The third time was the charm for WCMS as the Pioneers saved their best for last against the previously unbeaten Dibrell Wildcats. The Pioneers defeated the Wildcats in the 5-6 grade championship game by a final score of 42-35 on Friday night.
The Wildcats entered the championship with a perfect record, having blown through their competition all season long. The WCMS offense was led by Eli Kuykendall, who scored a game-high 22 points and was voted tournament MVP for his efforts.
WCMS led 35-25 as the two teams made their way into the fourth quarter but the game was far from over. The Wildcat offense kept constant pressure on the ball and forced several turnovers. After the turnovers, the Wildcats were fouled many times on their way to the basket. Jordan Sandlin was perfect from the free-throw line on his attempts.
Aaron Ashburn and Nathan Elrod were the only two Wildcats to knock down shots from somewhere other than the charity stripe and even though Dibrell outscored WCMS in the final quarter, it was not enough to overtake the lead.
WCMS started to slow the tempo with a 10-point advantage to start the quarter. Raleigh Gilliam and Keldrick Cox kept the ball away from the Wildcat defense for most of the fourth quarter. Once the defense extended to force the ball away from the guards, Layne Roberts was left open for a pair of short jumpers that hit the bottom of the net. Chance Hunter put in work and added three points to his 10-point total.
Once Dibrell was forced to foul to stop the clock, it was all but too late. The Pioneers rallied the troops in a final attempt to tarnish the Wildcats’ perfect season and WCMS defeated the Wildcats by a final score of 42-35.
A single point separated the two teams at the end of the first quarter as Dibrell led 12-11 after one. It was not a defensive first quarter and both teams decided to push the tempo, something that almost always favors the Wildcats.
Aaron Ashburn got to work in the low post and led Dibrell with five first-quarter points. Sandlin got free and buried a pair of open jumpers and Jake Jones connected from beyond the arch for his only three points of the game.
In the first for WCMS it was all Kuykendall who dropped in 10 first-quarter points. He was on a mission to get to the rim and the Wildcat defense had no chance of stopping him early.
In the second, Kuykendall still maintained his hot hand and his aggressive play landed him in front of the rim almost every trip down the floor. He added eight more points in the second quarter and Dibrell still had no answer. Hunter scored a pair of baskets deep in the paint before the half.
The Pioneer defense really clamped down on the Wildcats and suddenly shot selection was cut to a minimum. Tyler Heathcock hit the only shot from the floor in the second quarter. WCMS made Dibrell earn it from the free-throw line. Sandlin shot 2-of-2 and Nathan Elrod went 1-of-4 from the charity stripe and the Pioneers carried a 25-17 lead into the halftime break.
It was more of the same relentless defense in the third quarter by WCMS. The Wildcat shot selection improved slightly but not enough to cut into the lead. Cameron Chilcutt scored two points in the third.
The Wildcats focused more on Kuykendall than any other player in the third quarter and it worked. The extra coverage required by Kuykendall freed up other players. Keldrick Cox and Raleigh Gilliam added points when left unattended.
The 10-point lead at the end of the third quarter was just enough and kept the Wildcats out of reach. The Pioneers defeated the Wildcats and handed Dibrell its only loss by a final score of 42-35 in the 5-6 championship game.
PIONEER SCORING – Eli Kuykendall 22, Chance Hunter 10, Layne Roberts 6, Raleigh Gilliam 2, Keldrick Cox 2
WILDCAT SCORING – Jordan Sandlin 10, Aaron Ashburn 10, Nathan Elrod 8, Jake Jones 3, Cameron Chilcutt 2, Tyler Heathcock 2