Bulldogs fall to Zion Academy

Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Caleb Crowell drives hard to the hoop before a layup attempt.
Tribune photo by Mike Inglsbee

The Cornersville boys entered Friday nightís matchup versus Zion Christian Academy with just one win in its first three games, but stepped on the court with an entirely different lineup in the fourth game of the season.

In just over 24 hours after playing for the Class 1A football championship in Cookeville, six players dressed out with the basketball team that made major contributions on the hardwood last season.

Unfortunately for the Bulldogs the team did not sync together as fast as Cornersville coach Matt Hagan had hoped and the Eagles (4-0) took advantage in an easy 79-50 win.

"Maybe I was hoping for too much but I did expect these guys to come in and contribute big right away," Hagan offered. "But it was still good for us to get them out on the floor and work them back into basketball playing shape."

The Bulldogs were led by Tyler Wolaver with 18 points and 10 rebounds while Darien Bush added 11 points and three assists on two 3-pointers.

The Eagles were led by Demontrez McClain with 21 points.

The two squads split the series last season with the Eagles winning a 69-51 contest at home and the Bulldogs winning the rematch, 65-53 in Cornersville.

The Bulldogs hope the same scenario plays out this year with the rematch coming in just over two weeks on December 19 in Columbia.

At that point, the team should be fully integrated with the eight-plus football players joining the team on Friday.

"There were some positives," junior point guard Henlee Mitchell, a standout on both the gridiron and hardwood, said. "Some of us football guys who havenít played in a while got playing time which will help us get back in the basketball groove. It wasnít all a disaster. We will learn and continue to grow as a team and attempt to reach our goals."

The Bulldogs looked sharp coming out of the gate, leading for the better part of the initial quarter before a McClain layup and free throw gave the Eagles the slight 18-14 edge heading into quarter number two.

A Briggs Rutter triple pushed the Eagle lead to 10 points two minutes into the second quarter, but Wolaver answered with a triple to cut the lead to 24-17.

Things went south for the Bulldogs after the Wolaver bucket as the Eagles went on an 11-0 run before a Bush triple ended the streak at 35-20.

The Bulldogs scored just two more points the rest of the half to go into the break, down 40-22.

The theme continued into the second half as the Eagles scored nine points before another Wolaver triple cut the lead down to 47-28.

That's as close as the Bulldogs would get as the Eagles extended the lead to 53-28 with three minutes left in the third before the benches started clearing.

"We had way too many turnovers, too many fouls and too many missed shots down the stretch," Mitchell said. "Just not a good all-around and we are much more capable of playing better."

The Bulldogs, which had one of the better turnarounds in 1A in 2017, finished last season with eight wins after winning just one game the previous season and upset Grace Christian in the district tournament to earn a region bid just one week after the Lions had beat the Bulldogs by 22 points.

Hagan expects to improve even more after his players gained quite a bit of experience as freshman and sophomores the past two years.

"It may not have looked like it tonight, but if these guys can learn to play together we are going to be a hard team to compete with," Hagan stated. "But the main thing will be getting these guys to take better shots and make smart plays during the press."

The Bulldogs lost 63-61 versus Hampshire Tuesday night.