The Cornersville Bulldogs (2-3) snapped a two-game losing streak Tuesday night by defeating the Middle Tennessee Christian Cougars 51-41 at home.
The Cougars came into the contest with a 3-1 record and beat Cornersville twice last season, but the Bulldogs controlled the tempo against Middle Tennessee Christian and never trailed in the game en route to capturing their second victory of the season. After taking a 19-15 lead into halftime, CHS opened up a twelve-point cushion late in the third quarter before staving off a MTCS comeback attempt in the fourth with the help of some clutch foul shooting down the stretch.
Cornersville caged the Cougars offensive attack, as they forced 18 turnovers and limited MTCS to a paltry 31 percent shooting from the field (16-33), which included a 0 of 12 effort from three-point range.
"At the start of the season, I kind of took us away from doing what we normally do, which is play man-to-man defense, because of our numbers. I tried to play some gimmick defenses early that worked at times, but I stopped worrying about what other teams are doing and went back to playing man-to-man," said Bulldog head coach Adrian Wilson.
Cornersville, meanwhile, committed 21 turnovers, but shot 48 percent from the field (16-33) and hit 17 of 24 free throws, which included a 12 of 18 effort in the fourth quarter.
The Cougars, conversely, attempted only 12 foul shots, making seven.
"One of our goals is to make more free throws than the other team even attempts and we accomplished that tonight," said Wilson.
Small forward Garrett Stiles came up big for the Bulldogs in crunch time, as he scored 15 of his game high 25 points in the final period to go along with nine rebounds, four assists, and two steals.
Center Joseph Darnell knocked down 5 of 8 shots and followed Stiles with 10 points, seven rebounds, and three blocked shots, while Josh Pope and Dillon Bean added five and four points respectively. P.J. Allen (three points), Flint Davis (two points), and Brent Pope (two points) rounded out the scoring for CHS.
Point guard D.J. Morris paced MTCS with 14 points and five steals, while Andrew Kuhn and Killen Middleton had eight and five points respectively.
After Cornersville jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead on a lay up by Darnell and an Allen trey, the Cougars tied the game at 5-5 midway through the first quarter, but the Bulldogs countered with a 7-2 spurt thanks to four points from Stiles and a three-pointer by Bean in the closing seconds of the stanza to claim a 12-7 advantage.
MTCS then fought back to tie the game at 13-13 with 4:41 left in the second, before Cornersville tallied the next four points on an offensive put back by Stiles and a short jumper by Brent Pope to pull ahead 17-13.
The Cougars trimmed the deficit to 17-15 on a basket by Logan Siler, but CHS held the ball for the last shot of the quarter and Stiles hit a runner in the lane at the buzzer to give the Bulldogs a four-point lead at the break.
"I thought we handled the end of quarter situations well in the first half. We held the ball and then got good looks at the basket. That gave us a lot of confidence going into the next quarter," said Wilson.
In the third, Cornersville began to distance themselves from MTCS and put together a 12-4 run on the strength of six points from Darnell and four points from Pope to stretch their lead to 31-19 late in the period.
The Cougars outscored CHS 10-2 over the next three and a half minutes to narrow the gap to 33-29 early in the fourth, but Stiles tallied the next seven points of the contest on a jumper, a lay up, and three free throws to give the Bulldogs a 40-29 advantage with 4:38 left.
Cornersville then put the game away at the foul line and scored nine of their final 11 points at the charity stripe to preserve their 51-41 victory.