COLD SPRINGS – Cleveland took advantage of a cold second quarter by the Cold Springs offense, defeating the Eagles 66-50 Tuesday in the Class 2A Northwest Sub-Regional playoff.
The Eagles scored two baskets quickly to start the second and take their largest lead of the game at 18-12. But in the last 7:00 of the quarter, the Eagles were unable to add points to their side of the Jesse George Gymnasium scoreboard.
Cleveland finished the period with a 13-0 run and moved ahead by the score of 25-18 at halftime. That performance pretty much silenced the crowd on the side wearing "True Blue" T-shirts.
Cold Springs could not break through Cleveland's 2-3 zone defense, featuring 6'9" center Khaili Johnson in the middle. Johnson and his Panther teammates made it difficult for the Eagles to run their motion offense and clamped down on the 3-point shooters.
John Fallin was another story for the Panthers. The sophomore guard scored three straight baskets to propel Cleveland into the lead in the second with Desmond Cozad getting a basket off a steal in the final seconds of the second to extend the Panther advantage to seven.
A three by Fallin early in the third sent the Panthers to a 34-22 advantage as the Eagles tried to put together a comeback.
They did close the third on an 11-7 run with a 3-point play by Fisher Willoughby, a field goal from Jesse Lee and a free throw by Blake Wood in the final 2:59 of the period.
The Eagles were down 41-33 when the final stanza began.
Johnson dropped in a pair from the line, pushing the Cleveland lead to 46-33 with 7:00 remaining. Cold Springs stayed close as a three by Willoughby made the score 52-44 with 3:20 to go in the game.
But the Panthers had too many weapons with Johnson, finishing the game with five assists, getting the ball near the basket for his teammates to knock down easy shots.
A layup by Cozad off a Johnson pass from the foul line gave Cleveland a 58-48 lead with 1:53 to go.
Eli Hamby scored the Eagles' final basket of the night, a jumper with 59 seconds left. Cold Springs trailed 62-50 with Cleveland scoring from the floor and at the line to close out the victory in the game's final 45 seconds.
Fallin was hot for the Panthers, now 19-9 on the season, hitting a game-high 25 points with five baskets from 3-point range, Johnson netted 16 points to go with his five assists and five blocked shots while Cozad scored 15, six in the fourth quarter.
The Eagles end the year at 20-9. Hamby's 16 was tops for Tim Willoughby's ball club while Willoughby netted 10, Wood scored nine, Lee seven, Hunter McClendon five and Mason Harris three.
Cold Springs was a strong squad in the second half with a 13-2 record after January and a 10-2 record on the home floor.
The Panthers ended the Eagles' five-game winning streak and an eight-game home winning streak.
Cleveland will come to Tom Drake Coliseum Thursday at 7:30 p.m. and play in the Northwest Regional.
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