An offensive explosion in the fourth quarter rocketed Rockvale High School to victory over Tullahoma in the season opener for the high school basketball squads this past week, as the hosts bucketed a 59-46 victory on the coattails of a 15-point performance by Malachi Long. Likely contributing to the slow start was the fact many of the Tullahoma Wildcat impact players were still competing in the state football playoffs, thereby keeping them off the hardwood for the early part of the 2021-22 campaign.

It was a bumpy start to the season for the Wildcats, as they could only muster six points to start their season on the hardwood in the first quarter, falling behind 11-6 after one. DeAndre Jenkins, Jacob Sanchez and Xavier Ferrell each had a bucket in the opening stanza.

The situation stabilized in the second frame as Tullahoma found its offense, putting up 16 points. The rally was sparked by Keegan Taylor, who notched five of his game total nine points in the second quarter, a quarter that saw six different Wildcats mark the scorer’s book. The offensive awakening left Tullahoma with a 22-20 lead going into the locker room.

However, the hosts came out firing as Long, who led all scorers on the night, lit it up from the floor, scoring 11 of his 15 in the third quarter alone. His output helped account for the lion’s share of the 17 Rockvale points in the third, erasing Tullahoma’s meager halftime lead despite Keegan Taylor’s four and three from Trevaughn Palmer and DeAndre Jenkins, who led all Wildcats with 10 and was the only Tullahoma player to break double digits on the night.

The Wildcats trailed by a bucket—37-35—going into the fourth but that was when Rockvale’s DeEric Patton went wild, putting up eight of his game-high 12 in the curtain call, which saw him go a perfect four-for-four from the charity stripe. Jackobe Thorp had six of his game high 10 in the fourth to contribute to the 22-point closing quarter. Meanwhile, with seeing five different Wildcats score in the fourth, Khani Johnson was the leading Tullahoma scorer with a three-pointer from outside the arc. The end result was a 22-11 Rockvale advantage in the fourth as they pulled away before the final buzzer.

In the loss, the Wildcats were only 8-for-22 from the foul line, while their hosts went 11-for-18 from the stripe. Tullahoma’s top scorers were Jenkins with 10, Taylor with 9, Ferrell with 8 and Johnson with 6.

The ‘Cats followed up their close loss at Rockvale with a 52-32 loss at Mt. Juliet Thursday. Tullahoma was scheduled to play host to Warren County this Tuesday to tip off their home schedule for the 2021-22 hoops season. Warren County has been picked in the coach’s poll to win their district this year. Results were not available at press-time.