Encore Rehab Girls Classic Game # 5
At Hartselle Gymnasium:
Cullman 4 22 12 16 - 54 (3-2)
Hillcrest 13 15 18 18 - 64 (2-1)
FLASH NOTES: Cullman's first eight minutes shooting the ball was a nightmare. No field goals made and a 9-point deficit.
But Josh Hembree's Lady Bearcats played with heart and soul in the second period. Scoring 22 points with Anna Grace Murphy leading the comeback, Cullman closed the deficit to 28-26 at the half.
A foul outside the three-point circle with less than a second left enabled Hillcrest to break the tie, hitting two of three free throw tries.
Cullman moved ahead at 33-32 early in the third on a three by Murphy, then Hillcrest went back on top and never trailed the rest of the way.
The team out of Tuscaloosa took a 39-38 lead and extended it to 46-38 when time expired in the stanza, closing on a 7-0 spurt.
Cullman began to experience fatigue and lost starting guard Hannah Hoffman to five fouls.
The last point Cullman scored was a free throw from Anna Evans with 1:50 left that made it 60-54 Hillcrest.
Normally, a good shooting team from the stripe, the Lady 'Cats were just three of 10 in the final period. That was enough to keep Hillcrest in a lead near double figures. The Lady Patriots made four of their final five free throws to deny the Lady 'Cats a comeback chance in crunch time.
Murphy had her best game of the young season for Cullman with 22 points, A.K. Eastman popped in 10, Kennedy Wren nine, Olivia Neal seven, Alexandria Barker four and Anna Evans three.
Guard Cierra Cunnigham had a hot hand for Hillcrest with a game high 26 points.
This was Hillcrest's first visit to the tournament.
Up next for Cullman: Monday at Athens
Tuesday in Encore Classic 6:40 p.m. (Auxiliary Gym)
Up next for Hillcrest: Quarterfinal Tuesday 6:40 p.m.
Photo 1: Cullman's Anna Grace Murphy (2) tries to slow down Hillcrest guard Alton James.
Photo 2: Hannah Hoffman of Cullman keeps Cierra Cunningham (21) in front of her.
Sportspage photos by Johnny Thornton