CAPSHAW — Blake Tucker paved the way for East Limestone High in the Class 5A, Area 15 semifinals as the Indians beat Hartselle 64-57.
East Limestone advances to play Cullman in the finals Monday at 6 p.m.
East Limestone (17-12) had the scoring advantage early, opening on a 13-0 run, establishing the tournament host as the clear leader. Tucker drove past Hartselle over and over, drilling in six left-handed layups to put the Indians up 34-17 at the half.
"I was just trying to do what I could to help my team win," said Tucker, who finished with 19 points, four rebounds and three assists.
East Limestone got 22 points from its junior star forward Jordan Gandy.
Gandy also added three rebounds, three assists and three steals. Nick Walsh grabbed six rebounds and added three assists.
Hartselle (7-17) refused to leave without a fight, switching to a man-to-man defense in the second half to slow East Limestone's scoring. The Tigers got back into the game in the third on a 9-3 run, and came within three points of East Limestone in the fourth.
"Hartselle turned up the pressure defensively and gave us some fits," East Limestone coach Chad Drake said. "Defensively, we're not going to win many ball games giving up 40 points in the second half."
Preston Adams scored 22 points for the Tigers, while Timbo Slaton added 10.
East Limestone also missed opportunities from the free-throw line, shooting 9-for-24 in the contest.
Hartselle coach Keith Wright said he couldn't have asked for anything more of his team's effort.
"They didn't give up, they kept fighting and we had to work so hard to get back in the ball game," Hartselle coach Keith Wright said. "Once we got back into it, we just didn't have anything left to get over the hump."
Looking ahead to the finals Monday, Drake expressed concern over the team's late struggle.
"We've got to do something to get these guys to come out motivated in the second half, because if we continue to come out in the second half like we did tonight, we're not going to be in this playoff system for very long," Drake said.
Cullman 61, West Point 42: Lawson Schaffer scored a game-high 17 points to help Cullman lead 37-16 at half. Richard Donaldson added 12 points for Cullman, while Troy Forrest scored nine.
For West Point, Kris Keller led with 13 points, while Wesley Smith and Ryder Jones scored eight points each.
Contact Meredith Qualls at 256-340-2395 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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