Bulldogs fall to Eagles in regular season finale
The Cornersville Bulldogs closed the regular season the same way it started the 2016-17 campaign--with a matchup against future district opponent Eagleville.
And unlike the first game in which the Bulldogs found themselves down 53-18 at halftime, Cornersville played close with the Eagles for the majority of the game, but could not overcome Eagleville's depth and experience in a 74-53 loss.
The Bulldogs also scored seven more points and held the Eagles to three less points than that early November meeting, showing Cornersville has improved on both ends as the season progressed.
"Overall I feel like we played really well against Eagleville," senior guard Michael Allen, who led the Bulldogs with 16 points and five rebounds, said. "We rushed things too much the first time we played them. At that time we were a very young team with a lot of inexperience. We have come together now and are starting to play really well at the right time."
Allen got help on the offensive end from Eli Woodard with 11 points and three assists and Kolbe McMahon, who dropped in 11 points in his first extended minutes of the year since tearing an ACL during football season.
Tyler Wolaver added five points and grabbed four rebounds.
After getting burned by Eric Hawks and Graham Hatcher for a combined 37 points in a little over three quarters during the first go-around with the Eagles, the Bulldogs defenders held the backcourt duo to just 13 points on Tuesday night.
The extra defensive attention given to the Eagles high scoring guards might have hindered its ability to keep an eye on Austin Strickland, who exploded for 28 points and unassuming bench player Jordan Davenport with 15 points including a stretch during the second quarter where the slight role player knocked down three straight 3-pointers in a row before ending the half with an old-fashioned three-point play.
The Bulldogs hung tight with the visitors from Rutherford County after going down 6-2 early as McMahon scored on a layup, Woodard nailed a free throw, and Allen scored a layup to give Cornersville its first lead at 7-6 with 2:42 remaining in the opening frame.
The Eagles quickly turned the tide by stealing an errant inbounds pass after a made throw and scoring a layup followed by a Strickland jumper and triple to claim a 14-7 edge just a minute and a half after the Bulldogs had held the lead.
Allen put an end to the Eagle run with a layup and free throw to cut the lead to 14-10, but Hawks scored on a breakaway layup to end the first quarter with a 16-10 advantage.
After starting the second period with an Eagleville bucket to extend the lead to 18-10, the Bulldogs answered with a Wolaver layup before McMahon fired the crowd up with back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the game at 18 with 5:32 left in the first half.
The Eagles called timeout to regroup and that's exactly what they did, starting off with a Strickland one-handed jam and ending with three straight Davenport 3-point bombs and a 36-20 lead, a mere three minutes after the Bulldogs had tied the game.
The second half started with a Bulldog run as Woodard dished a pretty no-look pass to a cutting Whitaker followed by a Woodard layup to cut the lead down to 39-29 just a minute into the third quarter, but the Eagles went on another run culminating with another Davenport trifecta as the lead ballooned to a game-high 17-points with eight seconds left in the period.
Unlike Bulldog teams of the past, the 2017 version did not die so easily as Allen started the rally with three free throws and a layup followed by a Woodard jumper to whittle the lead down to 13-points with 5:29 left in the game, but the Eagles persevered at the free throw line and escaped southern Marshall County with a tighter than expected 74-53 win.
Cornersville (7-15, 6-8) will now turn its full attention to Grace Christian-Franklin (7-17, 6-8) who the Bulldogs drew in a fourth-place tiebreaker with the Lions and Culleoka.
The Lions, who beat the Bulldogs by 22 points last Friday, will take on Cornersville next Tuesday at 6 p.m. at neutral sight Columbia State Community College despite owning the right to host the game by winning the highest draw.
"We are ready for the challenge against Grace Christian," Allen said. "The first time we played them we hit shots and they didn't. The second time we played it was vice versa."
"We also didn't defend well the second time and they took advantage of that," Allen added. "We have to play as a group like we have been and play our type of game. This could be the first time in a long time that Cornersville boys’ basketball has gone to a region and we are ready to make that happen."
Eagleville 16 23 16 19-74
Cornersville 10 15 14 14-53
Eagleville (74): Austin Strickland 28, Jordan Davenport 15, Ethan Cobb 13, Eric Hawks 11, Graham Hatcher 2, Austin Davenport 2, Matt Boyett 2, Mason Hinkle 1
3-point goals (8): Strickland 4, J. Davenport 4
Cornersville (53): Michael Allen 16, Kolbe McMahon 11, Eli Woodard 11, Tyler Wolaver 5, Cam Whitaker 4, Henlee Mitchell 3, Austin Ridinger 2, Marques Martin 1
3-point goals (2): McMahon 2
Halftime score: Eagleville 39, Cornersville 25