Lions topple Boaz, end 11-year area title drought

The Crossville Lions defeated Boaz in the Class 5A, Area 13 Tournament finals, winning their first area tournament crown in 11 years. Team members are, front row, from left, managers Silas Peek, Sage Peek and Bo Brock, Garrett Masters, Elijah McCreless, Jay Luther, Trenton Bryant, Jesse Bailey, David Chapman and manager Tyler Cagle; back row, from left, head coach Jake Peek, Kaejuan Hatley, Quentin Chapman, Hunter Haston, Blake Bouldin, Colton Davis and assistant coach Jesse Martin.

Thursday night, Crossville won its first boys area tournament game since 2009.

Saturday night, the Lions took the next step by beating host Boaz 44-37 in the Class 5A, Area 13 finals to grab their first area tourney championship since 2008, when they were a 3A program.

Crossville (10-14) welcomes Scottsboro while Boaz (17-11) travels to Arab in the subregional playoffs Tuesday night. Both contests tip off at 7. The winners advance to the Northeast Regional at Jacksonville State on Feb. 18.

“First area championship in 11 years, it means something. It’s very special,” said CHS junior Blake Bouldin, the tournament’s most valuable player. He paced the Lions with 16 points and 16 rebounds, hitting 6-of-9 field goals.

Saturday’s intense, physical battle was tied 11-11 after a quarter. The Lions opened the second period with an 8-0 run, holding Boaz scoreless until Brian Montgomery buried a 3-pointer with 2:35 left.

CHS committed two turnovers and Jacob Smith made a steal for the Pirates down the stretch as BHS rallied to grab the lead. Taylor Smith’s two free throws made it 20-19 at intermission.

Luther’s steal led to Trenton Bryant’s three-point play, giving Crossville a 22-20 lead just 44 seconds into the third quarter. The Lions never trailed again.

Jesse Bailey drove into the paint and sank a jumper, extending Crossville’s margin to 32-24 with 2:47 remaining in the third period.

The Pirates rallied, cutting it to 32-28 on Keaton Kennedy’s three-point play with 1:31 left. Montgomery’s steal set up Kennedy’s basket.

David Chapman’s layup pushed the Lions’ advantage to 36-28 with 5:28 to go in the fourth quarter. The Pirates responded with an 8-0 run, including four points off steals.

A Crossville turnover led to Taylor Smith’s layup, tying it 36-36 with 3:44 remaining.

Jacob Smith made a steal six seconds later but the Pirates failed to capitalize, as they missed a 3-pointer.

Bailey broke the tie by hitting the front end of a one-and-one with 2:52 left. Bailey missed the second free throw but Bouldin rebounded and stuck it back, giving the Lions a 39-36 lead with 2:50 on the clock.

The teams combined for an exhibition of poor free-throw shooting over the next 2:20, as Boaz made only 1-of-7 while CHS converted 0-of-4, missing the front end of two one-and-ones.

Bouldin rebounded the Lions’ fourth missed free throw during that stretch. The Pirates fouled him, and he hit 1-of-2 from the line to make it 40-37 with 30.4 seconds to play.

After the Pirates missed a long 3 that would’ve tied it, Bouldin hit two free throws with 12.7 seconds remaining. Boaz missed another 3, and Bailey sealed the Lions’ win with a pair of free throws just 3.7 seconds before the final buzzer.

“Missed free throws and stuff like that have kind of been our Achilles’ heel this year, but we found a way to win it and that’s all that mattered,” CHS head coach Jake Peek said.

Bailey scored 11, Chapman nine and Bryant eight for Crossville. Bailey cleared nine rebounds.

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