AUBURN - Happiness of it being Memorial Day weekend has shifted to sadness after the sportscasting world lost Auburn Tigers play by play voice Rod Bramblett and his wife Saturday evening in an auto accident.
Both passed away from their injuries after being struck from behind by a 16-year old driver on Shug Jordan Parkway.
Bramblett had returned home after the Tigers were eliminated in the SEC baseball tournament in Hoover in a heartbreaking sequence from a wild pitch that allowed LSU to score two runs.
Those in the sportcasting profession and those who knew Rod Bramblett have heavy hearts for the Sunday before Memorial Day.
Bramblett was an icon on the microphone for the Tigers for 25 years from the baseball diamond and taking over the lead role of football and basketball in 2003 after the tragic death of Jim Fyffe.
Bramblett's impact was a fixture on WKUL-FM (92.1). The local station has had Auburn sports on the airwaves since the late 1980s. Bramblett established his own identity in following Fyffe, who had been the voice for Auburn sports from 1981 til his death in May 2003.
Bramblett and his colleague, Andy Burcham, just celebrated 25 years of being partners in the booth for Auburn baseball.
Bramblett had a good appeal to the WKUL-FM people. I had a chance to speak with him in an interview the day before Auburn played Virgina in this year's NCAA basketball Final Four. The ending of that game will always be remembered on how Rod felt when victory in some ways, got stolen.
I remember a few years ago of how Rod was so elated of being invited to a high school football media days the station hosted as the guest speaker.
Rod was like many who have been in this profession. Starting at the bottom and working your way to the top.
For being an Auburn grad, his passion for Tiger athletics soared very high. Rod was blessed to be a part of some outstanding times in Auburn history, through the three sports he enjoyed for those who listened.
Nothing short of a class act, Rod is an icon for people of telling the story his way. Broadcasters become a part of the program, especially those for who endured a long time as Rod did of 25 years on the Auburn Sports Network.
My heart is heavy for knowing him through the profession that I enjoy of a close association.
Just getting back last weekend from Montgomery in covering Good Hope softball in the state tournament concluded a fine season for me behind the mic for 92.1 FM through four different sports going into postseason play.
Other broadcasters that knew Rod very close are having to embrace the news that he is gone. He will never be forgotten.
Sportscasting is a fun job. It does take a lot of time, effort and determination to reach great levels.
Rod Bramblett paid his dues and was rewarded of a great association on the plains, hitting the airwaves for three different sports between September to May.
It will be trying times for Auburn University, the Auburn Sports Network as they now have to come up with a decision on who will lead the group in the play by play role.
Between now and August 31, plenty of tears from Tiger fans will be flowing. Auburn will kick off the new football season in Arlington, Texas against the Oregon Ducks. Emotions will be so uplifting when the new voice takes over and says, "Welcome to Auburn football."
Bramblett is one of so many great voices on the radio through the teams of the Southeastern Conference.
Auburn fans will say, their man is good as yours. Not many can disagree with that statement.
Rest in peace, Rod and Paula Bramblett, War Eagle!
Photo of Rod Bramblett, with Sonny Smith, during the NCAA basketball tournament in March, courtesy of montgomeryadvertiser.com
MONTGOMERY - Laying it on the line is a very good way to describe the Cullman Bearcats in baseball and the Good Hope Lady Raiders in softball.
Representing the area in the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) state tournament, the two teams provided what it takes to win when many didn't think it was possible.
Cullman defied many odds after having to play 40 of its 43 baseball games off campus. Issues in installing a new field turf on Bill Shelton Field put the project well behind schedule. Cullman got to enjoy the moment of the new surface in three games of the second round 6A playoffs against Pell City.
But this team is a very good team and they showed it. For one, several players had to deal with the bitter taste of losing a semifinal series at home to Hazel Green in 2018, ending their consecutive run of playing in the main event for their respective class of the AHSAA.
That was enough motivation that enabled the Bearcats to take the grueling five week postseason run and lock up the state championship for the first time in four years in a dramatic sweep of Chelsea at Riverwalk Stadium 1-0 and 9-4.
Good Hope softball had never been in this position before. Posting a combined two year total of 18 wins between 2017 and 2018 vs. 35 losses, changes were needed if the program was going to get out of a rut.
It began when principal John Hood cleaned out the coaching staff and hired Tim Tucker to lead the program.
Tucker knew of the winning ways when he played baseball at Springville High School and later for Randy Putman at Wallace State Community College.
Tucker had been a part of an up and coming item, travel team softball. Coaching some of the Lady Raiders during past summers enabled him to bring a new attitude to the Good Hope campus and winning returned that created a lot of attention for those who follow the sport.
Thirty-three victories in 44 games, reaching the Elite Eight in 4A play for the first time, the Lady Raiders embraced the shining moment of playing at legendary Lagoon Park on the weekend of May 17 and left some lasting memories.
Shutting out No. 5 ranked American Christian Academy 5-0 on the night of the 17th allowed the Lady Raiders to return to the diamond the next day and deal with White Plains for the second time in eight days.
Unfortunately, a late inning surge by White Plains kept the Lady Raiders from a berth to the Final Four.
But as the team walked off Field 5 of Lagoon Park, they received a standing ovation from those supporting them for this weekend tour into the Capitol City.
Having a pair of teams from our area displaying the hard work it takes when the postseason schedule comes into full circle, shows the effort of spring sports on the rise. Montgomery is the destination for baseball and softball and we can say in 2019, it was well represented.
Cullman baseball has a fifth state championship. Good Hope softball rewrote the record books. Both endured adversity and have soared so high above it.
Bearcat players Breenan Norton, Cooper Beck, Peyton Colvard, Dylon Wallace, Ben Hollis, among others, can erase the pain of the 2018 semifinals. They were key people coming back for 2019 that showed many of how good they could be when it was time to step up the effort.
For Good Hope softball seniors Bailey Swann, Skylar Tucker, Kailee Shikle, Morgan Goodwin and Gracie Ray, winning felt so good from the start, through the middle and on to the end of the season.
The team knew the opposite side of winning so much, it did create doubt. But putting together success that started on a cold first weekend in March in Cullman at the Wallace State invitational, coming back from Gulf Shores in late March with success and keeping the ship afloat in April from the Area 12 Tournament, through the West Regional, the Lady Raiders had been awarded for their results.
An Elite Eight trip and to finish in the Top 5 through state tournament play. The Lady Raiders endured the moment of going from worst to first.
The calendar year of AHSAA competition is now officially in the books for 2018-19. It was a fine run for yours truly with plenty of positive such as Good Hope football getting to the quarterfinals for the first time in 4A, Addison volleyball taking home another state championship and it being over another county rival.
Cold Springs girls cross country grabbing the state title, the Lady Eagles being superior on the hardwood in their first 2A title in 10 years.
St. Bernard track with a pair of runner-up finishes in Class 1A at Cullman High School a couple of weeks ago.
Now the success of Cullman baseball and Good Hope softball, winning is part of the process for participating in sports. Victories are what players and coaches are judged by.
For these two programs, high grades are achieved. We congratulate you on displaying of what it takes to win.
BIRMINGHAM - Good news and no new news from the Alliance of American Football (AAF) Sunday afternoon.
The Birmingham Iron clinched a playoff berth by a 17-9 victory over the Atlanta Legends, in their final game at Legion Field in the inaugural season of the new professional league.
But uncertainty is hanging above the AAF. On March 27, a story that was first released by USA Today, reports majority owner Tom Dundon is considering of shutting down the AAF.
Officially, that was the last time Birmingham will play at the ole gray lady on Graymont Avenue. The Iron have road games left at Arizona and Orlando and will play at Orlando in the Eastern Division playoff April 20 or 21.
Dundon is wanting the National Football League to be a developmental league for the AAF, by providing them young players.
Dundon went on by saying, this is one option of several that he is looking at. Shutting the league down is not what players, coaches and those employed in the AAF want to hear.
It comes down to the players' association of the NFL. Dundon wants their association, but loaning players to the AAF could violate the NFL's collective bargaining agreement.
The AAF was designed by CEO and co-founder Charlie Ebersol, plus co-founder Bill Polian, who have impressive credentials in many years of association through the NFL.
The head of football development for the AAF is former Pittsburgh Steeler standout Hines Ward. Ex-steeler linebacker Troy Polamalu is the director of player relations and ex-Giant defensive standout Justin Tuck serves on the board of advisors.
Players in the AAF are collegiate players, with a high percentage of trying to make an NFL roster, but unable to maintain that status.
A 10-game regular season schedule is what makes up the AAF. Through Sunday, the league has been active for eight weeks.
Birmingham is now 5-3, with a playoff berth locked in the East behind Orlando who has a 7-1 record. Orlando is the darling of the AAF, due to the fact of being led by former Florida and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier.
At least the Iron can say goodbye to the home fans by snapping a two-game skid at Legion Field. Birmingham was 3-2 on the home turf, opening the season on February 10 with a 26-0 shutout of the Memphis Express.
A 3-0 start for the Iron came crashing with back to back losses at Legion Field in early March to San Antonio 12-11 and Orlando 31-14.
Attendance has not been something to brag out. The crowd Sunday withstood wind conditions and temperature in the low 50s. Attendance was announced at 17,328, the best of five home games for the playoff bound Iron.
Now with a playoff berth secured, the Iron want to build momentum, facing two elite squads to complete the regular season.
A trip to Arizona next week will have the Iron facing a team that is contending for the top spot in the AAF West.
Then it will be back to back games in Orlando. The regular season finale is April 14 at the Apollos' home, which is also shared by the University of Central Florida.
The only one that has spoken about the future of the AAF is Dundon. No comments have been made from Ebserol, Polian, Ward, Tuck and others who have huge interest in the league becoming successful.
Nothing has been indicated by the Iron through management to the coaching staff.
Having the league shut down will effect many as jobs will be lost and those who are involved in professional football, will be challenged on trying to stay in the profession through the NFL.
If the league goes under, it would be the fourth try and fourth failure for Birmingham. The Magic City has given it a shot in the World Football League (WFL), the United States Football League (USFL) and the World League of American Football (WLAF).
The leagues failed, not the Birmingham teams.
That could be the case for this edition of Birmingham's involvement in professional football.
Updates will be provided once information comes from the AAF or the Iron.
Photo 1: The crowd at Legion Field Sunday was 17,328. Final home game for the Iron.
Photo 2: Birmingham Iron defense about to converge of Atlanta QB Matt Simms.
Photo 3: Birmingham QB Luis Perez drops back to pass in 1st quarter Sunday.
Sportspage photos by Johnny Thornton
SPORTSPAGE ALL PERFORMANCE BASKETBALL TEAMS 2019:
1. Kelly Pickett - Hanceville
2. Toni West - Cold Springs
3. Savanna Derrick - Good Hope
4. Katie Ball - Fairview
1. Camryn Crider - Cold Springs
2. A.K. Eastman - Cullman
3. Miriam Oldacre - West Point
4. Payton Golden - Fairview
1. Elizabeth Hill - Cold Springs
2. Lexi Shadix - West Point
3. Daisy Manasco - Fairview
4. Kirsten Campbell - Holly Pond
1. Mackenzie Carter - West Point
2. Maddie Heatherly - Holly Pond
3. Emma Tafazoli - St. Bernard
4. Cassidy Campbell - Hanceville
1. Aubry Negron - Cold Springs
2. Alexandria Barker - Cullman
3. Elizabeth Miller - Holly Pond
4. Kyler Hembree - West Point
Molly McKelvy - Fairview
Abby Neighbors - Good Hope
Kierra Merriweather - Hanceville
Maddie Yeager - Fairview
A.G. Murphy - Cullman
Olivia Neal - Cullman
Bailey Preiss - Vinemont
1. Cole Maddox - Good Hope
2. Rylan Jones - West Point
3. Jayden Sullins - Cullman
4. Fred Ellis - Hanceville
1. Kolton Sapp - West Point
2. Landon Freeman - Cold Springs
3. Zeke McDonald - Hanceville
4. Luke Yarbrough - Fairview
1. Kyler Chaney - Holly Pond
2. Noah Fendley - Good Hope
3. John Christian Rose - St. Bernard
4. Katch Johnson - Vinemont
1. RJ Evans - Hanceville
2. Tyler Boatright - Holly Pond
3. Romain Ponchon - Hanceville
4. Michael Lowe - Good Hope
1. Adam Hill - Cold Springs
2. Tyler Thompson - West Point
3. Raiden Morgan - Hanceville
4. Kaleb Heatherly - Cullman
Kobe Bowers - West Point
Dow Nichols - Fairview
Noah Bussman - Cullman
Carson Holmes - St. Bernard
Drew Maddox - Good Hope
Ty Bellmon - Hanceville
GIRLS PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
Elizabeth Hill of Cold Springs
VARSITY PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
Cole Maddox of Good Hope
GIRLS COACH OF THE YEAR:
Tammy West of Cold Springs
VARSITY COACH OF THE YEAR:
Drew Adams of Good Hope
GIRLS GAME OF THE YEAR:
Fairview 45, Hanceville 43 in Cullman County semifinal Jan. 24 at Wallace State
VARSITY GAME OF THE YEAR:
Hanceville 70, West Point 67 (OT) in Cullman County semifinal Jan. 25 at Wallace State
NOTE: Players were selected based on performances in front of Sportspage during the 2018-19 AHSAA basketball season.
BIRMINGHAM - A moment that I will never forget prior to the start of the AHSAA girls 2A state championship game Friday morning is a hug between Cold Springs coach Tammy West and point guard Toni West.
Toni just happens to be the youngest daughter for Tammy and is a huge reason why the Lady Eagles are state champions. Her maturity as a sophomore allowed Camryn Crider to go to the wing position and become the state's all-time leader in three-point field goals in a career.
This is a team that grown the past three years with West and Elizabeth Hill, plus the hard play every time out for Crider and seniors, Aubrey Negron and Kinley Campbell.
From not being able to get through Wallace State in the Northwest Regional final the previous three years, the Lady Eagles were able to utilize their talent and punch a ticket to Birmingham for the first time in 10 years.
The fourth state championship under Tammy West at the 2A school in Southwest Cullman County, will be remembered for being the best three-point squad in one season.
Cold Springs broke its record from 2008 by making 340 in the 2018-19 season. Crider is now the leading three-point shooter in AHSAA history with 157 in an well earned five seasons playing varsity basketball.
It was the last time we see Crider on the floor. Crider said earlier in the season, she would bypass a college career to focus on getting involved in the medical field by attending Wallace State after she graduates in May.
Crider was ready to deliver at the start of the championship game with her partner, Elizabeth Hill, struggling.
This team has gone through adversity of injuries to Crider in her career, plus Neely Ellison coming back from ACL surgery.
Toni West and Elizabeth Hill had ankle sprains during the Northwest Regional. They were able to get treatment and respond when they were called upon.
It was great to be a part of this on the 1st day of March, 2019.
To see the community that loves basketball in a very special way like Cold Springs. They were out in full force, cheering for them to fight off a very good and young basketball team that started four sophomores. They will be a team to look for in being the best out of the Northeast region for the next two years.
It was a team effort for Cold Springs. Through the media, Hill, West and Crider get their attention and should for how hard they play and perform. That can also be said for blue collar types like Neely Ellison, Kinley Campbell and Aubrey Negron.
Negron's effort earned her top rebounding honors with a dozen in the game, six on both sides of the floor.
Campbell raised her level this week in the Magic City with quality minutes and huge plays in the semifinal win and then on this day in the state final.
Exhange student Lina Lieckfield will graduate with Crider, Campbell and Negron in May. She will be remembered through the season for her presence and size at 6'1", giving opponents plenty of fits.
In due time, Tammy West will be in the Cullman County Sports Hall of Fame. That will not happen until she reaches the age of 50 to meet eligibility requirements. She has a few years before that happens.
But she and her father, Danny Welborn, share something. Greatness in the game. Both can combine their winning total to over 900 games as Tammy has 600 plus in almost 25 years at Cold Springs and her dad won better than 300 games while at Good Hope for 20 years.
His first taste of success was 40 years ago, a 23-4 record that featured a point guard, who would later become a reporter, sportscaster and a Hall of Famer. That is me.
With young ladies understanding the game and seeing what hard work can do, there is a sure thing, a state championship for girls basketball in Cullman County is well within the grasp of the future.
I have been able to report on five of them in my career. Each has a meaning. This one will and will be talked about for a very long time.
In closing for the Lady Eagles, I use a song from the legendary Frank Sintara. "Here's to the winners."
Congratulations to the 2019 Cold Springs Lady Eagles.
Photo courtesy of the AHSAA
Through the first segment of the AHSAA basketball playoffs, nine local teams worked their way into the championship stage of area tournament play.
That enabled them to punch a ticket into segment two of the format, the sub-regional round.
Five teams prevailed in their respective area as champions, getting the opportunity to play in front of the home fans one final time on the current season.
The winner of the sub-regional, whether it's the road team or the home team, will move on to segment three, the regionals.
Most of the teams in the Sportspage coverage area go to the Northwest Regional at Wallace State. But reclassification for this year and the next, has placed three county schools into the Northeast Regional at Jacksonville State.
Sportspage goes into analysis of the sub-regional matchups.
Girls will play on Monday, varsity games are set for Tuesday. All will tip off at 7:00 as set by the AHSAA.
2A: Vincent (7-17) at Cold Springs (23-6): Area 12 champion Cold Springs landed a state tying record 20 treys in routing Cleveland 92-36 Friday night. The Lady Eagles have won three in a row and play very well at Jesse George Gym in a 7-1 record this season. Getting to the NW Regional has been a common item for Tammy West's team. With a stout 3-point attack and solid scoring from Camryn Crider, Elizabeth Hill and Toni West, Vincent will have to play near perfect in order to stun the No. 5 team from the 2A rankings.
3A: Carbon Hill (18-12) at Holly Pond (14-13): Carbon Hill is aware of visiting Cullman County can be rewarding. A year ago, the Lady Bulldogs stunned Hanceville in winning the area title at Lane Horton Gym. Now the runner-up from Area 10 visits the Area 13 champion Lady Broncos. Holly Pond has improved the win total after not getting too many in 2017-18. Balanced play by Tess Duke, Maddie Heatherly, Kirsten Campbell, Kara Hollis and Elizabeth Miller has been a key for Andrew Kelly's unit.
Carbon Hill fell to Winfield 36-34 in the Area 10 final with Holly Pond overcoming a 30-24 deficit, finishing the Area 13 final on an 18-0 run and a 42-30 triumph against New Hope.
4A: Fairview (17-9) at North Jackson (18-13): Two teams tangle in a rare meeting, with both coming off close encounters. Fairview fell at home to Oneonta in 4A, Area 12 play 40-37, not able to secure a 14-point lead in the 1st half. North Jackson got past DAR 50-47 in the Area 14 championship.
Fairview is not postseason experienced, but is learning from that. Having to get on the bus and head Northeast into Jackson County can be a sign of inspiration. Stepping up their performance level is highly possible for Justin Billings' Lady Aggies, with Payton Golden, Katie Ball, Daisy Manasco, Maddie Yeager and Molly McKelvy capable of delivering.
5A: East Limestone (20-9) at West Point (26-5): East Limestone is much better than a 60-12 loss in the Area 16 title game to Madison Academy indicates. This team the week before won at Athens 52-48 and has quality wins over Lawrence County (TN), Lauderdale County and Tanner. A concern for West Point is to try and slow down sophomore post player Jirah Rogers. Rogers is 6'0" and extremely active in the paint. West Point dominated Area 14 as illustrated in a 88-40 clobbering of Hamilton in the final. Leix Shadix has been on top of her game, along with Mackenzie Carter. Getting Miriam Oldacre back after she missed three games to the flu and elbow injury, gives the team a perimeter weapon. A chance to vault into the Northwest Regional for coach John Welborn is well within the grasp. West Point is 9-1 at Jim Boyd Gym, winners of its last four home games.
6A: Cullman (23-9) at Muscle Shoals (16-10): For Cullman to be successful in a road test Monday, the Lady Bearcats have to contain Muscle Shoals' sophomore Sara Puckett. Puckett delivered 20 of 24 points in the opening half, carrying the Lady Trojans past Athens 64-37 in the Area 15 championship on Friday evening. Puckett is 6'0"and will create challenges in trying to deny her the ball.
Cullman played with an aggressive mind set in staying right with No. 4 Hartselle in the first half Friday, trailing 33-32 at halftime. They overcame a 7-point deficit in the first and a 10-point bulge in the second. Getting outscored 22-11 in the third was the difference in falling to their arch rival 71-58.
A.K. Eastman will need to have numerous touches of the ball, so she can create scoring chances. Eastman was 21 of 21 in two tournament games this week and produces better than 20 points a contest.
Getting others to contribute scoring at times like Olivia Neal, Alexandria Barker and A.G. Murphy will take pressure off Eastman. Freshman Jaden Winfrey played well against Decatur and Hartselle in the area tournament, with other reserves like Regan Quattlebaum, Kortlin Cuellar, Kenslee Borden showing potential of making plays from various locations on the floor.
2A: Sumiton Christian (21-7) at Cold Springs (17-9): From suffering through a losing campaign last year, Cold Springs is back to a good winning pattern. The Eagles utilized playing at Jesse George Gymnasium in taking the 2A, Area 12 title from Southeastern Friday evening. Tim Willoughby's Eagles have been blessed by the talent of Landon Freeman, who transferred to the Eagles in the fall from Good Hope. Maturity has been shown in the likes of Adam Hill, Micah Calvert, Brody Peppers, Mason Harris, Francisco Ayala. The Eagles have a winning percentage of .800 at home this season (8-2). Sumiton Christian will be competitive, but the Eagles are delighted that a trip back to Wallace in February can be accomplished by winning Tuesday.
3A: Lamar County (9-14) at Holly Pond (14-15): Ten consecutive area championships have been something that means a great deal to Holly Pond. The Broncos know how to raise the level of performance in the playoffs. A season of hovering around the .500 mark is not common, but what matters is the Broncos are right on track of going back to the NW Regional for the 3rd straight year. Kyler Chaney has anchored the team with scoring and strong play, getting contributions by Cooper Jones, Issac Ludwig, Devyn Tankersley, Jordan Allbright and Levi Boatright.
Lamar County will make a 2-hour trip from Vernon, determined to end the Broncos' quest for a further advancement into the playoffs.
4A: Good Hope (23-6) at DAR (15-15): Playing on the road should not phase Good Hope. The Raiders have accomplished great feats in playing away from home this season by winning the West Point Christmas Classic, beating Hanceville to clinch the No. 1 seed in the county tournament, winning at Wallace in the county tournament over Fairview and Hanceville and victory at challenging sites like Cold Springs, Holly Pond and Cleveland.
The Cullman County champion took Oneonta to the wire, but fell by a field goal in the Area 12 final. A solid season from Cole Maddox, Drew Maddox, Michael Lowe, Noah Fendley, Eli Phares, Matt Dixon, Dawson Turner and Tanner Malin has been achieved for hard work, execution and good chemistry.
Road teams are not given many chances of winning by so-called experts. Drew Adams' team is ready to defy the odds.
Photo of Cullman's A.K. Eastman (3) vs. Hartselle's Moriah Taylor in 6A, Area 14 final.
Sportspage photo by Johnny Thornton
Like the old cliche, "Time flies when you're having fun," is what can be said of the 2018-19 Alabama High School Athletic Association basketball season.
It started on Election Night of November 6 with the Cullman teams enjoying a visit to the new gymnasium at Arab, spoiling the Arabian Knights' moment of a chance for celebration.
On the 1st of February, the regular season concluded as the West Point teams prevailed on senior night, the Good Hope squads combined for road wins and the Hanceville Lady Bulldogs were too much to contain by Dora in winning down in Walker County.
Now the postseason is here as seven teams covered by Sportspage will hope the home court advantage in area play, carries them into the second stage and much further.
Winning has been accomplished in the regular season by nine teams. Others have seen the mixture of good and bad days.
For those who have soared to great heights, they want to make sure one slip up early in the postseason does not occur. Otherwise, the season enters the memory bank.
Sportspage is analyzing the chances of varsity and girls teams through what they experienced in the regular schedule.
The opportunity for several to move into the regional portion of the playoffs is very strong. But it will take solid efforts, beginning with the area, then trying to nail down a regional berth through a sub-regional assignment from a neighboring area.
Here's an analysis by Sportspage for the team's quest into the 2019 basketball postseason.
Cold Springs - Eagles are 15-9 entering the 2A, Area 12 tournament at home. They went 6-0 in the area and are favorites of claiming the top spot next week. Cleveland was 2nd at 4-2 in the standings and will present a challenge. The winner of Area 12 will face Area 10 in the Sub-Regional. Sumiton Christian and Vincent tied at 5-1 with Vincent winning the coin toss to get home court.
Good Hope - A great season for the Raiders has been compiled with 22 victories, a 7-game winning streak and their first county championship since 2010. The Raiders will have to visit Oneonta for the 4A, Area 12 Tournament. Playing Fairview for the 4th time will not be easy. The Raiders shot by the Aggies 70-51 in the county semis. Oneonta is on the other side of the bracket.
Opposite of Area 12 is Area 14 for the Sub-Region. DAR is the host, but only 14-15 with Randolph 11-12 and North Jackson 10-14. Area 12 is participating in the Northeast Regional at Jacksonville State.
Holly Pond - Broncos have seen ups and downs this year. Going into the 3A, Area 13 Tournament in which they will host, Holly Pond has lost four straight. All games have been close including an 80-77 defeat to West Point February 1.
Brindlee Mountain finished 4-2, but it was New Hope that beat the Broncos in OT at Holly Pond January 18, keeping HP from a perfect area mark. New Hope went 3-3 in area play.
Area 13 will be challenged in the sub-region by Area 10. Oakman won the area with a 5-1 record and is 14-5 entering the playoffs. Winfield has dropped back to 3A and will be a team to contend with, despite having to play the tournament in Walker County.
Hanceville - Momentum needed for the Bulldogs in hosting the 3A, Area 12 Tournament slipped through the grasp of a 71-60 overtime loss at Dora Friday night. Hanceville has lost two of its last three games, with both by double digit margins.
The Bulldogs are the host for the area tournament. Concerns are about their consistency. Hanceville lost four times on the home court in 12 games. The losses were to good squads in Cullman, Cold Springs, Holly Pond and Good Hope.
Susan Moore played Hanceville very tight on January 11 in Area 12 competition. A team that has plenty of skilled players per position, must lock in on consistent execution, or the first season under Stephen Chandler will be short of reaching an ultimate goal.
Area 12 is sanctioned for the Northeast Region. The sub-region round will be matched against Area 9. Midfield is the best team in area play at 6-0, but is 7-14 overall. Fultondale finished 2nd at 4-2 and is 17-5 for the season.
West Point - Another ball club that has seen victory and defeat in a mix. West Point's 80-77 triumph against Holly Pond in the finale was good to stop a 3-game slide. The Warriors are capable of good performances in 32-minute assignments and also endure lapses in critical moments of games.
Now comes the challenge of facing Russellville in the 5A, Area 14 Tournament in Hamilton next week. The Warriors won 70-69 at Russellville January 4, the Golden Tigers got a last second game winner two weeks later at West Point by the score of 87-85. All the hype is ready for the showdown, with the winner to move on to the finals against Hamilton or Lawrence County.
Out of Area 16, East Limestone is the host with Madison County 2nd, Madison Academy in 3rd place. East is 17-6 and had a 5-1 record during the area schedule.
Cullman - A concern for Cullman at the present time is trying to develop consistency on offense, especially with the Bearcats going on the road for the postseason. Cullman suffered tough losses in the final week of regular play at Hartselle and Athens. Both losses were better than 30 points and the offense accounted for 74 points, while allowing the Tigers and Golden Eagles to score a combine 149 points.
The third meeting between Cullman and Decatur is Tuesday in Hartselle as the winner will battle the Tigers next Friday for the 6A, Area 14 championship.
A victory against Decatur gives the Bearcats a sub-regional berth. The problem for the 'Cats is will it be against Columbia or Muscle Shoals, or even Athens from Area 15?
St. Bernard has Falkville in the 1A, Area 13 first round, with the winner to tangle with No. 1 ranked Decatur Heritage on the Eagles' home floor.
Fairview faces Good Hope in Oneonta for 4A, Area 12, while Vinemont is Holly Pond's opponent for the 3A, Area 13 Tournament.
Cold Springs - Postseason play has been a strong suit for the Lady Eagles in recent years. This team has made it a regular part of the tour to play in the Northwest Regional.
Many expect Tammy West's club to be there in mid February.
A 21-6 regular record and 6-0 in 2A, Area 12 is what the Lady Eagles have experienced with the home floor to be a benefit for the area tournament.
Cleveland was 4-2, but was outshot by Cold Springs in both losses. The Lady Panthers are 7-14 and were defeated by a young Good Hope team Friday night.
Altamont had a perfect Area 10 record and will be the area host. Vincent and Sumiton Christian finished 2nd and 3rd in the area. Both will have difficulty to dethrone the Lady Eagles from the playoffs, especially if they have to pay a sub-regional visit to Jesse George Gymnasium.
Fairview - Good things have taken place for this team in 2018-19 when many doubted them. A young team with very limited varsity experience and a new coach have blended together in 16 victories in 25 games and a 5-1 record in 4A, Area 12. The Lady Aggies got the coin toss over Oneonta, avoiding a tournament trip into Blount County.
Coach Justin Billings' Lady Aggies face Good Hope in the area tourney opener, while Oneonta takes on Ashville. A collision course is anticipated between the two for February 7.
From Area 14, DAR and North Jackson finished 3-1. DAR got the coin toss and will await the winner of North Jackson-Randolph for the area title at the end of the week.
Hanceville - With Cassidy Campbell back in the lineup from her ACL injury, the Lady Bulldogs posted a 7-4 record. Without her, they were 7-6. Her presence has allowed Kelly Pickett to maintain a high scoring status. Campbell and Kierra Merriweather are capable to producing double-digit games with the opposition so concerned about Pickett.
Now the Lady Bulldogs deal with Glencoe in the 3A, Area 12 Tournament in Susan Moore. A game that is a toss-up as both split the season series. Glencoe is in the Top 10 of the 3A poll at No. 10 and is eager to keep the Lady Bulldogs from reaching the area final with the probable opponent to be Susan Moore.
Midfield and Locust Fork are the top two teams from Area 9. Midfield is 18-7 going to the postseason with Locust Fork 18-6.
Holly Pond - Going from half a dozen wins last season to a dozen in the second year under Andrew Kelly is a positive for Holly Pond. They challenged Cold Springs and West Point hard, but fell in close margins from the last two weeks of the season.
The Lady Broncos have the 3A, Area 13 Tournament at Felton Easterwood Gym. Holly Pond matches up with Vinemont in the opener, the other game is Brindlee Mountain vs. New Hope.
An area title would allow the Lady Broncos to avoid a possible sub-regional with 27-1 Winfield from Area 10. But Oakman is 14-3 and will do what is possible of taking the area title away from the Lady Pirates next week.
West Point - John Welborn has seen the Lady Warriors prevail 24 times out of 29 decisions, the best record under his guidance. West Point heads to the playoffs hosting the 5A, Area 14 Tournament as a tired ball club.
The Cullman County champion played six games in a span of 11 days from January 21 to February 1. The last three games they had did not include guard Miriam Oldacre. Oldacre was not 100 percent healthy from a virus in the county title game and hurt her elbow late in the fourth period.
West Point is well balanced and has been battled tested in the past four games. The Lady Warriors encounter Russellville in the area semis. Lawrence County and Hamilton meet in the other area game.
The opposite area for sub-regional play is strong with Madison Academy 18-6 and 6-0 in Area 16, followed by East Limestone 18-8, 4-2 and Ardmore 17-9, 3-3.
Winning the area will be a blessing for the Lady Warriors. But they will have to have a solid performance in the sub-region or could miss the Northwest Regional by a mere one game.
Cullman - Winning has been on the rise from the Lady Bearcats' first season under Josh Hembree to his current third year. From 15 to 18 to 22, Cullman is putting together a ball club that has bought into Hembree's philosophy.
But the Lady 'Cats have been unable to roll off a series of quality wins. Hartselle rolled by Cullman 66-41 on January 28 and Athens took them down in its new gym February 1 by the score of 70-55.
Cullman will be a major favorite to defeat Decatur in the 6A, Area 14 Tournament Tuesday and head back to Hartselle next Friday for the area championship.
A loss in the finals would be a probable trip for Hembree's squad to Muscle Shoals or Athens from Area 15. Muscle Shoals will host the area with Athens to play Columbia in the first round. Athens is a small squad, but dangerous in many aspects and would love to play a postseason game in its new building.
St. Bernard meets Lynn in the 4 vs. 5 matchup for 1A, Area 13. The winner is back to Decatur Heritage Tuesday and in a meeting with the regular season champion Lady Eagles.
Good Hope has a game vs. Fairview in 4A, Area 12, Vinemont plays Holly Pond in 3A, Area 13. That's four county games in the area postseason. Fairview was 2-0 vs. Good Hope with Holly Pond winning both games over Vinemont by large margins.
Photo of West Point's Olivia Ball being greeted by her parents, Michelle and Freddie Ball, during senior recognition night February 1 at Jim Boyd Gym.
Sportspage photo by Johnny Thornton
A long and enjoyable week of Cullman County tournament basketball has been sent to the memory banks.
Plenty of story lines were composed from the five divisions that competed in the seven-day affair at Wallace State's Tom Drake Coliseum.
Championships were claimed for the Good Hope Raiders for the first time in 10 years and for the West Point Lady Warriors, ending a 13-year drought of taking home the net and the championship trophy.
One community has a deep passion for basketball. It's West Point High School. The Warriors sent four teams to championship Saturday. A 70-67 loss in overtime Friday by the Warriors to Hanceville prevented a five for five opportunity.
Four of the five championship games were matchups of No. 1 vs. No. 2. The only one that wasn't, took place in the junior varsity with 3 seed West Point getting past 5 seed Vinemont.
Here is a look back at the week of county basketball seen through the eyes of Sportspage.
Varsity fab five:
Cole Maddox - Good Hope, Fred Ellis - Hanceville, Kolton Sapp - West Point, Noah Fendley - Good Hope, Romian Ponchon - Hanceville.
Varsity girls fab five:
Miriam Oldacre - West Point, Lexi Shadix - West Point, Mackenzie Carter - West Point, Elizabeth Hill - Cold Springs, Camryn Crider - Cold Springs, Payton Golden - Fairview.
Junior varsity fab five:
Logan Selby - West Point, Carter Thornton - West Point, Teague Whatley - Vinemont, Tanner Brown - Vinemont, Brodie Malcom - Hanceville.
Junior varsity girls fab five:
Sydney Smith - West Point, Braelee Quinn - West Point, Madison Bruer - Cold Springs, Lacey Rice - Cold Springs, Braylee Stallings - Holly Pond.
Freshmen fab five:
Sam Wheeler - West Point, Cade Simmons - West Point, Parker Martin - Fairview, Bryson Chamness - Fairview, Jayden Laney - West Point.
Adding a title to the family tree:
One well known family that has celebrated winning Cullman County titles since 1990 is the Welborn family. Coach Danny Welborn guided Good Hope to three titles between 1988 to 1993. His daughter, Tammy West, has taken Cold Springs to the top in their division seven times since she started coaching in 1996.
Now coach Welborn's son, John, is a varsity county champion. John handles the West Point Lady Warriors with his squad taking home the crown in a 50-48 victory over Fairview Saturday night.
The Welborn family now claims 11 county championships while the Jones' family from the West Point area has 12 as Randall Jones coached the Lady Warriors to seven championships, his daughter in law Regina (Bagwell) Jones four and his son Randy with one.
West Point Lady Warriors are at the top of Cullman County basketball for the first time since 2006. Good Hope Raiders broke a 9-year drought in winning the title Saturday night against Hanceville. The Raiders had back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010 and now is back at the top of the mountain in county hoops.
Just the facts:
West Point Lady Warriors are the fifth different school in capturing the Cullman County title since the 2012 season. Good Hope was on top of the sport that year, followed by Holly Pond for 2013, 2014 and 2015. Cold Springs broke the Lady Broncos' run in 2016 with Fairview winning back to back championships for 2017 and 2018.
At the same time in varsity ball, Good Hope is the sixth different school with the championship hardware inside its respective campus.
West Point won it in 2012, Fairview in 2013, Cold Springs 2014, Holly Pond 2015, Hanceville 2016, Holly Pond for 2017 and 2018 and Good Hope in 2019.
Father shares title honors with his children:
Michael Oldacre led the Good Hope Lady Raiders to three Cullman County titles. Now retired, Oldacre watched his daughters, Miriam and Micah, help West Point's Lady Warriors soar to the top in their respective division.
Not often does two from the same family make the County All-Tournament team. It happened Saturday evening when Miriam Oldacre and his sister, Micah, got a berth on the All-Tournament team. Miriam inserted her spot with 21 points in the semifinal victory over Cold Springs.
Micah came out shooting well in the final vs. Fairview and finished with 16 points, shooting 83 percent from the floor. Micah was three of four in three-point tries and had 12 points at halftime as West Point led 30-28.
These moments from 2019 tournament will not be forgotten any time soon:
1. Payton Golden's shot as time expires carries Fairview by Hanceville 45-43 in semifinal.
2. Ty Bellmon's 4 straight treys made in 2nd period pulls Hanceville from 20-9 deficit to West Point to 36-34 at the half.
3. Free throws by Tyler Thompson and Kolton Sapp in last 10 seconds lift West Point by Cold Springs 45-42. The Warriors were 1 of 6 prior to the four of four effort in crunch time.
4. Holly Pond Lady Broncos fought back from 21-0 first period deficit and 38-11 disadvantage to Cold Springs at half, outscoring the Lady Eagles 32-17 in the final 16:00 to challenge them, though falling 55-43.
5. Junior varsity upsets, No. 5 Vinemont over No. 1 Fairview 43-34, No. 7 Hanceville stuns No. 2 Good Hope 47-40.
6. Miriam Oldacre and Lexi Shadix scoring 21 points each in West Point's 68-58 semifinal win against Cold Springs. One night later, Cole Maddox and Noah Fendley netted 21 apiece for Good Hope in defeating Fairview 70-51.
7. Good Hope's 65-47 win over Hanceville in the final was the first time the Bulldogs had lost away from Lane Horton Gymnasium in 13 games.
8. Three-point shots at the buzzer by Holly Pond's Kyler Chaney and Fairview's Payton Golden not enough for victory. Holly Pond lost to Fairview 57-56 in the quarterfinals, Fairview Lady Aggies came up short to West Point 50-48.
9. West Point's JV Lady Warriors with dynamic duo of Sydney Smith scoring 20, Braelee Quinn 16 in 53-43 win in the finals over Cold Springs. They accounted for 67 percent of the scoring. Both were named to the All-Tournament team.
10. First-year coaches Justin Billings of Fairview Lady Aggies and Stephen Chandler of Hanceville Bulldogs getting their teams to the county championship game.
Lady Eagles 20-6, 3-3 county, 6-0 area
Eagles 14-8, 2-4 county, 6-0 area
Lady Bearcats 22-6, 2-1 area
Bearcats 18-9, 1-2 area
Lady Aggies 15-8, 5-1 county, 5-1 area
Aggies 6-14, 3-3 county, 1-5 area
Lady Raiders 3-17, 1-5 county, 1-5 area
Raiders 20-5, 6-0 county, 4-2 area
Lady Bulldogs 13-9, 4-2 county, 3-3 area
Bulldogs 20-5, 4-2 county, 6-0 area
Lady Broncos 10-12, 2-4 county, 6-0 area
Broncos 12-10, 3-3 county, 5-1 area
Lady Saints 3-15, 0-5 area
Saints 8-10, 2-3 area
Lady Eagles 5-21, 0-6 county, 1-5 area
Eagles 5-20, 0-6 county, 0-6 area
Lady Warriors 22-4, 6-0 county, 6-0 area
Warriors 11-14, 3-3 county, 2-4 area
Final week of regular season:
Monday: West Point at Jasper, Cold Springs at Vinemont
Tuesday: Cullman at Hartselle, Meek at St. Bernard, Danville at Good Hope, Arab at Holly Pond, Fairview at Mortimer Jordan.
Thursday: West Point at Fairview, Vinemont at Good Hope, Holly Pond at Randolph, Hanceville at Locust Fork.
Friday: Holly Pond at West Point, Good Hope at Cleveland, Locust Fork at Cold Springs, Cullman at Athens, Hanceville at Dora.
Photo 1: Cold Springs' Neely Ellison cheering for the Lady Eagles' JV in title game.
Photo 2: WKUL broadcasters Rich Jesse (L), Johnny Thornton and colleague Pete Kirby during the varsity girls title game Saturday night between West Point & Fairview.
Photo 3: Tom Drake Coliseum scoreboard in the West Point-Vinemont JV final.
Photo 4: Opening tip of the West Point vs. Fairview freshmen championship game.
Sportspage photos by Johnny Thornton and Kim Kanaday.
HANCEVILLE - For the basketball season, the third week of January is what many look forward to.
The Cullman County basketball tournament.
The local sports spectacular is again at the best venue it can be, Wallace State's Tom Drake Coliseum.
From Monday through Saturday, it will be hard fought competition.
Sportspage is providing analysis on the varsity divisions.
From the Sportspage analysis, basketball in 2018-19 has seen a lot of good results. Teams have peaked at certain times. It's been the result of hard work and taking it into a game situation where they hit center stage this week.
Playing at the Coliseum raises the level of the tournament, only other county nearby that can experience a similar situation is the Marshall County Tournament at Snead State Community College. Plunkett-Wallace Gymnasium has seen an upgrade that brings plenty of inspiration for one week of county tournament excitement.
Parity has been seen in varsity play for this season. From analysis, half a dozen teams have the potential to put together three good nights of hoops and take home the huge hardware on the evening of January 26.
This is how Sportspage will analyze the 2019 Cullman County Varsity Tournament:
GOOD HOPE: # 1 seed
Raiders have variety of weapons with Cole Maddox and Drew Maddox the primary people. Hard efforts from Michael Lowe, Noah Fendley, Zach Phares and Matt Dixon help. So does a couple of youngsters in freshman Tanner Malin and sophomore Dawson Turner.
Good Hope is tempo, create from defense by forcing a quicker pace, getting the ball down the floor and go for drives to the hoop, or three-point shots.
Concern for Drew Adams' unit is consistency on offense, unforced mistakes and staying out of foul trouble to maintain proper rotation.
Good Hope has not been a 1 seed in some time. Can Raiders deal with everyone looking at them for being at the top of the mountain going in?
HANCEVILLE: # 2 seed
Bulldogs are one of several that is capable of coming out to be the best. Experience leads Hanceville. First-year coach Stephen Chandler has been around these guys when he was an assistant and also coached them in recent seasons in the JV.
Winning on a big stage has been something Fred Ellis, RJ Evans, Raiden Morgan and Zeke McDonald endured last season. Depth is provided by Damien Johnson and Romeal Simmons, plus newcomers in Ty Bellmon and Romain Ponchon from the backcourt to sprinting down the floor in fast break opportunities.
What Hanceville has to avoid is sloppy ball handling and play hard with a big lead, not pulling off the throttle. Good Hope took advantage of late game mistakes January 8 and soared above them to take the top seed.
Playing away from Lane Horton Gym will help. Hanceville has not lost a game as a road team so far this season in nine decisions.
WEST POINT: # 3 seed
Tough start for the Warriors has been re-routed with better performance and victories. A five-game losing streak got stopped right before Christmas. The Warriors have won six of their last eight games, including a 70-69 thriller at Russellville.
Kolton Sapp provides the scoring punch from deep range. Rylan Jones is steady at 6'4" for ball handling, scoring at times, plus his play in rebounding and defense. But Jones had his kneecap to pop out last Friday in a loss at the buzzer on the home floor to Russellville. His status for the quarterfinal game is questionable
Kobe Bowers and Tyler White have been on a steady dose of outside weapons, then the effects of Aubry Cleghorn and Tyler Thompson in the post.
Playing smooth is the quest for the Warriors as they were able to come out of a 3-way tie for the draw with Fairview and Holly Pond as the 3 seed, not having to be in the same bracket with Good Hope. But Randy Jones' Warriors still have potential road blocks in their side of the bracket.
Playing the 2nd half without Jones against Russellville served well for the Warriors overcoming a 10-point deficit to start the 4th quarter and take the game down to the final play of the evening.
FAIRVIEW: # 4 seed
New coach David Martin has put the Aggies on the floor of playing hard. The Aggies have fought through some injuries and head to the tournament with confidence.
Defeating Holly Pond on Tuesday has the Aggies understanding the process. Fairview was mired through a slump. The Aggies will utilize balance in the play of Luke Yarbrough, Dow Nichols, Austin Jackson, Zane Miller, Zane Miller, Conner Tipton and Sawyer Daniel.
The Aggies will need another game of balance in execution from offense, prevent easy opportunities for the opponent and take the momentum from the Holly Pond victory, knowing the Broncos will want to settle the score on the 1st day of the tournament.
HOLLY POND: # 5 seed
Winning is something the Broncos have seen for a good stretch in recent years. They are the defending county champion. Kyler Chaney has been as productive as any varsity player in the county, night in, night out.
He plays with determination of not being denied, no matter if he has the ball or defending his basket.
Tyler Boatright, plus Cooper Jones, Garrett Rowell and Devyn Tankersley have followed his lead and the Broncos have gone 8-3 in their last 11 games.
A loss on Tuesday to Fairview can serve a purpose for Mitch Morris' Broncos with the opportunity to rewrite a few items from the contest. Playing at a neutral site will fuel the intense drama of which team from the East side of the county, will head on to a semifinal encounter with top seed Good Hope.
COLD SPRINGS: # 6 seed
Certainly the 6th seed is not the makeup of the Cold Springs Eagles. The Eagles have knocked off Hanceville, Fairview and Holly Pond. The addition of Landon Freeman provides the Eagles a scoring threat every time he touches the ball. Adam Hill works hard in the post. The Eagles need to display consistency in shooting from different locations of the floor and cut down on turnovers.
They play a control brand of basketball and with 14 victories going into the tournament, Tim Willoughby has seen his Eagles soar again, after suffering through a challenging 2017-18 season.
VINEMONT: #7 seed
With new coach Preston Boyd, the Eagles are still dealing with an uphill battle. A young team that lost guard Jack Hill before the season to a torn ACL was not good news.
Katch Johnson is a weapon that can deliver from long range and attack the defense with short range effectiveness. But having plenty of scoring punch to go with Johnson is an item Boyd is working on and will for the rest of the season.
Vinemont can't let the opposition get into a scoring run, something that has been a part of the picture for Boyd's first season as a varsity coach.
Up-tempo teams have went right at Vinemont in recent games. The Eagles must start well in order to stay with No. 2 Hanceville and try to upset the extremely-talented Bulldogs.
WEST POINT: # 1 seed
Experience in different positions is a boost to the Lady Warriors' success this season. But losing PG Brooke Brownfield and F Olivia Ball to ACL injuries, has created a change in the personnel.
Molly Pendley moved into Ball's starting position, while the ball handling has been under the direction of Micah Oldacre. Her sister Miriam, plus Lexi Shadix and Mackenzie Carter, key the offense. Youngsters like Sydney Smith, Sheridan Bowers and Maci Hamby provide depth to this unit that has not lost to a county school all season.
Having a game with a strong Deshler team at Wallace on Monday will allow the Lady Warriors to get their game plan set for a Thursday semifinal. The Monday game will not throw the timing of John Welborn's squad off. If they didn't play ojn MLK Day, the Lady Warriors would not be on the floor for a game situation in six days.
FAIRVIEW: # 2 seed
Justin Billings has stepped into directing the Lady Aggies for the first season with good results. An early season victory against Cold Springs and a win vs. Hanceville vaulted the Lady Aggies near the top.
Fairview came into 2018-19 with limited playing experience. Payton Golden was the lone one back from last season's county championship unit.
The rest of the team plays hard and is growing in varsity experience every time out. Katie Ball, Daisy Manasco, Isabella McGukin, Maddie Yeager and Molly McKelvy deliver in different phases of the game.
Quality non-county wins in recent weeks over Brewer and Oneonta allows the team to go into the county with spirit and belief. A close win last Tuesday against Holly Pond sends a message, they are in business to win by keeping the battle close when the game enters crunch time.
Good play in the backcourt and shooting well from the foul line will be items the Lady Aggies seek to utilize in the quest of working their through their side of the bracket to a championship appearance for the rookie coach.
HANCEVILLE: # 3 seed
Good fortunes ride on the shoulders of the Lady Bulldogs, now that Cassidy Campbell has returned from torn ligaments last summer.
That gives the Lady Bulldogs another weapon to take plenty of pressure off PG Kelly Pickett. Pickett has been seeing plenty of double teams and box and one defense on her in recent weeks.
Pickett still has ability to split defenders, drive to the basket, score, or head to the foul line. Pickett was 9 of 11 at the stripe in a recent upset of No. 8 Glencoe in 3A, Area 12 play.
Supporting these two are Kierra Merriweather, Malia Howell, plus good play from youngsters Jessica Thompson and Victoria Stanley in shooting the long ball.
Coach Christina Watson must have her team cut down on unforced mistakes on offense and keep opponents from displaying spurts that forces the Lady Bulldogs to play catch up ball.
COLD SPRINGS: # 4 seed
They are seeded fourth in this year's county tournament. Many do believe they can and will make a statement in the event. Their strength is consistency from the three-point area, led by Camryn Crider, with help from Toni West and Elizabeth Hill. West is very mature in her sophomore season at point guard, which allows Crider to roam the corners and set up her shooting stroke.
Hill is a challenge for her ability to score from the perimeter and good skills on drives to the hoop 15 feet away.
Neely Ellison is back after ACL surgery, missing the second half of last season. Kinley Campbell provides the team depth from the wing and on defense, plus the presence of 6'1" Lina Liekfield can force teams to change their shots in the paint and try to go to war with her in the art of rebounding.
Cold Springs knows the value of playing at the Coliseum, having wins against Lauderdale County December 21 and Phillips January 5.
This is familiar territory for Tammy West's team. A one step at a time approach is how the Lady Eagles see it in the opportunity of returning to the championship round.
HOLLY POND: # 5 seed
Progress has been witnessed for the Lady Broncos in their second season under Andrew Kelly. Experience is more displayed this season with the results of an improved win total and a competitive attitude.
Balance carries the Lady Broncos while operating on offense with Kirsten Campbell, Kara Hollis, Maddie Heatherly, Tess Duke and Elizabeth Miller. Campbell attacks from the top, Heatherly and Miller work in side while Hollis and Duke provide scoring from the outside.
Fairview saw what Holly Pond can do last week in almost upsetting the Lady Aggies at Joe Shults Gym. Holly Pond has been competitive with the likes of Hanceville, Cold Springs and has a pair of victories over Good Hope.
Taking care of the opposition in 3A, Area 13 motivates the Lady Broncos in showing potential of reaching the final four, while in the same bracket with Cold Springs and West Point.
GOOD HOPE: # 6 seed
Seeing a bulk of the talent leave by graduation, Good Hope has done what it can to keep the head above the water. Limited starting and game experience has been the story for the squad this year.
Coach Amanda Swann has good floor leader in Savanna Derrick, while her sister Rudi, works the # 2 guard position. Young on the front line and lack of depth is the trial and tribulation for the Lady Raiders.
Avoiding a slow start and having very few miscues on offense, plus getting back and defending the basket will be keys for the Lady Raiders in their quest to upset No. 3 Hanceville in the quarterfinal round.
VINEMONT: # 7 seed
First-year coach James Brown has personnel with game experience. But inconsistency has slowed the process in seeking to raise the number of victories from very few in recent seasons.
Bailey Priess sparks the offense from the point guard slot, Sadie Stanley can deliver from the perimeter, Kanasta Daniel and Madysen Hacker work hard in the low post.
Getting shots to fall with the depth perception of Tom Drake Coliseum will be something the Lady Eagles will have to display once tip off begins with a Fairview team that will try to create tempo against them from pressure defense and transition.
Trying to prevent scoring lapses and multiple turnovers will determine the fate of the Lady Eagles, seeking a victory vs. a county opponent for the first time this season.
Fairview vs. Vinemont 6:45 p.m. (G)
Fairview vs. Holly Pond 8:00 p.m.
Hanceville vs. Good Hope 6:15 p.m. (G)
West Point vs. Cold Springs 7:30 p.m.
Cold Springs vs. Holly Pond 6:15 p.m. (G)
Hanceville vs. Vinemont 7:30 p.m.
West Point vs. Cold Springs or Holly Pond 6:15 p.m. (G) (SF)
Fairview or Vinemont vs. Hanceville or Good Hope 7:30 p.m. (G) (SF)
Good Hope vs. Fairview or Holly Pond 6:15 p.m. (SF)
West Point or Cold Springs vs. Hanceville or Vinemont 7:30 p.m. (SF)
Championship (G) 5:30 p.m.
Championship 7:00 p.m.
All games will be carried live on WKUL-FM (92.1) and the WKUL app.
Admission to the tournament is $6.00 per day.
Sportspage file photo of Cold Springs vs. West Point in 2018 girls semifinal.
Photo by Johnny Thornton
It's the stretch run for local high school basketball.
The seven teams in the Cullman County school system will be looking to next week when the county tournament convenes at Wallace State's Tom Drake Coliseum.
The pairings are set for the sports spectacular that occurs regularly during the third week of January.
All teams will look to this week as a chance to tune up from all aspects in quest of to be the best on the local hardwood for 2019.
Beside focusing on the county, the locals are locked in with area tournament competition. That is their quest when postseason play begins the week of February 4-9 with area tournament games.
The area champion and runner-up in all classes will head to the Sub Regional on February 11 for girls and 12th for varsity. Regional tournament will be February 14-20 with the Northwest at Wallace State and the Northeast to be played at Jacksonville State University.
As far as the area standings are concerned, the Cold Springs Lady Eagles and Eagles have clinched home court for 2A, Area 12. Both are 6-0, finishing area play by winning at West End in Walnut Grove this past Friday.
Holly Pond Broncos and Lady Broncos have 4-0 records in 3A, Area 13. A win by the pair at Vinemont Thursday will send them into the postseason as area hosts.
Fairview Lady Aggies and the Oneonta Lady Redskins have completed 4A, Area 12 games and are 5-1. Both split the series with Fairview upsetting Oneonta last Tuesday at home 66-45. A coin flip will be determined to see who will get the opportunity of hosting the area tournament.
Hanceville Bulldogs need to win Friday in Blountsville to claim the regular season crown in 3A, Area 12. Hanceville is 5-0 after a hard fought 71-53 victory over Susan Moore January 11. J.B. Pennington stayed on the heels by getting past Glencoe 62-59. The Tigers have a 4-1 record in the area.
West Point Lady Warriors buried the Hamilton Lady Aggies with 20 field goals from three-point range last Friday, tying a state record. West Point won 82-42 to go 4-0 in 5A, Area 14.
A win Monday night for the Lady Warriors in Moulton against Lawrence County will eliminate everyone else from contending for the regular season area title.
These are the squads in the Sportspage coverage area that are in position of hosting the first round of the playoff segment, area tournament competition.
Lady Eagles 18-5, 3-3 county, 6-0 area
Eagles 14-7, 2-4 county, 6-0 area
Lady Bearcats 17-6, 0-1 area
Bearcats 15-7, 0-1 area
Lady Aggies 12-7, 5-1 county, 5-1 area
Aggies 4-13, 3-3 county, 1-5 area
Lady Raiders 2-14, 1-5 county, 0-5 area
Raiders 15-5, 6-0 county, 3-2 area
Lady Bulldogs 10-8, 4-2 county, 2-3 area
Bulldogs 16-4, 4-2 county, 5-0 area
Lady Broncos 9-10, 2-4 county, 4-0 area
Broncos 11-8, 3-3 county, 4-0 area
Lady Saints 2-14, 0-5 area
Saints 8-6, 2-3 area
Lady Eagles 4-17, 0-6 county, 1-4 area
Eagles 4-17, 0-6 county, 0-4 area
Lady Warriors 17-3, 6-0 county, 4-0 area
Warriors 9-11, 3-3 county, 1-3 area
RECAP OF EXCITEMENT FROM WEEK OF JANUARY 8-11:
Cullman Bearcats 79-77 win over Athens in 2 OT.
Good Hope Raiders edge Hanceville 60-55 to claim No. 1 seed for county tournament.
Fairview Lady Aggies upset Oneonta in 4A, Area 12 play.
St. Bernard Saints win at Falkville to go 8-5 on season.
Hanceville Bulldogs post back to back wins against schools from Blount County Jan. 10-11.
West Point Lady Warriors nail 20 treys against Hamilton, go 4-0 in 5A, Area 14.
WILL NOT PLAY IN THE MARTIN LUTHER KING CLASSIC:
HANCEVILLE - Fairview Lady Aggies were scheduled to play Deshler in the Martin Luther King Classic January 21 at Tom Drake Coliseum.
But coach Justin Billings told Sportspage at the draw of the Cullman County Tournament, the Lady Aggies will bypass that assignment, due to playing Monday evening vs. Vinemont in round one of the county tournament.
There has been no report on if a replacement has been found to play Deshler, or the Classic will have one less game on the schedule.
THIS WEEK ON THE HARDWOOD (January 14-19):
Cleveland at Good Hope (HC)
West Point at Lawrence Co
West End at Vinemont
Southeastern at St. Bernard
Cullman at Decatur
Holly Pond at Fairview
Hanceville at Vinemont
St. Bernard at Lynn
Hartselle at West Point
Arab at Cullman
Good Hope at Cold Springs
Holly Pond at Vinemont
Russellville at West Point (WKUL-FM)
Ashville at Good Hope
Cullman at Jasper
New Hope at Holly Pond
Hanceville at J.B. Pennington
Photo of opening tip between Good Hope (red) and Fairview January 3 at Fairview.
Sportspage photo by Johnny Thornton