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Hartselle picks up two wins at N2 Hoops Invitational

Hartselle played in the N2 Hoops Invitational this past week. The event was canceled in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Tigers, who entered the event 0-2, were looking for their first victory of the season. They opened with a loss to Stewarts Creek, Tennessee, before closing with wins over Westminster and Wenonah in the consolation bracket.

Stewarts Creek 77, Hartselle 57
The Tigers opened with a loss to Stewarts Creek, coached by Huntsville legend Howard Pride.

Stewarts Creek grabbed an early 8-3 lead. Hartselle tied the game up on a 5-0 run. Stewarts Creek closed the quarter on a 6-5 run to take a 14-13 first-quarter lead.

Stewarts Creek opened the second quarter on a 7-3 run to build that lead to 21-16. The Tigers took their first lead of the game with back-to-back three-pointers to lead 22-21. Stewarts Creek closed the half on a 13-7 run to grab a 34-29 lead at halftime.

The two teams played a tightly-contested third quarter, with Stewarts Creek outscoring the Tigers 22-19 to extend their lead to 56-48.

Hartselle went cold in the fourth quarter, scoring nine points, as Stewarts Creek pulled away for the 77-57 win.

Kiah Key scored a season-high 17 points to lead the Tigers (0-3). He also had a team-high six rebounds. Luke Ward added 13 points and three assists. Ryan Dunn added seven points, and Thomas Itsede had six.

Hartselle 45, Westminster 43
The Tigers, playing without Dunn, met Westminster Christian in the consolation bracket quarterfinals. The Wildcats were coming off a 63-55 loss to James Clemens.

Hartselle jumped out to an early 7-2 lead. Westminster closed the quarter on a 10-2 run to grab a 12-9 first-quarter lead.

The Tigers opened the second quarter with another 7-2 run to grab a 16-14 lead. The Wildcats regained the lead with an 8-4 run to close the first half, leading 22-21.

The Westminster Wildcats extended their lead to 30-26 with an 8-5 run to start the third quarter. However, Hartselle battled back, outscoring the Wildcats 11-5 to grab a 36-34 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Ward opened the fourth quarter with a 5-0 spurt to give the Tigers a 41-34 lead. Westminster went on an 8-0 run to retake the lead, 42-41. After a Key buck and a Wildcat free throw, the game was tied at 43-43 with less than 20 seconds remaining.

After a Hartselle timeout, a cutting Ward received a pass from the middle of the lane and banked home the game-winner with less than five seconds remaining.

Dominic Simmons led the Tigers with 10 points and three steals. Ward finished with nine points. Key finished with seven points, seven assists and two blocks.

Hartselle 52, Wenonah 38
In the consolation semifinals, the Tigers met the Wenonah Dragons. The Dragons advanced to the game with a 58-54 come-from-behind victory over Austin.

Hartselle jumped out to a 9-4 lead as Ward connected on two three-pointers and Key added an old-fashioned three-point play. However, Wenonah battled back with a 13-3 run to take a 17-12 lead into the second quarter.

The Hartselle defense came alive in the second quarter, holding the Dragons to seven points. The Tigers opened the quarter on a 7-4 run to cut the lead to 21-19. Midway through the quarter, Key went down with an undisclosed injury and would miss the rest of the contest.

The Tigers closed the quarter on an 11-3 run to grab a 30-24 halftime lead.

Hartselle’s momentum continued to build in the third quarter, as the Tigers continued to keep a stranglehold on the Wenonah offense, holding them to eight points in the quarter.

After the Dragons cut the lead to 32-30 with a 6-2 run to open the third quarter, the Tigers answered with a 13-2 run to close the quarter, leading 43-32.

Another solid defensive effort in the fourth quarter held Wenonah to six points. Four of those points came inside the game’s final two minutes. The Tigers outscored the Dragons 9-6 in the fourth to secure the 53-28 victory.

Ward led Hartselle (2-3) with 24 points and eight rebounds. Rylan Smothers, Simmons and Key finished with six points. Key also had a team-high three steals when he left the game.

Dunn, who missed the first game of the consolation bracket, came back to play a massive role in the win, despite not scoring a point. He finished with three rebounds, three assists and three steals.

The win gave the Tigers a spot in the consolation bracket finals against the tournament host, Bob Jones. Hartselle was unable to play, however, having only five healthy players.

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