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Red Bay boys prevail in FC championship

Red Bay coach John Torisky said his team was going to treat Saturday night’s Franklin County Tournament championship game like a state championship game – and his team responded with one of their best shooting nights in several games to blow past the defending champion Belgreen Bulldogs 61-41.

“I’m excited for these guys to get this win,” said Torisky. “I can’t remember the last time Red Bay boys won this championship, but it’s been a while.”

Red Bay (19-4) made a statement right after the opening tip when senior Gath Weatherford hit the first of seven three-pointers on the night to give the Tigers a quick 3-0 lead. Red Bay would open up a 7-0 lead before Belgreen cut the lead to one, 7-6. Weatherford hit another three at the end of the quarter to give Red Bay a 10-6 lead at the end of the first quarter.

“We knew Belgreen was going to give us their best effort,” said Torisky. “This was their title to defend, and they were going to bring everything. We expected their runs, but I think our depth and full court pressure just wears on other teams and gets them tired.”

Belgreen (11-9) would go on to make another run that would put the Bulldogs in the lead briefly when Isac Willingham hit a three-pointer and two free throws to put the Bulldogs up 13-11.

From there, it was all Red Bay. The Tigers went on a 14-0 run to close out the first half and lead 25-13. The run included a couple of baskets from sophomore Braden Ray and two more three-pointers from Weatherford.

“Gath had his best shooting night of the year,” said Torisky. “He told me before the game that he had this. He’s is very unselfish player who just wants to win, and tonight was his night to shine.”

Weatherford, for his part, kept the focus on his team and their goals.

“One of our goals was to win the county,” said Weatherford. “We were focused. Belgreen has had this title for three years, and we had the mindset coming in that we wanted it, and we were going to play like it.”

The Tigers kept their run going into the second half on back-to-back three-point plays by Colton Corum and Weatherford to extend the Tigers’ lead to 31-13. Willingham stopped the Tigers’ run with a three of his own to make the score 31-16. Red Bay would go on another 8-0 run late in the third quarter to put the game away as the Tigers took a 48-27 lead into the fourth quarter.

Weatherford led Red Bay with 24 points on the night. Ray and Corum followed with 15 points and 12 points, respectively. Noah Brewer and Tanner Hamilton added four points each, and Lane Shewbart scored two points.

Mason Bragwell led Belgreen with 14 points, followed by Willingham with 13 points. Gaven Taylor added five points, and Brant Bragwell had four points. Scout Bragwell, Kostner Bryant and Tanner Warhurst scored two points each.

Semifinals: Belgreen 60, Phil Campbell 49

The Belgreen Bulldogs overwhelmed the Phil Campbell Bobcats in the first half of the semifinals of the Franklin County Tournament Friday then held off a second-half rally to win 60-49.

Belgreen’s full court pressure forced 11 Phil Campbell turnovers in the first half. The Bulldogs also outrebounded the Bobcats 17-7 in the first half. Those factors, combined with Belgreen’s hot shooting, led the Bulldogs to a 36-15 first half lead. Belgreen led Phil Campbell 14-0 up until the 1:53 mark in the first quarter.

Scout Bragwell and Willingham combined for five first-half three-pointers and 21 points to lead the Bulldogs.

The Bobcats slowly clawed their way back into the game in the second half with some pressure and good perimeter shooting of their own. Phil Campbell forced eight Belgreen turnovers in the second half.

Ridge Raper and Luke Garrison combined for five three-pointers in the second half for the Bobcats. Garrison hit two straight three-pointers in the final 1:04 of the game to cut Belgreen’s lead to eight points.

Mason Bragwell dominated the scoring for Belgreen in the second half, scoring 12 of his game-high 20 points. Brant Bragwell followed in scoring with 14 points, and Scout Bragwell added 12 points. Willingham contributed nine points, and Kostner Bryant and Taylor scored two points each.

Raper led Phil Campbell’s comeback effort with 17 points. Garrison followed with 11 points, all of which came in the second half. Brett Saint added eight points, Nate Owens six points, Isaac Riddle four points and Easton Cummings three points.

Semifinals: Red Bay 50, Tharptown 23

The top-ranked team in Class 2A got an early surprise by the Tharptown Wildcats, but Red Bay’s solid defense and depth eventually got the Tigers a relatively easy win 50-23.

Tharptown adopted a slow-down strategy early on that seemed to be working, with the game tied 11-11 at the end of the first quarter. Red Bay led the Wildcats 15-13 with just over a minute to go in the first half before Tharptown made three ill-advised turnovers that the Tigers converted into points to take a 22-13 halftime lead.

Red Bay dominated the game from there, holding Tharptown to three points in the third quarter to lead 35-16 heading into the final period of play.

Every player on the Red Bay roster got into the scoring column, with Ray leading the way with nine points. Shewbart followed with eight points, Brewer seven points, Jalen Vinson six points, Clay Allison five points, Weatherford five points, Arden Hamilton four points, Corum three points, Tanner Hamilton two points and Hunter Bays one point.

Edward Lopez led Tharptown with 12 points. He was followed by Winston Nolen with five points, Hayden Moss three points, Carson Petree three points, Les Montgomery two points and Colton Simmons one point.

Quarterfinals: Tharptown 63, Vina 45

Nolen scored 29 points to lead the Tharptown Wildcats past the Vina Red Devils 63-45 in the opening round of the Franklin County Tournament Jan. 15.

Tharptown led Vina 14-9 at the end of the first quarter and extended that lead to 30-21 at halftime. The Wildcats put the game away with a strong third quarter, outscoring the Red Devils 23-11 to take a 53-32 lead into the final period of play.

Lopez followed Nolen with 12 points. Simmons added nine points, Montgomery four points, Yovani Gomez three points, Ruben Alfaro three points, Moss two points and Petree one point.

Timmy Newell led Vina with 23 points. Haze Weatherford and Jackson Landers scored six points each. Braden Moomaw added five points, Dawson Miller three points and Braden Pardue two points.

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