Recently graduated Brownwood High School basketball players Jared Cullins, Sage Cupps and Taytum Sutton ended their careers with a victory at the Big Country FCA All-Star Festival basketball games Saturday.
Neither Cullins, Cupps nor Sutton will continue their athletic careers in college, making victories Saturday all the more important.
Cupps and Sutton ended their careers with a 69-57 victory as the South defeated the North. Cullins ended up on the winning boys team as the South rallied after being down by 20 points in the second quarter for a 92-89 triumph over the North.
“It feels great ending with a win and we both played great today,” Cupps said after the girls game. “We had a little trouble fouling out, but we had fun. We had fun all weekend so it’s been great.”
Sutton and Cupps tied each other in points with three each and rebounds with five. Cupps also picked up a team-leading two blocks.
“We’re all-stars. Everyone had an ability to show off in a certain way. You just had to find a way to play through it,” Cupps said.
The North and South seemed in a stalemate early, matching each other point for point until going into halftime with the South ahead 27-26. In the third quarter, the South finally pulled away after a three-pointer by Cupps, giving her team a seven-point cushion it would carry through the end of regulation.
“It gave us confidence to keep going and playing hard. I just caught it and shot it,” Cupps said.
Sutton attributed the win to her team’s ability to find each other’s strength and finding the right scenario to exploit the opponents’ weakness.
“A lot of it was about chemistry,” she said. “We didn’t have it very much when we practiced against each other, but once we started playing I thought we played pretty well with us just coming together.”
The South’s Lauren Fulenwider, from Abilene Wylie, was named the game’s MVP after pouring in 16 points.
In boys action, Cullins and the South team found themselves in a dogfight Saturday night. The South faced a 20-point deficit midway through the second quarter only to rally back and eventually tie the game 65-65 early in the fourth quarter.
“They got a huge lead and I’m glad we came back and won,” Cullins said. “… We weren’t gelling together, but toward the end we started figuring out each other and got the win. I was just trying to help anyway I could, getting rebounds and kicking it out to open teammates, doing whatever it takes to win. It was fast. The first couple of minutes I was already gassed. After I got used to it, I started getting better.”
Cullins finished the day with two points, two rebounds, two takeaways, a steal and an assist. Although well short of MVP Dylan Isenhower of Abilene Wylie’s team-leading 11 points, every shot counted. The North team built a seven-point advantage with as many minutes left. With double digit fouls and the North shooting clean from the free-throw line, the game seemed all but lost until the South took its first lead of the game with just over two minutes left, 84-82. Both teams traded point for point with the game tied 89-89 with a minute left, but Wylie’s Steven Lopez sank a three-pointer with 21 seconds left to seal the victory.
“It makes you feel pretty good to get the win. I am going to go eat some pizza, hang out with my teammates and go home and get some sleep because I am tired,” Cullins said.