The Cornersville Bulldogs picked up their first District win of the season Saturday night when they defeated the Santa Fe Wildcats 48-47 at home to snap a two-game losing streak.
Although Cornersville (9-8, 1-3 District) had beaten the Wildcats three times last year by an average of 18 points, Santa Fe held a tenuous 47-46 advantage with only 29 seconds left after overcoming a nine-point third quarter deficit. The Bulldogs then took a one-point lead on a pair of clutch free throws by point guard Josh Pope before Wildcat forward Sam Gairett had a three-pointer rim out at the buzzer.
"This was the first time that we've been 0-3 in the District since I've been here so this win was huge," said CHS head coach Adrian Wilson. "To finally get our first District win is a confidence builder. Kids may think that because they have more wins than losses they have a good record, but it's the conference games that are important."
Bolstered by a 13 of 22 shooting performance in the second half, the Bulldogs shot 47 percent from the field overall (18-38) and finished with four three-pointers.
Cornersville center Joseph Darnell punished Santa Fe in the low post, as he scored a game high 19 points on 9 of 11 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds.
Forward Garrett Stiles followed Darnell with 12 points, while Josh Pope and P.J. Allen each tallied six points with Pope also registering seven assists and three steals. Flint Davis and Brent Pope rounded out the scoring for CHS with three and two points respectively.
Santa Fe outscored the Bulldogs 14-8 at the foul line, but finished with only 16 field goals on 42 percent shooting, which included a 1 of 10 effort from beyond the arc.
Alex Gardner and Daniel White paced the Wildcats with 15 and 13 points respectively. Ben Thomason also added seven points, while Gairrett and Chris Tyler both had six points.
After Santa Fe inched out to a 3-0 lead midway through the first quarter, Allen buried a couple of treys to ignite a 10-2 CHS run and help give the Bulldogs a 10-5 advantage early in the second.
The Wildcats notched the next six points to pull ahead 11-10 midway through the second, before the Bulldogs responded with a 7-2 spurt, highlighted by a Darnell three-pointer, to seize a 17-13 advantage late in the period.
Santa Fe narrowed the gap to 17-16 by halftime prior to taking a 21-19 advantage early in the third, but Cornersville put together a 13-2 run behind eight points from Darnell and a Davis trey to grab a 32-23 lead late in the quarter.
The Wildcats then clawed their way back into the contest and outscored CHS 16-4 over the next three minutes to claim a 39-36 advantage early in the fourth.
Following a jumper by Stiles, Darnell sandwiched a pair of field goals around a free throw by Tyler to stake the Bulldogs to a 42-40 lead with 3:18 left.
After Gardner converted a three-point play to put Santa Fe up 43-42, Stiles knocked down a jumper to give Cornersville a 44-43 advantage before the Wildcats pulled back ahead on an offensive put back by Thomason.
The Bulldogs then took a 46-45 lead on a couple of foul shots by Josh Pope, but White hit a short bank shot to stake Santa Fe to a 47-46 advantage.
Pope though was fouled on the inbounds play and calmly sank two more free throws with :28 left to put Cornersville up 48-47.
On the Wildcats' final possession, Thomason had the ball batted away from him by Brent Pope after letting the clock run down to six seconds. Following a wild scramble for the ball, Santa Fe was awarded possession on a tie up.
Although only eight-tenths of a second remained, Garrett got a clean look at the basket and his shot appeared to be on line, but the ball rattled out of the rim and fell harmlessly to the floor.