By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News
— Fultondale saw first-hand how opposing Oak Grove both lives and dies by the 3-point shot.
Justin Pate hit five treys on six attempts in the second half for the Tigers and tied Friday’s game at 60-60 with 2:16 left. But when he fouled out shortly after that, the team’s touch from behind the arc went cold, and the Wildcats went on a 9-2 run to pull out a 69-62 win in boys’ basketball action.
Oak Grove took an early lead as they connected from outside, and also controlled the offensive boards. But Fultondale slowly ate away at the deficit, took the lead early in the second quarter on an old-fashioned 3-point play by ArDarius Stewart. After a quick 10-0 run, the Cats went into halftime with a seven-point lead.
The Tigers warmed up again from outside the arc after the break, but couldn’t make a dent as the Cats’ began to reassert themselves on the glass and the offense started to click. Despite a technical foul on an irritated coach Richie Busby that resulted in a four-point swing, his squad went into the final period up by nine.
Pate’s threes closed the gap, but after he tied the game, he fouled Travez Hicks, who converted the 3-point play to put Fultondale back on top for good. The Tigers were then forced to foul with the clock winding down, and Pate picked up his fourth and fifth fouls in quick succession.
Oak Grove attempted 32 3-point shots, hitting 13 (41 percent), while trying just 23 shots inside the arc, making just seven (30 percent). Fultondale rarely shot from outside the arc, but was 22-for-42 from inside (52 percent), and outrebounded the Tigers 37-20.
“We did well when we ran the floor, but when we’d get in a half-court game with them, we’d turn it over and they’d go down and hit a three,” Busby said. “We play a 2-3 [zone], so we’re going to give up threes. The problem is when three or four of them get hot, and you lose track of where the shooter is.”
Pate and fifth-year starter Griff Garner tied for high-score honors with 20 points each. Stewart led the Wildcats with 14 points, Justin Houston added 13, Kris Lewis scored 12 and Hicks 11.
Fultondale’s record stands at 7-6, as they move into Tuesday’s Jefferson County Schools Championship at Hueytown. The Wildcats will take on Corner in the first round of the small-schools division at 4:30 p.m., while Oak Grove plays Mortimer Jordan immediately afterward.