HANCEVILLE — In a battle of boys basketball teams that like to run and score a lot, Gardendale ran and scored just a little bit more than Cullman.
And it took a 3-point shot from Juan Jackson in the last minute and a half to finally take the lead for good, as the Rockets outpunched the Bearcats 78-73 in the semifinals of the Yule Tide Classic at Wallace State Junior College.
It was a big night for Gardendale's Austin Hicks, who scored a career-high 30 points to go with 10 rebounds and six assists. It was Hicks who led the Rockets to an early lead, before Bearcat sophomore Seth Swalve got hot with 18 points in the second quarter alone. He finished the night with 31 points.
The Bearcats took a five=point lead into halftime, then stretched it to as many as nine points in the third period before Gardendale started to make up ground, thanks in large part to Jackson and guard Allen Williams starting to connect from outside.
Cullman (9-6) took its last lead on two free throws from Lane Donaldson with 1:41 left.
Jackson finished with 21 points and six rebounds, and Williams added 17 points and six assists.
Behind Swalve's 31 was Lawson Schaffer with 16 points and Donaldson with 14 for the Bearcats, who will play Arab in the third-place game.
Gardendale (11-4) will play Athens in the championship game at 8 p.m. at Tom Drake Coliseum.
Jake Winfrey of our sister newspaper, The Cullman Times, contributed to this report.