Cullman Basketball Complex Director Branch Whitlock was full of pride Sunday evening following completion of the men's summer basketball league.
Eight weeks of competitive hoops with two weeks of postseason play is now in the record books.
The facility that opened last September, has made tremendous stride, growing with 14 teams for the summer league, after having a dozen and eight in two other sessions.
In overseeing the league, Whitlock was able to endure of six hotly contested games on championship Sunday, featuring several upsets, a buzzer beater and one that had to be decided in double overtime:
Game 1: #6 Arab Toon Squad 69, #2 Nothing But Nets 63.
Game 2: #5 Blue 53, #4 Gray 51
Game 3: #3 Hayden Legends 65, #9 Rampage 64
Game 4: #1 Cullman GNC 62, #5 Blue 60 (2 OT) (Semifinal)
Game 5: # 3 Hayden Legends 61, # 6 Arab Toon Squad 53 (Semifinal)
Game 6: #3 Hayden Legends 58, #1 Cullman GNC 44.
FLASH NOTES: Upsets got the day going with a near upset in game three. Rampage led the Legends 64-63 with 0:06 when they had a chance to extend their lead from the foul line. But they missed and the Legends went down court as an 18-foot jumper from Collin Chappell with 0:02 left, sent them on to the semifinals.
The Ramage fielded the youngest squad of all in the league with recent grads Bryson Fletcher and Cameron Guthrie of Fairview, Colby Sullins of West Point, 2017 grad Dawson Foust of Holly Pond, 2016 Fairview grad Austin Fletcher.
This game had six lead changes in the final 2:28, with two baskets by the Rampage coming on shots from Bryson Fletcher, with assists by his brother Austin.
Top seed Cullman GNC had to overcome a 10-point second half deficit to upset minded Blue in the game's final 7:30. GNC went up 56-53, but missed a free throw at 0:16, allowing Blue a chance to tie. Team Blue responded with a three with two seconds left to create extra play in the semifinal.
It came down to GNC breaking the tie with 57 seconds left on free throws from Andre Tatum. The Blue had a couple of chances to take the lead, but were unable to connect from long distance and were ousted in a grueling contest.
The Legends led the Toon Squad 31-24 at the half and raised the margin to 42-31 early in the second stanza. But the Toon Squad stood its ground and narrowed the lead to 50-46 with 1:32 remaining,
Clutch free throw shooting enabled the Legends to gain victory as they were nine of 10 in the final 1:26, hitting six in a row. They were able to go from four up to the final margin of eight, led by the Chappell brothers, Collin and Christian.
Talent on display:
Cullman's men summer league consisted of personnel that recently graduated from high school, several that are playing collegiate hoops and others in the late 20s and early to mid 30s, who still enjoy being on the hardwood.
Without any question, the most notable to play in the league was Lawson Schaffer, the current Alabama player and former Cullman standout.
Unfortunately for Schaffer and his Nothing But Nets teammates Xavier Malcom of Walace State, former Cold Springs shooter Gary Carner, recent Good Hope graduate Issac McDonald, had a scoring lapse in the second half as a 35-33 game with the Toon Squad at halftime, became a 65-49 lead for the Toon Squad with 4:00 to go.
Schaffer, Malcom and company went on a late surge, but ran out of time and the No. 2 seed was done for the tournament.
A player Sportspage recognized from Team Blue was former Vinemont shooter Garrett Boland. He displayed an outside stroke in helping the No. 5 seed take the top seed GNC into double overtime.
The Gray lineup consisted of ex Cullman Bearcats Dylan Finch, Lane Robertson, Fletcherf Reeling and Gage Goodwin. All had been on recent teams for coach Bobby Meyer that made a couple of runs into the Northwest Regional, along with Schaffer.
Tatum for GNC is headed to Georgia Southwestern University. Tatum was in Huntsville Saturday for a Pro Am game in the Run N Ref Sports Showcase at Columbia High School, scoring 29 points for Team Cullman in a 102-93 loss to the Legends from Huntsville.
Fifty-seven percent of the champion Hayden Legends were members of the Chappell family. Brothers Collin and Christian, plus Bret and Logan. Also helping the No. 3 seed to the title were Chris Martin, Christian Baker and Michael Calvert.
Schaffer working hard in the offseason:
Lawson Schaffer has spent the summer focusing on different phases of the game, from conditioning to continuing on the floor work.
Playing in the Cullman men's summer league, plus taking part in the Pro Am Showcase, Schaffer is focusing on being a distributing guard, besides a scoring guard.
"Everybody on the team can score," Schaffer said. "I am doing what I can to put them in a role in trying to score. That is something I have been working on for the summer."
Schaffer and his Alabama teammates admired the moment of reaching the NCAA Tournament, getting to the 2nd round before being shot out by eventual national champion Villanova.
Even though the team lost freshman Colin Sexton, Alabama is solid in experience in 2018-19 to make a run at contending with the elites of the SEC such as Kentucky, Florida, Arkansas, Mississippi State, Auburn and Texas A&M.
Cullman Basketball Complex:
The facility is located on U.S. Highway 31 South, just outside the Cullman city limits and into the Phelan area.
Whitlock took over operating the facility last September. The complex consists of men's league play, plus individual workouts coordinated by Whitlock.
Whitlock told Sportspage Sunday night that he will be working with 30 individuals for this week.
The complex was previously a hydraulic shop and a cheerleading academy.
To find out more on the Cullman Basketball Complex, contact Whitlock at his cell phone 256-590-6994.
Photo 1: Cullman summer men's champion, the Hayden Legends.
Photo 2: Rampage players Cameron Guthrie, Colby Sullins and Dawson Foust (L-R) take a break during quarterfinal game with the Hayden Legends.
Photo 3: Nothing But Nets' Lawson Schaffer tries to get away from Toon Squad defense.
Sportspage photos by Johnny Thornton