Bulldogs can't stop Warrior invasion
The Cornersville Bulldogs came into Friday night's senior night matchup with district rival Culleoka (5-15, 3-9) with nowhere to go but up after a disappointing 49-point blowout loss the to Loretto the previous night.
The Bulldog team that came to play on Friday night was night and day different from the Thursday night team and Cornersville (1-18, 1-11) took a lead deep into the final period before succumbing to a big fourth quarter from Culleoka as the Warriors escaped Marshall County with a 49-40 win.
'Out of gas'
"We didn't sub enough maybe, we tried to keep the guys fresh yesterday (Loretto) and thought it would help us today," Cornersville coach Jeff Morton said. "Maybe we ran out of gas in the fourth quarter. I think we've made improvement on the defensive side. We rebounded better, probably shot a little bit better and a little bit higher percentage than we normally do."
The Bulldogs have now lost five in a row since winning a decisive four-point win over Hampshire on Homecoming for its first win of the year and lost out on a chance to move within one game of Culleoka for the six-seed in the upcoming District 11A Tournament that would have avoided the Bulldogs from facing Mount Pleasant or Columbia Academy in the opening round.
The Warriors snapped a seven-game losing streak with its last win coming over Cornersville on January 5.
"It would have meant a lot to win but we didn't do that," senior J.D. Crabtree said. "It's not really about that, it's about playing as a team and playing hard together. That's all there really is too it. We'll get them next year. We (seniors) won't be here, but the team below us will get 'em, like Michael (Allen), he's a really good player and so is Austin (Ridinger). This team has a lot to build on, especially the freshman."
Freshman Cam Whitaker broke out of a shooting slump to torch the Warriors for 19 points on five 3-pointers, grabbed three rebounds and added three steals, while senior Cody Caneer scored 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
"I wanted to get this win for my seniors a lot," Whitaker said. "I want us to get better for them and go out on a good note for them."
Whitaker started things off on the right track for the Bulldogs, knocking home a 3-pointer to start the game off 3-0 before Caneer nailed a triple to push the lead to 8-2 at 5:31 in the first quarter.
Nathan Gilliam drilled a 3-pointer for the Warriors, scoring on a driving layup and then grabbed on offensive rebound on successive possessions to give Culleoka its first lead at 13-10 with a minute left in the opening period.
Whitaker nailed his second three of the half, Caneer scored two consecutive layups and freshman Eli Woodard added his only basket of the game on a steal and layup as the Bulldogs wrestled the lead back 22-18 with 3:02 left in the first half.
Culleoka countered with a Chase Thrasher and Savan Tears 3-pointers to end the half with a 26-22 lead.
The Warriors pushed the lead to 30-24 on a Craig Parks layup before Whitaker exploded for the Bulldogs, nailing three straight 3-pointers, culminating his burst with a steal and pull-up three on the break to give Cornersville a 33-31 lead with 2:42 left in the third quarter.
"I just made sure to keep my head in the game," Whitaker, who scored 11 points in the third quarter said. "I had better concentration before the game tonight. I had to get my head right."
Whitaker banked in two free throws with six seconds remaining in the stanza to pull the teams even at 35-35, heading into the final frame.
Austin Ridinger scored a layup off an offensive board to give the Bulldogs a brief 37-35 edge, but Cornersville would not score again until 1:31 left in the game on a Caneer triple and the Warriors would run away with the key district win.
To the basket
"I've always noticed that when we start shooting nothing but threes we've basically given up so I always try and get (the ball) into the paint, toss it down low to whoever is down there," Crabtree, who finished with three rebounds, two assists and two steals, said. "If we just crashed the basket more instead of getting lazy and settling for 3-pointers from three or four feet behind the line we might have a good shot at winning, but we don't do that enough."
The Bulldogs will have two more chances for another district win at Richland tomorrow and at Grace Christian in Franklin on Friday.
Cornersville 11 11 13 5-40
Culleoka 13 13 9 14-49
Cornersville: Michael Allen 2, Eli Woodard 2, Cam Whitaker 19, Cody Caneer 13, Austin Ridinger 4.
Culleoka: Savan Tears 5, Chase Thrasher 6, Nathan Gilliam 16, Peyton Kennedy 2, Claffin Thrasher 6, Craig Parks 12, Steven Bennett 2.
3-point goals: Cornersville (7) - Whitaker 5, Caneer 2. Culleoka (3) - Tears, N. Gilliam, Parks.
Halftime score-Culleoka 26, Cornersville 22.