By ZACH BIRDSONG
It certainly wasn’t pretty, but the Tullahoma boys basketball team found a way to escape McMinnville with a win, downing Warren County 69-66 on Friday night.
After keeping the contest close, Nic Barstad put the Wildcats in front for good, sinking a pair of free throws with 4:16 left on the clock, making the score 59-58. Ben Fulton followed with a 3-pointer to widen that gap, before Barstad added one of his own with 3:27 remaining in the game, as Tullahoma led 65-58.
Just like it had all night, Warren County punched right back, going on an 8-2 run, closing the score to 67-66 with 10 seconds left to play. After Fulton was fouled on the ensuing inbounds play, he calmly and coolly sank both free throws to make it a 69-66 game.
Warren County had two final chances to get a basket, both of which fell short, as Tullahoma secured the win.
Fulton led Tullahoma in scoring on the night, putting up 28 points in the win, including knocking down eight of his nine 3-point attempts. Barstad added 22 points of his own for the Wildcats, burying three 3s in the win.
Jake Hollandsworth also put up double figures for Tullahoma, totaling 15 points. Corvion Fields rounded out the scoring for the Wildcats with four points.
With just under three minutes left in the first quarter, Tullahoma grabbed a brief 12-11 advantage over Warren County. The Wildcats never saw the advantage again until the fourth quarter, despite tying the game three times in the third.
After the Wildcats grabbed a 12-11 edge with 2:48 left in the first quarter, Warren County countered with a 7-0 run, going ahead 18-12. However, Fulton hit a pair of 3-pointers in the final minute of play for the Wildcats. Pioneers guard Tyree Ladet added a 3 of his own, giving his team a 21-18 advantage heading into the second quarter.
Warren County extended that edge, eventually taking a 38-26 lead with 4:05 left before halftime. The Pioneers were held to just two more points in the second period as Tullahoma went on an 11-2 run to close out the first half.
Fulton drained a pair of 3-pointers for Tullahoma during that stretch, while Hollandsworth added three points of his own. Barstad put up a basket of his own, helping cut the Wildcats’ deficit down to 40-37 entering halftime.
Tullahoma was able to tie the contest three times in the third quarter as Barstad, Hollandsworth and Fulton each hit game-tying baskets. With the score even at 50, Ladet buried a 3-pointer for Warren County, giving his team a 53-50 edge heading into of play.
Irving Espinoza hit 3 for the Pioneers to start the fourth quarter, giving them a 56-50 lead. Tullahoma answered with seven-straight points, taking a brief 57-50 lead.
Fulton hit a 3-pointer before Hollandsworth added a basket. Barstad put the Wildcats in front with a basket with 5:03 remaining in the contest.
That lead wouldn’t last as Isaiah Grayson knocked down a basket for Warren County, putting the Pioneers up 58-57 with 4:34 left on the clock. However, Barstad gave Tullahoma the lead once again by hitting a pair of free throws, giving the Wildcats a 59-58 lead. Tullahoma never trailed again from that point.
Tullahoma (4-1) will return home on Tuesday night when it hosts Cascade. Tipoff of the girls game is slated for 6 p.m. with the boys scheduled to take the floor 15 minutes after that contest concludes.