PREP BASKETBALL: Lady Eagles defeat Hatton 50-47 to win back to back Northwest Regional crowns, advance to Final 4

Cold Springs’ Toni West (4) finished with 11 points, seven rebounds and three steals in the Lady Eagles’ 50-47 win over Hatton Tuesday night and earned Northwest Regional Tournament MVP honors. (Martha Needham for The Cullman Tribune)

HANCEVILLE, Ala. – For the second straight season, the Cold Springs Lady Eagles are your Northwest Regional Champions and they’ll be at the BJCC in Birmingham Monday to continue their pursuit of another state title. Cold Springs battled it out with a Hatton squad that refused to lay down and kept gunning for the defending state champs but in the end, the Lady Eagles were able to pull away at the free throw line late in the fourth quarter to win it 50-47 and capture another Northwest Regional title.

Cold Springs Head Coach Tammy West is proud of the way her team has risen to meet and exceed some pretty big expectations this season and for their impressive win against a physical Lady Hornets team.

“I’m excited right now. We came into this season and I think a lot of people thought we’d lost a lot last year but I felt all along that this group would be able to get back to where they were last year so I’m extremely proud of them,” West said. “They work really hard and hats off to Hatton because they played really well today. They took us out of a lot of stuff we’ve been doing all year long and they’re a really good team so I’m very proud of all these girls.”

West bragged on the work ethic her group has shown throughout the year and is proud of the way they have carried themselves both on and off the basketball court.

 “They’re great girls, they’re role models for all the girls in our school and everyone in our school. I joke about how hard they work and what kind of girls they are. If I call a 7:00 practice or an 8:00 practice over the holidays or something I better get there at 7:15 or they’ll be freezing out in their cars,” West joked. “Their work ethic is great. They get in early; they’ll stay late, they go to the gym on the weekends and they’re just good girls that work hard and have a goal. They’ve always worked really hard to get that goal in everything they do. They’re great students and I just couldn’t ask for a better group of girls than the ones we have on this team.”

Toni West finished an and-one play at the free throw line to give the Lady Eagles a quick 3-0 start in the opening quarter and Kylon Hamby knocked down a three on their next possession to make it 6-2. Hatton scored a pair of buckets to move in front 7-6 but a basket from Lacey Rice gave Cold Springs a 1-point lead near the five-minute mark of the first. A 5-0 run gave the Lady Hornets a 12-8 lead but two more buckets from Rice cut the Hatton lead to 13-12 going into the second quarter.

Three-pointers from West and Neely Ellison gave the Lady Eagles an 18-13 lead early in the second. The Lady Hornets cut the lead to three midway through the period but another three from West put Cold Springs back up 21-15. Brooke Crider buried a three to make it 24-18 with just over two minutes to play in the half but Hatton was able to trim the lead to 24-20 by the halftime break.

Hamby drilled another three-pointer to stretch the lead to 27-20 early in the third and Rice laid one in on a fast break to keep the Lady Eagles in front 30-23 midway through the period. A 5-0 run by the Lady Hornets cut the lead to 30-28 with three minutes remaining in the quarter but Elizabeth Hill scored to stretch the lead back to four and stop the run. Ellison knocked down another shot from beyond the arc to add to the lead and another bucket from Hill made it a 37-28 game near the one-minute mark of the third. Another Hatton scoring run trimmed the lead five with 10 seconds to play in the period, but Hill drained a jumper at the buzzer to put Cold Springs on top 40-33 going into the fourth quarter.

The Lady Hornets were able to make it a 5-point game early in the fourth and nailed a corner three to cut it to 41-38 midway through the period. Hill attacked the basket and laid one in with just under three minutes to play to extend the lead to 43-38 but Hatton responded with a bucket on the other end to trim the lead to three.

Hill netted a pair of free throws inside of two minutes to make it a 45-40 game, but the Lady Hornets answered with a score to cut the lead back down to three with just over a minute to play. A pair of free throws by Ellison stretched the lead to 47-42 with a minute remaining and after a steal by West, Ellison was fouled again and added two more free throws to make it 49-42 with 40 seconds on the clock. Hatton refused to go away and found a way to cut the lead 49-47 with five seconds to play but Ellison was sent to the free throw line one last time and hit one of two from the stripe in the final seconds of regulation to secure a 50-47 win and a spot in next week’s state tournament for Cold Springs.

Ellison led the Lady Eagles with 12 points in the win, five of which came from the free throw line in the final minute of the game. West finished just behind her with 11 and Hill posted 10. Rice scored eight in the win for Cold Springs, Hamby added six and Crider collected three.

Ellison, West and Hill earned spots on this year’s Northwest Regional All-Tournament team and West was named the tournament’s MVP.

Hill believes her team is ready to rise to the occasion in Birmingham next week and knows that as the defending champions, they’ll be getting the best shot from anyone they play.

“We know what it takes now, we know what to expect and we know there’s a target on our backs.”

The Lady Eagles will face either Aliceville or Central-Hayneville at the BJCC Monday night at 6 with a spot in this year’s 2A State Championship Game on the line.

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