By Maurice Patton
SANTA FE – Going down the stretch against host Santa Fe without their leading scorer was less than ideal Friday night for Mike Lovett and his Culleoka Warriors.
Landon Andrews picked up his fifth foul on a charge with five minutes remaining, and the Wildcats virtually maintained their eight-point cushion to the end in a 59-50 District 10-A triumph.
“I don’t know if I’d call it ‘the turning point’, but it was definitely crucial in us not making a comeback,” Lovett said following the loss, which gives second-place Santa Fe (7-6, 5-2) a one-game lead over his team with one game remaining – a Tuesday rematch at Culleoka.
“Landon spreads everything out for us. With him out, they knew they could double-down on Cooper (Parks). It’s a big difference. But we can’t control it. We’ve got to fight through it.”
Trailing 48-40, Culleoka (9-8, 4-3) did make it a five-point game on Erik Mick’s 3-pointer, but Santa Fe pushed the lead back out behind four Andy Slaughter free throws and a pair of Colton Steward baskets.
“Colton did a really good job of getting to the rim and putting pressure on the defense,” Wildcats coach Brad Slaughter said after Steward (14 points), Slaughter (game-high 27 points) and Westin McClanahan (11 points) each scored in double digits.
“We had an opportunity to get up 10 or 12 by halftime. We made a lot of mental mistakes – a couple of offensive fouls on screens, a couple of silly reaches. We’ve just got to play smarter. We talked about that at the half, and I thought we got away from some of the dumb fouls in the second half.”
Leading 35-30 at halftime, Santa Fe never really pulled away until late – aided by Logan Wilkins’ stepping in and taking that charge.
“That was a huge play by Logan,” Slaughter said. “He’s been struggling, and he knows it. I’m happy to see him make such a big play.”
Mick finished with 14 points and Parks 13 for Culleoka. Andrews scored nine before fouling out.
“We were 2-for-16 on 3s,” Lovett said. “We missed some free throws. We had 15 turnovers. We had a bunch of mistakes. As a team, we’ve got to fix that in the next couple of games.”
In the girls game, Culleoka got 12 points each from Breanna Dickson and Maci McKennon on the way to a 40-35 win. Emmy Bates and Elise Adkison led Santa Fe with 10 points apiece.
Santa Fe boys 59, Culleoka 50
C 13 12 9 16 — 50
S 12 18 11 18 — 59
Culleoka (50) – Tavon Bagsby 2, Landon Andrews 9, Cooper Parks 13, Erik Mick 14, Hunter Harris 6, Ranger Graham 3, Blake Delk 3
Santa Fe (59) – Westin McClanahan 11, Will Monhollen 2, Andy Slaughter 27, Colton Steward 14, Auden Slaughter 4, Tanner Bryan 1
3-pointers – Culleoka 4 (Andrews, Mick 2, Delk), Santa Fe 4 (McClanahan, An. Slaughter 3)
Culleoka girls 40, Santa Fe 35
C 13 12 4 11 — 40
S 7 13 10 5 — 35
Culleoka (40) – Tyler Reischman 7, Alex Skinner 7, Hannah Collins 2, Breanna Dickson 12, Maci McKennon 12
Santa Fe (35) – Gracie Mills 6, Elise Adkison 10, Emmy Bates 10, Emily Hopkins 3, Aniston Slaughter 3, Jade Arnold 3
3-pointers – Culleoka 1 (Skinner), Santa Fe 3 (Hopkins, Slaughter, Arnold)