AHSAA Class 6A basketball
At Cullman Gymnasium:
Athens 12 14 15 13 - 54 (15-8)
Cullman 17 19 6 10 - 52 (16-12)
CULLMAN: Dylan Finch 18, Nic Williams 12, Drew Morton 8, Zane Manley 4, Trey Tucker 7, Jake McAfee 3
ATHENS: Tyler Williams 20, William Gilbert 9
FLASH NOTES: Athens guard William Gilbert turned a potential last second loss to Cullman into an incredible victory when he banked in a shot just inside half court as time expired.
Cullman had just moved back on top at 52-51 with 0:06 left when Nic Williams drove inside and hit a short range jumper.
Athens was out of time outs as the Golden Eagles pushed the ball up the floor with Gilbert delivering one that broke the spirit of the Bearcats, thinking they would be celebrating with a game winner.
Athens went down 36-26 at half thanks to Cullman scoring four treys in the first half, three during the second quarter. Trey Tucker, Jake McAfee and Drew Morton converted key long range shots that enabled the Bearcats to put 19 points on the scoreboard and have a comfortable lead at the break.
But Athens rode the scoring of Tyler Williams, going on a 13-0 run to take a 41-40 lead with 1:46 left in the third. Cullman answered on a shot by Williams with the buzzer sounding that sent them to the fourth on top 42-41.
That was the second time in the game Williams had scored a basket with time running out.
Gilbert broke a 50-50 tie for Athens by scoring a free throw with 0:42 to play in the game. Cullman then used two time outs and executed when Dylan Finch inbounded to Williams with 0:10 to go. Williams worked his way for a good looking shot with Cullman taking back the lead, 52-51.
Athens then finished it off with an incredible game winning shot, beating the Bearcats for the second time in three games this season.
Up next for Cullman: Vs. Hartselle Thursday.
Athens 10 18 12 7 - 47 (17-9)
Cullman 8 9 8 12 - 37 (15-10)
CULLMAN: Kennedy Wren, Anna Evans 6, Alexandria Barker 6, A.K. Eastman 4, Anna Grace Murphy 4.
ATHENS: Stacia Beneford 14, Alexis Woods 11, Olivia Patton 6, Jakayla Bridgeforth 5.
FLASH NOTES: Cullman was playing well in leading 17-13 early in the second on field goals by Alexandria Barker and Kennedy Wren.
But the final 5:00 of the second was controlled by Athens with a 15-0 run and a 28-17 lead at the half.
Alexis Woods and Stacia Beneford combined for 10 of the Golden Eagles' 12 points in the third period that extended the advantage to as many as 17 points. Cullman trailed 40-25 entering the final quarter.
The Lady 'Cats were able to reduce the gap to 41-33 with two free throws by Anna Grace Murphy at the 4:33 mark. That would be as close as Cullman would pull within Athens' grasp. Woods closed out the Golden Eagle scoring by hitting from near the basket at 1:48 to make it 47-33.
Cullman scored on field goals from Wren and A.K. Eastman in the final minute to reduce the final margin of a 10-point setback.
Up next for Cullman: Vs. Hartselle Thursday.
Photo 1: Huge student body support for Cullman Bearcats vs. Athens Tuesday.
Photo 2: Cullman's A.K. Eastman (5), Sadie Young (10) and Anna Evans (3) defending against Athens in the 1st half of Tuesday's game at Cullman Gymnasium.
Sportspage photos by Johnny Thornton.
AHSAA 6A Basketball
At Cullman High Gymnasium:
Carver (B'ham) 16 10 5 21 - 52 (6-9)
Cullman 19 12 17 15 - 63 (14-9)
CULLMAN: Jake McAfee 18, Dylan Finch 16, Nick Williams 10, Zane Manley 8, Jayden Sullins 5, Noah Bussman 3, Drew Morton 3.
CARVER: Alandas Calhoun 10, Rodney Beckham 10, Chappelle Wade 7, Destine Davis 7.
FLASH NOTES: Cullman basketball coach Bobby Meyer put his communication skills to work when the Bearcats had to cancel a game vs. Randolph after the school in Huntsville shut down for a couple of days, following an outbreak of influenza.
Meyer was able to contact Carver-Birmingham coach Matthew Player and the Rams agreed to visit the Cullman campus Friday night in playing for the first time this month.
The Bearcats and the leaders from Class 6A, Area 11 fought hard through the first 16 minutes with Cullman holding on to a 31-26 halftime lead.
Cullman's 17-5 advantage in scoring during the third was vital to the Bearcats. They allowed the Rams two made FGs in the period, while the Cullman offense cranked it up with seven baskets, three from long distance and two by Jake McAfee with one coming from Drew Morton.
The Bearcats led 48-31 heading to the fourth. Their lead got cut quickly when the Rams converted miscues into points and closed to 48-37.
Then it was McAfee that keyed a spurt with two treys, plus a drive to the hoop by Nick Williams that gave Cullman an 11-1 run and a 59-38 lead around the 4:00 mark.
Carver closed out on a 14-4 spurt, getting treys by Chappelle Wade and Alandas Calhoun. The Bearcats wound up turning the ball over 10 times in the fourth and got outscored 21-15.
They preserved the win at the line as McAfee and Finch combined for five of five from the stripe late in the contest.
Up next for Cullman: At Decatur Tuesday
Photo from behind the Cullman bench in the 1st half of Friday's game vs. Carver.
Photo courtesy of Cullman High School.
Cullman High School officially announced the hiring of Matt Plunkett as new football coach during a special meeting of the city board of education Friday morning.
Plunkett spent the past five years as head coach at Gardendale High School. The Rockets were 37-22 under his leadership, qualifying for the AHSAA 6A state playoffs between 2014 to 2017.
Plunkett's best season at Gardendale was 2015, when the Rockets were 10-3, 2nd in Region 6, getting to the quarterfinal round of the playoffs.
Gardendale was 6-5 in 2017, compiling a 5-2 record in the region (3rd place). The Rockets lost at Muscle Shoals 23-20 in the first round of the playoffs.
Plunkett takes over for Mark Britton who retired at the end of September after being diagnosed with cancer.
Cullman was 4-2 when Britton stepped down as assistant coach Mark Stephens took over on an interim position and watched the Bearcats win three in a row following a 19-16 loss in double overtime to Pell City on October 6.
The Bearcats finished 3rd in Region 7, being eliminated in the first round of the 6A playoffs to Ramsay 14-0.
Britton retires as the winngest coach in Cullman history, recording 134 victories in 17 seasons, taking his team to the postseason 15 years.
In Plunkett's first season that will be in the fall, the Bearcats are paired up in Region 7 of Class 6A with Hartselle, Decatur, Athens, Muscle Shoals and Columbia. The Bearcats will have five non-conference games aside from the regional schedule.
Photo of Cullman football coach Matt Plunkett (right) with Cullman Middle School football coach Gerald Turner after Plunkett was officially named the new head coach Friday morning.
Photo by Cullman High School.