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Defense ends Wildcats season

Cornerstone Christian eked out a 28-26 win over Wilcox Academy in a decidedly defensive game to advance to Friday’s AISA Class A championship game.

It was the 16th time the Chargers held an opponent to fewer than 30 points this season.

“Both teams played good defense,” said Cornerstone coach Keith Youngblood. “They love to go up and down the court and press you. We slowed the ball down.”

The game’s pace not only took away the quick pace the Wildcats rely on, but it also kept the offense out of sync.

“We just didn’t hit, didn’t execute,” said Wilcox coach Buddy Sumer. “We played hard, but that doesn’t get it.”

The offensive struggles started in the first half. Cornerstone led 12-7 after the first period, but scored only three points in the second. Trailing 14-7, a Rachel Bell steal and layup sparked a 7-0 Wilcox run to tie the game at 14. A Chelsea Dunnaway free throw gave the Cargers a 15-14 advantage at the break.

The fireworks didn’t start in the second half either.

Bell put the Wildcats on her back by scoring all 12 of the Wildcats’ second half points, including a jump shot that gave the Wildcats a 20-17 lead — their last of the game — at the 4:13 mark of the third quarter. A Kailey Goodwin 3-pointer triggered a 9-2 Cornerstone run to give the Chargers a 26-22 lead after three.

Bell hit two free throws to cut the deficit to two points, but a Dunnaway layup at the 2:04 mark made it 28-24, and proved to be the difference in the game.

“When points are that hard to come by, it’s huge,” said Youngblood. “But it doesn’t surprise me.”

Dunnaway had a chance to secure the win from the free throw line, but missed four shots down the stretch. A Bell jumper made it 28-26 with 15 seconds left, but a turnover and missed desperation heave by Anna Gibbs gave the Chargers the win.

Destiny Dillard led the Chargers with 10 points. Bell finished with 11 for the Wildcats.