After taking a 25-24 lead into the break, the Bulldogs opened up a 41-31 advantage late in the third quarter and appeared to be in control of the game.
Unfortunately, Cornersville couldn't hold on down the stretch, as RCA (2-0) outscored the Bulldogs 32-15 over the final 8:12 of the contest with help of an almost endless parade to the free throw line in the fourth quarter to pull out the seven point victory.
The Bulldogs won nearly every statistical category in the game and finished with more field goals (21-16), three-pointers (7-2), offensive rebounds (14-12), assists (14-6), steals (13-10), and blocked shots (5-2) than the Knights, while committing six fewer turnovers (23-17).
Cornersville, though, couldn't keep RCA off the foul line during crunch time, as the Knights hit 29-of-37 free throws overall, which included a 19-of-24 effort in the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs, conversely, attempted only 13 free throws in the contest, making seven.
"The game shouldn't have come down to that. We should have put the game away earlier. I don't want to blame the refs, but some of the whistles did hurt us at the end," said CHS coach Gerard Randolph. "After the game, I tried to be positive and pointed out some of the things that we did well to my kids. Not everything was bad because we did some things well. We just have to keep working hard and get ready for Forrest."
Senior forward Hayden McMahon turned in a strong performance in defeat and led Cornersville with 19 points on 9-of-17 shooting to go along with 14 rebounds, five steals, and three blocked shots. Zack Smith and Tate Lowery followed McMahon with eight points apiece, while Alex Walker added seven points. Jacob Reeves, Jacob Griffis, Jamie Crowell, and Tyler Lowery rounded out the scoring for the Bulldogs with five, four, three, and two points respectively.
Cory Albert paced RCA with 29 points by hitting 6-of-9 shots and 17-of-20 free throws. Reagan Elridge also tallied 12 points for the Knights, while Josh Hill notched 11 points.
RCA jumped out to an 11-5 lead late in the first quarter, but the Bulldogs quickly counterpunched and went on a 15-4 run behind two treys from Smith, five points from Tate Lowery, and a pair of offensive put backs by McMahon to pull ahead 20-15 with 5:42 left in the second.
The Knights outscored CHS 9-3 over the five and a half minutes to seize a brief 24-23 lead before Smith scored on an offensive put back in the waning moments of the first half to give Cornersville a 25-24 lead at the break.
After RCA grabbed a 26-25 lead early in the third on a jumper by Albert, the Bulldogs put together a 16-5 spurt, highlighted by two threes from Walker and a Crowell trey, to open up a 41-31 advantage with :25 left in the quarter.
The Knights tallied six straight points to narrow the gap to 43-37 early in the fourth quarter, before Cornersville stretched their lead to 47-39 with 5:21 left to play thanks to three layups from McMahon.
CHS, however, saw things go south after that point, as RCA outscored the Bulldogs 20-5 over the next 4:18 to claim a 59-52 lead.
Griffis and Lowery sandwiched layups around two foul shots from Albert to trim the deficit to 61-56 with :20 left, but Cornersville came up empty on their final two possessions, while Albert made two more free throws to secure the Knights 63-56 win.