On a night where Coffee County wanted nothing more than to celebrate in front of its home fans, Tullahoma played spoiler, upending the Red Raiders 55-40 on senior night on Thursday.
More importantly, the win allowed Tullahoma to grab the No. 2 seed heading into the District 8-AAA Tournament. With the second seed, the Wildcats have already guaranteed themselves a spot into the Region 4-AAA Tournament, their first appearance since 2018.
“This was a team that was predicted to finish fifth or sixth at the start of the year,” said THS Head Coach Jason Welch. “We got off to a good start in district. The game tonight meant more to us than it did to them. We played super hard. From where we started back on April 25 to now, I’m so proud of our players and I’m so proud of our seniors.”
Early in Thursday’s matchup, the two teams spent the majority of the first half sparring back and forth with each other. That was until the second quarter, and with 3:06 remaining in the second quarter, Jaxon Vaughn knocked down a basket to put Coffee County in front 26-21.
However, Tullahoma answered back and scored 11-straight points to close out the first half, taking a 32-26 lead into halftime. Jake Hollandsworth led off the run with a pair of free throws, but it was Krys Uselton who took over the final two minutes of the second quarter for the Wildcats.
In fact, Uselton put up the final nine points of the first half, scoring on three-straight three-point plays. The sophomore guard knocked down a basket while being fouled, and then added a free throw, before hitting back-to-back 3-pointers.
Coffee County hit the opening basket in the third quarter, but after that point, the Red Raiders’ offense was silent the remainder of the period. After Jaylon Wooten hit the opening basket for Coffee County, Ben Fulton quickly answered with a 3-pointer for Tullahoma, making the score 35-28 with 7:39 left in the third period.
Only one other field goal was added before the end of the third quarter and Tullahoma took a 37-28 advnatage into the final period of play. Hollandsworth hit that basket for the Wildcats, knocking down a jumper with three minutes left in the third quarter.
Coffee County put up five of the first seven points of the fourth quarter, cutting its deficit down to 40-33 with 4:18 remaining in the contest. Tullahoma countered with a 13-0 run – a stretch that saw the Red Raiders called for two technical fouls – and it opened up a 53-33 advnatage with 2:15 left on the clock.
In fact all 13 points for Tullahoma during that two-minute stretch came from free throws. Uselton hit six attempts from the free throw line, while Hollandsworth made five attempts and Fulton knocked down two shots.
Coffee County went on to score seven of the final nine points of the game. Fulton scored the final two points of the game for the Wildcats, adding a pair of free throws.
Hollandsworth led Tullahoma in scoring after he put up 20 points in the victory. Uselton added 16 points, while Fulton finished his night with 13 points. Austin Secrest netted four points, while Joe Duncan rounded out the scoring for the Wildcats with two points.
Prior to Thursday, Tullahoma was coming off of a win during its final home game of the regular season, after beating Columbia 68-52 on Tuesday night.
In that matchup, the Wildcats held just a 48-43 lead heading into the final period of play. However, Tullahoma was able to control the contest on the defensive end and added 20 points in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.
Hollandsworth took over in the final period for the Wildcats, after the senior guard hit four baskets, finishing the fourth quarter with eight points. Duncan went on to add three field goals of his own in the period, finishing with six points.
Fulton also added four points in the fourth quarter for Tullahoma. Secrest and Will Partin each hit a free throw to round out the scoring in the final period for the Wildcats.
“Columbia is so athletic and so long that you really have to do a good job with your discipline on defense. I think that’s the best discipline that we showed all year on defense,” Welch said. “We were able to keep them in front of us, make them shoot over us and then go rebound, which we won the rebounds by eight.”
Fulton led the Tullahoma in scoring, after he netted 18 points in the victory on Tuesday. Duncan added 16 points, while Hollandsworth added 14 points.
Ryan Scott scored eight points, while Secrest put up six points. Will Partin scored four points, while Uselton rounded out the scoring for the Wildcats with two points.
With the No. 2 seed, Tullahoma (13-15, 8-4) will have a bye until its first game of the district tournament. The Wildcats are scheduled to next play on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
All games during the District 8-AAA Tournament will take place at Lincoln County High School in Fayetteville.