Wednesday inside BJCC, the Cullman Bearcats defeated the Park Crossing Thunderbirds to advance to the 6A state championship for the first time in school history. They used forty-five second-half points to fly past the Thunderbirds and cause more “chaos” to this year’s playoffs.
Despite missing their first few looks to open the game, the Bearcats started by draining several threes on their way to an early lead. Combine that with a 10-0, and Cullman was up 13-6 midway through the first quarter. Park Crossing was able to battle back to make it 15-10 at the end of the period. Tucker Cagle sparked the Bearcat offense with 7 points in the first quarter.
The threes continued to rain as Tucker Gambrill hit back to back treys to extend the lead to 21-13, but then Park Crossing went on an 8-0 to tie things at 21 all with a few minutes left in the quarter. Moments later, the Thunderbirds took their first lead since the opening minutes to go up 24-23. Max Gambrill was able to get an And-1 to put the Cats back on top 26-24 heading into the half.
Once the third quarter started, if you blinked you likely missed a Cullman basket because they exploded in the period starting on a 17-2 to blow the game open 43-26. During that stretch, Cullman had six different contributors, but none more critical than Max Gambrill. He scored 9 points in the quarter, with his last being a slamdunk that sent the arena into a frenzy. The Bearcats were up 52-35 with only 8 minutes to go.
Cullman extended their lead to start the fourth with a couple of big baskets by Garrison Sharpe, but then went on a 12-1 run to cut the Bearcat lead to thirteen with 4:45 to play. Only two goals would be made from that point, and the rest came down to free throws. Sharpe would go 6/6 during that stretch as the team was 10/12. Park Crossing went 5 for 8 and couldn’t get closer than eleven as Cullman went on to win 71-55 to advance to their first-ever state championship game.
Sharpe finished with a game-high 20 points to go along with five assists. Tucker Cagle added 14 points and six boards while Tucker Gambrill chipped in 13. Max Gambrill rounded out the double-digit scoring for Cullman with 12 points.
Cullman head coach “Stu” Studeman had this to say on the biggest win in school history, “We always tell our guys we’re not coming to take part, we’re coming to take over, and that’s exactly what our guys did. I’ve seen teams come onto that stage and crumble and I’m super proud of how we came out and were who we are.”
“We have a lot of film to watch tonight and tomorrow,” added Coach Stu. “We’re going to get to work and come up with our game plan. We can’t wait.
Cullman (28-3) advances to take on the Huffman Vikings(29-6), who have won their last three games by a combined 9 points, with two of those wins coming in overtime. Tip-off is a 2:15 Saturday afternoon back at the BJCC.