Feb. 8—CULLMAN — For the third year in a row, Hartselle and Cullman met for the Class 6A, Area 14 championship, and for the third year in a row, Cullman came out on top.
Cullman defeated Hartselle 54-42 Wednesday night to win the area crown.
"Tonight was about lack of execution," said Hartselle head coach Faron Key. "We didn't execute well on either side of the ball, and that's what it came down to."
Hartselle's offensive struggles continued as the Tigers were held below 45 points for the third game in a row.
"We got behind and had to start shooting some up, but overall I thought we had some decent shots that just didn't go in," said Key. "Some go and some don't."
Hartselle fell behind 15-8 after the first quarter and trailed 28-22 at halftime. The Tigers cut Cullman's lead to three points in the third quarter, but that was as close as they got. Cullman pushed its lead back to nine by the end of the quarter.
Rebounding also plagued the Tigers, particularly in the second and third quarters, as Cullman grabbed offensive boards for second-chance points.
"They had guards going in and getting rebounds and whipping their matchups," Key said. "We had some guys trying to leak out and not paying attention, and that helped them out."
Rylan Smothers led Hartselle with 18 points, while Ty Odom added 14. Brodie Bannister and Sam Durskin each had 11 for Cullman.
With Hartselle's loss, the Tigers will have to travel to take on Class 6A, No. 1 and defending state champion Buckhorn on Saturday in the subregional round.
"There's not a lot of teams that have to play their bitter rival in the area finals and then have to turn around and play the No. 1 team. This is the second year we've had to do it, so it's important to get our minds right," Key said. "There's not a lot of teams that can hang with Buckhorn, so we're going to have to come in with a competitive mindset and try to force good things to go our way."
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