Cold Springs celebrates with its state championship trophy on the court after defeating Fyffe 57-53 in overtime in Friday morning's 2A State Championship Game. (Nick Griffin for The Cullman Tribune)
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – After a season full of big wins and record-setting performances, Cold Springs capped things off with a state title on Friday morning. The Lady Eagles defeated Fyffe 57-53 in overtime to capture their first Class 2A Girls State Championship since 2009 and their fourth in school history. Cold Springs jumped out to a big lead early in the game, but Fyffe was able to chip away and force an overtime period. Lady Eagles Head Coach Tammy West now has four state titles on her resume.
West touched on the message she had for her players before the start of overtime and said she was happy to see them get off to a fast start.
“We just talked about how it was a new ballgame and we had to go out and be fundamentally sound and take care of the basketball. It was huge for us to get the first points. I wouldn’t have felt comfortable if we let them score first, so Neely (Ellison) came in and hit a huge shot,” West said. “I’m just glad she took it and then she got a steal and a layup, and we were able to maintain the lead from then on and I’m just very proud of them.”
This year’s All-Tournament Team MVP, Elizabeth Hill, said the Lady Eagles had several obstacles to get by this season. Hill has done a great job filling her role on the offensive end.
“We definitely had a lot to overcome this season, but we just knew we had to stick together, trust each other and work hard. We all love each other so it was really easy to do that,” Hill said. “I just know my team needs me, and if I’m driving that creates shots for everybody else, and I know it's my job to get our offense going.”
The new girls’ AHSAA state record holder for made 3-pointers in a season, Camryn Crider, not only set the individual mark on Friday, but also helped lead this year’s Cold Springs squad to become the most prolific 3-point shooting girls’ team in the history of the AHSAA.
Crider touched on her practice routine that’s helped her get to this point as well as her mentality when shooting from beyond the arc, saying, “I go to the gym every weekend with my dad and we get on the gun and we just shoot and shoot and shoot,” Crider said. “After practices I’ll get out the gun and just shoot and shoot, just to build that confidence so that when I play in a big game like this, I can come through for my team.”
The Lady Eagles got off to a slow start earlier in the year, compiling a 2-3 record in their first five games, but Crider thinks that was a big part of why the team made it to this stage.
“I think starting the season with a loss was pretty big,” Crider said. “That turned our spirits around and we all knew that we had to work super hard, and having so many people get hurt throughout the season has forced everyone to work that much harder. I think that’s probably what pulled us together the most this year.”
A surprise for Crider and the Lady Eagles was waiting for them when they ran onto the floor Friday morning: a huge, rabid crowd of Cold Springs fans ready to cheer them on.
“We have been begging for a crowd all year and I when I walked out today for warm-ups and saw how many people were here, I don’t even know, that was the coolest thing ever,” Crider smiled. “I did not think that many people would come. I didn’t think that many people were in our town,” she joked.
Crider got things started for Cold Springs with back-to-back 3-pointers that put the Lady Eagles in front 8-4 midway through the first, and she added a third basket from beyond the arc later in the period to make it 11-4. Crider’s first 3-point basket set a new record for made 3-pointers in a season at 155. The record was previously held by Butler’s Nikki Tibbs, who recorded 154 3-pointers during the 1998-99 season. Crider finished the game with a total of 157 on the season.
Fyffe added a pair of free throws late in the first, but Hill knocked down a three from the corner to stretch the lead to 16-6 going into the second quarter. Crider shot f4-of-6 from the field and posted 11 points in the opening period.
Another three and an and-one basket from Hill made it 22-6 at the start of the second, but the Cold Springs offense was held in check for most of the quarter. Fyffe trimmed the lead to 25-13 with just under two minutes to play and began applying more pressure on the defensive end. A steal led to an easy layup for the Lady Red Devils as time expired in the second and cut the lead to 25-16 at the half.
Fyffe scored quickly to make it a 25-21 game at the start of the third and nailed a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 28-26 midway through the period. A bucket from Aubrey Negron extended the lead to 32-26 with just over four minutes to play in the third and Toni West laid one in after her to make it 34-26.
A three from Hill put the Lady Eagles ahead 37-28 late in the quarter, but a three from the Lady Red Devils trimmed the lead to 37-33 with just over a minute remaining in the period. Fyffe cut the lead to just one after knocking down another shot from three-point range, but a pair of free throws from Crider gave Cold Springs a 39-36 advantage going into the final frame. The Lady Eagles were outscored 20-14 in the third quarter.
Hill knocked down a mid-range jumper and a 3-pointer at the top of the key to stretch the lead to 44-36 early in the fourth, but the Lady Red Devils nailed a triple of their own to make it 44-39 with just under three minutes to play. Fyffe added another three from the corner to make it a 44-42 game with two minutes remaining and tied the game at 44 with a floater on its next possession. The Lady Red Devils held on to the ball, looking to take the last shot, but their game-winning three-point attempt bounced off the front of the rim and sent the game into overtime knotted at 44.
Ellison knocked down a triple and laid one in off a steal to give the Lady Eagles an early 49-44 lead and Cold Springs was able to end things from the free-throw line the rest of the way. Hill netted a pair from the charity stripe to go up 52-46 with just under a minute to play, and two more from Crider made it 54-49 with 22 seconds remaining. Fyffe cut the lead to 54-51 with 10 seconds to play, but two more free throws from Hill put the game out of reach and the Lady Eagles held on to win it 57-53.
Hill led the way for Cold Springs with 30 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks and four steals in the win. Crider finished behind her with 16 points, followed by Ellison with five. Negron finished with four points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
When asked how this team was able to come together throughout the season and pull off such an unbelievable run, Coach West had a very simple answer that she hopes the next generation of Lady Eagles hears as well: “Hard work and believing in their coaches and the practices that we had and just sticking together,” West said. “They’re just great. Every team that we’ve brought down here has been full of outstanding kids. They’re great student-athletes, they’re role models for our school and hopefully the younger girls were watching today.”
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