forced 22 Wildcat turnovers, including eight in the third quarter, Wayne County still finished with 25 field goals on 42 percent shooting, highlighted by a 5 of 12 effort from three-point range.
"We used a run and jump defense in the third and had some success, but they made some adjustments in the fourth quarter and we don't have the depth to play that way the whole game," said Wilson.
Cornersville, conversely, missed several lay ups during the contest and shot 36 percent from the field overall (21-58), while hitting only 5 of 19 attempts from beyond the arc and committing 17 turnovers.
The Bulldogs also hit just 8 of 16 free throw attempts and were out rebounded 35-30 by the Wildcats.
Center Joseph Darnell led Cornersville with 17 points, 11 rebounds, and two blocked shots, while small forward Garrett Stiles tallied 10 points, 10 rebounds, and one blocked shot.
Josh Pope and Brent Pope added eight points apiece for the Bulldogs as well with Josh Pope also registering eight assists and seven steals. Dillon Bean (five points), P.J. Allen (four points), and Flint Davis (three points) rounded out the scoring for CHS.
Tyler Rice and Micah Brantly paced Wayne County with 17 points each with Rice grabbing a game high 12 rebounds. Taylor Allen notched 11 points for the Wildcats as well while Tyler Dixon and Joel Barnett had seven and six points respectively.
Wayne County appeared they might run the Bulldogs out of the gym early on, as they bolted out to a 21-6 lead late in the first quarter on the strength of seven points from Brantly and five points from Barnett.
Cornersville then ripped off nine straight points on four free throws, a trey by Darnell, and a Brent Pope lay up to close the gap to 21-15 midway through the second period, but the Wildcats countered with an 11-2 spurt to open up a 32-17 advantage.
The Bulldogs once again battled back and closed the half with an 8-3 burst, highlighted by a Bean three-pointer, to cut the deficit to ten at the break before outscoring Wayne County 18-9 through the first six and a half minutes of the third quarter behind 11 points from Darnell and a trey by Allen to pull within 44-43.
The Wildcats, however, managed to stem the CHS tide and put together a 14-3 run to stretch their lead to 58-46 with 2:37 left in the fourth.
Following a lay up by Stiles, Davis drained a three-pointer from the left wing to narrow the gap to 59-51, but Allen scored two straight lay ups to give Wayne County a 63-51 advantage with :21 remaining before Josh Pope notched the last four points of the game for the 63-55 final.