The Cornersville Bulldogs continued their recent ascent up the District standings on Tuesday by defeating second place Columbia Academy 45-32 on Homecoming to avenge a 53-48 loss to CA earlier in the season.
Cornersville (12-10, 4-5 District) held a 26-14 lead at halftime before Columbia Academy (10-10, 6-2 District) came roaring back to knot the game at 30-30 early in the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs, though, dominated down the stretch and outscored CA 15-2 the rest of the way to claim their third straight victory.
Thanks to the win, Cornersville moved into a tie for fourth place in the District standings with Huntland after starting 1-5 in league play.
"We put ourselves in a hole early by going 1-5 in the District. We lost several close games, but we're right there now and are like a wounded animal in the corner," said CHS head coach Adrian Wilson. "We're taking it one game at a time right now and want to improve our seeding so we can host a first round game in the District tournament."
Aided by nine blocked shots and 13 steals, the Bulldogs bottled up Columbia Academy's offense for much of the evening, as CA mustered just 12 field goals on 24 percent shooting, which included a dreadful 1 of 15 effort in the fourth quarter.
"Our defense has always been a priority, but we've really buckled down lately," said Wilson. "We've had other big wins this season, but we just outscored people. We're playing a lot better defense right now though and we've held our last two opponents to 33 and 32 points."
Bolstered by an 8 of 12 shooting performance in the second period, Cornersville shot 50 percent from the field overall with 14 of their 18 field goals coming off of assists.
After scoring 20 points in the first meeting between the two teams, Cornersville center Joseph Darnell had another big night in the paint against Columbia Academy. Darnell poured in 17 points on 7 of 14 shooting, grabbed 10 rebounds, blocked seven shots, and registered three steals.
Garrett Stiles also tallied 13 points, six rebounds, three assists, and three steals, while Brent Pope added eight points, eight rebounds, and two blocked shots. Flint Davis notched four points, four steals, and three assists for the Bulldogs as well, and Josh Pope had three points, five assists, and two steals.
Point guard Matthew Williams paced CA with 12 points, but hit just 4 of 17 shots. Kade Morgan also scored eight points for Columbia Academy, while Zach Whiteside and Alex Rector both had six points.
CA took an early 5-0 lead before Cornersville rattled off six straight points on a Davis layup and a couple of jumpers by Brent Pope and Stiles to grab a 6-5 advantage with 2:38 left in the first quarter.
Columbia Academy then tallied the next five points to pull ahead 10-6 late in the first, but Stiles drilled a three-pointer in the waning moments of the period to trim the deficit to 10-9.
The Bulldogs then completely controlled the second and outscored Columbia Academy 17-4 in the quarter on the strength of 10 points from Darnell and a Josh Pope trey to take a 26-14 lead into halftime.
CHS' lead would quickly evaporate in the second half, as Columbia Academy opened the stanza with a 16-4 run to tie the contest at 30-30 with 7:14 left in the fourth quarter
After Cornersville scored the next three points on Darnell free throw and a breakaway dunk by Stiles to seize a 33-30 advantage, CA trimmed the deficit to 33-32 on two foul shots by Williams.
That would prove to be Columbia Academy's last hurrah, however, as the Bulldogs shutout CA over the final 5:19, while ending the game with a 12-0 spurt behind five points from Darnell and four points from Stiles to pull away for the 45-32 triumph.