By ZACH BIRDSONG
After a first half that was closer than many expected, Blackman ran away with the contest in the second half, capturing a 74-40 home win over Tullahoma in the Region 4-AAA Tournament on Saturday.
With 3:11 left in the first half, Ben Fulton knocked down a pair of free throws for the Wildcats as they cut the score to 20-19. However, the Blaze closed out the second quarter on a 9-0 run and carried that momentum into the second half, where they outscored Tullahoma 45-21 in the final two quarters.
The loss ended the season for the Wildcats, who finished the year with a 15-17 overall record, making the region tournament for the first time since 2013. Blackman upped its record to 29-0 and was scheduled to face Oakland on Tuesday night, in the Region 4-AAA Semifinals. As of press time, the result of that game was unavailable.
On Saturday, the Blaze jumped out to a 7-2 lead, but Tullahoma kept fight back, as Fulton knocked down a shot to close it to a 12-8 contest with 46 seconds left in the period. Trent Gibson added a buzzer-beater for Blackman, making the score 14-8 at the end of the first period.
Nic Barstad opened the second quarter with a 3-pointer for Tullahoma, closing the gap to 14-11. Race Marin added a basket of his own, while Matthew Ross scored to make the score 17-15 with 4:51 remaining in the first half.
After Jalen Page added a free throw for Blackman, Barstad hit a shot as the Wildcats cut the score to 18-17. Just seconds later though, Nathan Nelson knocked down a shot for Blackman, padding his team’s lead to 20-17.
Fulton was fouled at the other end of the floor and connected on a pair of free throws, cutting Tullahoma’s deficit to 20-19.
Brandon Thomas added back-to-back baskets for the Blaze, while Jordan Burchfield connected on a 3-pointer, before Gibson added a last-second tip-back to give Blackman a 29-19 advantage.
The Blaze got the 3-ball rolling in the second half, connecting on four opportunities in the first four minutes of play in the third quarter.
Tullahoma’s offense couldn’t keep up, only putting up five points in the third period. Fulton hit a 3 of his own for the Wildcats, while Barstad added a free throw as their team trailed 54-24 heading into the final period of play.
Barstad went on to add 10 points in the fourth quarter for Tullahoma, including burying a pair of 3-pointers. Sam Brock added two 3s of his own for the Wildcats. However, Blackman still controlled the final period of play, notching the 74-40 victory.
The Wildcats were led by Barstad in scoring on the night after the senior guard put up 19 points. Fulton also finished with double figures, totaling 11 points. Brock finished with six points on the night, while Marin and Ross each added two points.