Cold Springs Lady Eagles edge Red Bay to advance to Northwest Regional 2A championship

Josh McBrayer

HANCEVILLE – Revenge is sweet, and the Cold Springs Lady Eagles tasted it tonight. Two years ago, they experienced heartache at the hands of Red Bay in the regional finals of the AHSAA Northwest Regional at Tom Drake Coliseum, when they lost in overtime. Tonight, facing off against the Lady Tigers in the semifinals, the Lady Eagles rallied and ended Red Bay's run toward another appearance in the title game, winning a hard-fought battle by the score of 39-36.

Cold Springs trailed for much of the contest and struggled getting the outside attack going in a consistent way. The Lady Eagles changed their game plan after halftime by going toward the basket instead of shooting a lot of three-point tries.

It worked better, and they raised their field goal percentage from 27 at the half to 40 percent by the game's conclusion, thanks to 10-of-18 from the field, nine of them on close-range shots featuring senior Emme Willoughby and freshman Elizabeth Hill.

Willoughby provided the spark Cold Springs needed in the third when they fell behind 24-17. She took the ball to the basket and hit four shots in the quarter, plus went 2-of-3 from the line for a 10-point outing.

Cold Springs was down 30-29 when the fourth began. Hill was given the task to test her skills and she did on the offensive side with six points in a span that carried them to a 37-30 lead with 5:00 remaining.

"She (Hill) got into a mindset and took it," coach Tammy West said. "I saw fire in her I haven't seen in some time. We had hustle plays that you just can't coach. We made good decisions."

Red Bay answered with a 3-pointer by Allie Kennedy and closed to 39-36 in the final seconds. The Lady Tigers had two chances to tie with a 3-pointer, but Kennedy missed, and a shot from the left baseline as time expired by Morgan Pierce never touched the rim.

Cold Springs conquered a major opponent, improving to 28-4 on the season, and has another waiting for them in the next segment of the playoffs- the regional final.

The Lady Eagles will play Tanner for the title on Monday at 3 p.m. at the Coliseum. A trip to Birmingham awaits the winner of the showdown between the Lady Eagles and Lady Rattlers, two programs that, along with Red Bay, have dominated the Northwest Region a long period of time.

Willoughby scored 17 in the victory with Hill adding 15. Both players led the team with six rebounds. Camyrn Crider tallied five and Neely Ellison had a huge layup for her two points in the fourth quarter during the Eagles' 8-0 run.

Darby Madden pumped in 14 for Red Bay. Madden has signed to play at the University of North Alabama. A sophomore, Regan Kuykendall, scored 13 points with 10 coming in the first half. Kennedy added nine in her final game before she heads to play at University of Southern Mississippi.

This was the final game for Red Bay coach Donnie Roberts, who announced he is retiring after the season.

"He's a legend," West said about Roberts, who has experienced success like she has at Cold Springs, with county titles, area championships, regional crowns and a state title a couple of years ago. "He's a great man and a very good friend."

West closed out her news conference by saying that the Lady Eagles and Red Bay are two teams that are very much alike.

A lot of people witnessed that Thursday night inside Tom Drake Coliseum.


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