Lady Tigers rout Cullman to win area championship
Coach Amber Deline came into this season not knowing how her first team at Hartselle would perform. The team entered the season losing almost 75 percent of its scoring and rebounding to graduation.
“We really didn’t know what we were going to be this year when we started,” Deline said. “We lost a lot of scoring and didn’t know how we would replace it.”
Her team exceeded expectations as they won the 6A Area 14 tournament with a dominating second-half performance in their 56-35 win over Cullman.
“What has been great about our team is that we have had several players step up and help lead us in this scoring this year behind Gracie Hill and Mary Frances Itsede,” Deline said. “This team has become better than we could have ever imagined.”
The Lady Tigers led 10-7 after the first quarter and took a 23-17 lead into halftime. Hartselle’s largest lead of the first half was 16-9 with 3:42 left in the second quarter. However, Cullman went on a 7-0 run to tie the game at 16-16 with 2:50 remaining in the first half. The Lady Tigers closed the first half on a 7-1 run to lead by six at the break.
Hartselle continued their dominating run to start the third quarter, extending it to a 13-4 run and a 29-20 run with 3:50 left in the third quarter. After Cullman cut the lead to nine, the Lady Tigers went on an 8-0 run to take a 37-20 lead into the final quarter. The Hartselle defense held the Lady Bearcats to three points in the third quarter.
The Lady Tigers extended their lead to 44-22 with 6:15 remaining. Hartselle went on a 28-6 run since the Bearcats tied the game in the second quarter.
“We made the shots that we had help build the lead,” Deline added. “But I believe our defense, who doesn’t always get the credit they deserve, did a tremendous job shutting the Lady Bearcats offense down.”
Cullman cut the Lady Tigers’ lead to 44-30 with an 8-0 run over the next 1:13 of the quarter. Hartselle responded with a 12-5 run to close the game and secure the area championship 56-35.
Sophomore Gracie Hill finished with 20 points and six rebounds to lead Hartselle. She hit a team-high five three-pointers. Anna Hampton Burroughs added 16 points, four rebounds, four assists and four steals. Mary Frances Itsede added nine points and nine rebounds, while Karliegh Shipley added five points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals.
The Hartselle defense held Cullman’s leading scorer, Ava McSwain, to 11 points.
“Emma Roden has done a tremendous job guarding teams leading scorers this season,” Deline said. “She has worked hard against Cullman and Ava, who is a tremendous scorer for the Bearcats.”
Hartselle heads into sub-regional play with a home game against No. 2 Mortimer Jordan. The two teams played earlier this season, with the Lady Blue Devils coming away with a 54-49 win. The Lady Tigers were 2-2 after that game, have gone 20-5 since then, and only have one loss since Jan. 1.