It was a middle Tennessee affair in the N2 Hoops Invitational Tuesday night at Bob Jones High School in Madison, AL, as the Creek Wood Red Hawks battled the Blackman Blaze out of Murfreesboro. Both teams went to the state tournament last season, with Creek Wood in Class AA and Blackman in AAA, making this matchup a must-watch event. The Red Hawks were red-hot early, and led for much of the first half, but the shooting cooled off in the second half as the Blaze got stronger. In the end, Blackman salted away a hard-fought 66-48 win and advanced in the tournament, while the Red Hawks ended their run in Huntsville, due to the unique format of the event–a single-elimination tournament with a guarantee of at least two games for each team.
Creek Wood started off the game red-hot, shooting 41% from the floor, including a 6-of-13 half from three. Ross Cummings and Ross “Chico” Plunkett did the bulk of the heavy lifting in the first half, and after winning the first quarter 14-11 the Red Hawks stretched out a lead in the second. Unfortunately, the Blaze used physical play and high percentage shooting to their advantage as the Alabama officials let a lot of fouls go for both teams. Just before halftime, Blackman was able to retake the lead at 29-28 off the strong play of post Christian DeWitt, and the Blaze took that score into the locker room.
In the second half, Blackman took that momentum and tried to take over the game. The orange-clad Blaze blitzed Creek Wood 16-8 in the third, and Blackman began to get calls in the second half as well. As Blackman heated up, shooting 11 of 18 from the floor in the second half, the Red Hawks went cold, finishing 6 of 24 in the half for 25%. Even with DeWitt sidelined after a collision with a teammate and a loose ball sent him to the locker room to stuff tissues up his nose, the Red Hawks had no answer for the physical, up-tempo pounding and the impressively deep bench of the Blaze.
A 21-12 fourth put the game away for Blackman, aided in part by Creek Wood’s attempts to foul the Blaze players in the closing minutes of the game to get the ball back, but the Red Hawks took the loss 66-48. Blackman iced the game at the free throw line, going 13 of 17, while CWHS only attempted 6 foul shots all game. The Blaze did manage 10 more defensive stops against Creek Wood than the Red Hawks had against them, but Ross Cummings and company were pressing in the second half to turn the tide, shooting 46% from outside in the first half but a cool 33% in the second.
DeWitt led the way for Blackman with 12 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals. Jarrell Reeves also had 12 points and 5 rebounds, while Deonte Alley added 9 points for BHS. Creek Wood was led by MVP Ross Cummings with a game-high 23 points and 7 rebounds, plus an assist and 2 steals. Plunkett added 10 points, 6 boards, and a steal; Aaron Daniel added 8 points, while Coulter Dotson added 5 points and Gabe Cummings 2 from the charity stripe.
Creek Wood returns home after a 1-1 showing in the Huntsville tournament, but the girls open play in Chapel Hill Wednesday at noon, before returning to action Friday and Saturday.