AHSAA STATE BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT: Cold Springs defeats Central-Hayneville 61-46 to advance to 2A State Finals

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Cold Springs’ Elizabeth Hill (3) racked up a game-high 37 points in the Lady Eagles’ 61-46 win over Central-Hayneville Monday night. (Martha Needham/The Cullman Tribune)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Cold Springs is heading back to the class 2A Girls State Championship Game and the Lady Eagles punched their ticket by toppling Central-Hayneville 61-46 in Monday night’s semifinal clash. Cold Springs came out firing on the offensive end, putting up 25 in the opening quarter and setting the tone early. Senior forward Elizabeth Hill racked up a game-high 37 points in the win and hit seven shots from three-point range.

Lady Eagles Head Coach Tammy West was excited to see her team come out so aggressively in the first quarter and was even more proud of the poise they showed when the Lady Lions began to cut into the lead in the second half.

“I feel like we’ve been waiting on a game like this for a long time and I haven’t seen us come out and play a first half like we did tonight, it was incredible,” West said. “I’m so proud of them and the way we kept our composure when they started to make a run. We knew they were going to and they’re a very good team, so I just kept waiting on them to make that run and when they did, we kept our composure and that says a lot about the team.”

Hill knocked down six three-pointers in the first half to help give her team a 20-point lead at the break and credits her teammates for setting her up throughout the game.

“My teammates did a really good job of getting me the ball when I was open, and I was just lucky enough that they were falling,” Hill joked.

Coach West has seen Hill deal with the injury bug from time to time during her playing career but wasn’t surprised to see her put together this kind of performance on the biggest stage of the season.

“She’s had a rough year. Elizabeth deals with a lot of injuries with her legs so I’ve been waiting to see her play a game like she did tonight. She’s been through a lot; she’s a warrior and I wouldn’t expect anything less of her,” West said. “She just waited till she got down here on the big stage to pull some of that stuff out tonight.”  

Neely Ellison buried a three from the left corner to give the Lady Eagles a 3-0 start to the game, but the Lady Lions responded with a triple on the other end. Elizabeth Hill knocked down a three-pointer of her own to make it a 6-3 game with just over six minutes to play in the first and she drilled her next shot from beyond the arc to put Cold Springs in front 9-5. Hill’s third trey of the opening period barely touched the net on its way through, stretching the lead to 12-5 and forcing a timeout by Central-Hayneville. Midway through the first, Hill buried her fourth straight three to make it a 15-5 game.

A steal by Toni West led to an easy bucket for Lacey Rice that added to the lead and Hill laid on one in on the ensuing possession to extend the lead to 19-5 late in the opening period. Another Hill basket made it 21-7 with a minute remaining in the first and West turned another steal into two more points that extended the lead to 23-7. In the final seconds of the quarter, Rice was fouled driving to the basket and hit both shots from the free throw line to give Cold Springs a 25-7 lead at the start of the second.

Hill’s fifth three-pointer of the half kept the Lady Eagles in front 28-9 early in the second quarter and she dropped in a floater to make it 30-11 with just over four minutes to play in the half. Hill knocked down number six from beyond the arc at the top of the key to make it a 33-14 game and West laid one in to stretch the lead to 35-14. Back to back baskets by West made it 39-15 with two minutes to play in the period and Brooke Crider put one in high off the glass to give Cold Springs a 41-17 lead. The Lady Eagles led the way 41-21 at the halftime break. Hill finished six of seven from the three-point line in the first half and racked up 24 points.

The Lady Lions managed to trim the lead to 14 at the start of the third quarter but Hill’s seventh triple of the night put Cold Springs back in front 44-27. West buried a three to add to the lead with just under five minutes to play in the third, but Central-Hayneville was able to cut the lead 47-37 near the two-minute mark of the period. Hill laid one in to get the lead back to 12 with just over a minute to play in the third and the Lady Eagles went into the final frame with a 49-37 advantage.

The Lady Lions came out fighting to start the fourth, trimming the lead to 51-43 with six minutes to play but Hill knocked down a turnaround jumper to build the lead back up to 10. Another Hill score made it a 55-43 game midway through the period and West laid one in to keep Cold Springs in front 57-45. Hill netted a pair of free throws with just over a minute on the clock to add to the lead and West added two more from the line with 46 seconds remaining to ice a 61-46 win and a spot in Friday morning’s 2A State Finals.

Junior Point Guard Toni West likes the way the Lady Eagles are playing right now and knows they’ll be ready to play when they hit the floor Friday morning to defend their state title.

“We’re just lucky that we went through this last year, so we definitely know what it takes,” West said. “Having to go through that last year, it means a lot for us to have experience with all of this. I think we’re ready and we’ll be ready Friday.”

The Lady Eagles will take on Collinsville Friday morning at 9 with a chance to repeat as state champions.

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