The Cornersville Bulldogs (7-6) started 2009 like they ended 2008, as they defeated Middle Tennessee Christian 64-52 on the road Friday night to register their fourth straight victory and complete the regular season sweep of the Cougars.
MTCS (8-8) held a 26-24 lead at halftime, but the Bulldogs controlled the final two quarters of play and outscored the Cougars 40-26 over the final sixteen minutes to claim the twelve-point win.
Having averaged nearly 73 points per game in their three previous outings, CHS once again put up impressive offensive stats Friday evening. Although Cornersville committed 20 turnovers, the Bulldogs shot a sizzling 54 percent from the field (22-41), knocked down four three-pointers, and converted 16 of 22 free throws.
"Offensively we've been more productive because other guys have stepped up and we're just outscoring people right now," said CHS head coach Adrian Wilson.
Forward Garrett Stiles, center Joseph Darnell, and point guard Josh Pope formed a formidable offensive trio for the Bulldogs, as they accounted for 50 of Cornersville's 64 points and combined to hit 18 of 26 shots.
Stiles finished with 19 points, 10 rebounds, and two blocked shots, while Darnell tallied 18 points, hauled down 12 rebounds, blocked two shots, and notched out two assists. Pope, meanwhile, scored a career high 13 points and dished out six assists to go along with three rebounds.
Brent Pope (six points), P.J. Allen (four points), Dillon Stinnett (three points), and Flint Davis (one point) rounded out the scoring for CHS with Davis also recording four rebounds and two steals.
The Cougars conversely, committed only 12 turnovers and held an 18-9 edge on the offensive glass, but made only 1 of 15 attempts from beyond the arc and shot a paltry 33 percent from the field overall (21-64), which included a 9 of 34 performance in the second half.
"We stopped them defensively in the second half. When we got some stops it allowed us to score some easy transition baskets. Joseph and Brent both stepped up their post defense and P.J. did a good job of shutting down their point guard's dribble penetration," said Wilson.
Charles Dizmon paced MTCS with 10 points apiece, while Andrew Kuhn, D.J. Morris, and Logan Siler added eight, seven, and six points respectively.
Cornersville jumped out to a 9-6 lead late in the first quarter with the help of four points from Darnell before the Cougars scored the next two baskets to grab a 10-9 advantage early in the second.
Stiles then drilled a pair of three-pointers to put the Bulldogs up 15-12 with 6:17 left in the period, but MTCS outscored Cornersville 14-9 the rest of the half to take a two-point advantage into the break.
CHS, however, came out smoking in the third quarter and opened the stanza with a 9-0 burst behind six points from Darnell and an Allen trey to seize a 32-26 lead.
The Cougars fought back to tie the game at 33-33 midway through the third, before the Bulldogs ended the period with a 9-2 spurt, punctuated by a Bean three-pointer at the buzzer, to build a 42-35 advantage.
After MTCS trimmed the deficit to 42-37 early in the fourth, Cornersville put together a 13-6 run on the strength of six points from Stiles and four points from Josh Pope to push their lead to 55-43 with 1:46 remaining.
The Cougars made one last ditch rally attempt and narrowed the gap to 56-49 with 1:00 left, but the Bulldogs knocked down six free throws in the final thirty-six seconds while Stiles added a lay up to help secure the 64-52 victory.