STATE BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT: No. 2 Cold Springs falls to No. 1 Collinsville 58-45 in 2A Girls State Finals

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The Cold Springs Lady Eagles fell to Collinsville 58-45 in the 2A Girls State Championship Game Friday morning. (Martha Needham/The Cullman Tribune)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – After another stellar season from the Cold Springs Lady Eagles, the defending 2A state champs made their way to Legacy Arena Friday morning to play for another title but couldn’t keep pace with the top-ranked Collinsville Lady Panthers. The Lady Eagles trailed by just four at the half, but Collinsville picked things up on both ends of the floor in the second half and pulled away late in the game to defeat Cold Springs 58-45 and capture the 2A Girls State Championship.

Lady Eagles Head Coach Tammy West credited the Lady Panthers’ performance on the defensive side of the ball for making things tough on her team. West and her players are disappointed with Friday morning’s result but know that they lost to a good team that played a great game.

“I’m just extremely proud of my team. We played in the game we wanted to play in all year long, it didn’t work out the way we wanted it to, but I told them all year if we’re going to lose to somebody we want to lose to somebody that we’re worthy of losing to and today we ran up against a very good team,” West said. “They were very well-rounded, fundamentally sound, didn’t make a lot of mistakes, rebounded well, shot the ball well and just had great composure. We fell short but it was to a really good team as is our team. I want to give all the credit to their defense for causing us to have to rush our shots and not making anything easy for us.”

Collinsville knocked down a pair of threes to take an early 6-0 lead, but Toni West responded with a trey on the other end to get Cold Springs on the board. Elizabeth Hill dropped in a floater to make it a 1-point game midway through the opening quarter and Kylon Hamby netted a free throw to tie the game at 6. Lacey Rice drilled a three from the left corner to keep the game tied at 9 with two minutes to play in the first and after the Lady Panthers pulled ahead 13-9, Neely Ellison knocked down another three to cut the lead to one. Ellison laid one in off a turnover to give Cold Springs a 14-13 lead, but Collinsville got another shot to fall in the final seconds of the period to take a 15-14 lead into the second quarter.

West hit three-pointer to put Cold Springs back in front by two at the start of the second and buried another triple from the top of the key to keep the Lady Eagles up 20-18 with six minutes to play in the half. The Lady Panthers retook a 22-20 lead midway through the period and added a pair of free throws to stretch the lead to four. Collinsville pulled ahead 28-21 in the final two minutes, but Ellison drilled a three just before the buzzer to cut the lead to 28-24 at halftime. The first half featured six lead changes and three ties between the two teams.

The Lady Panthers extended their lead to eight early in the third quarter until West stopped the bleeding with another three that made it a 32-27 game. Collinsville was able to pull ahead 36-27 midway through the period, but Hill laid one in underneath the basket to trim the lead to seven. Another three-pointer by West made it 38-32 with just over a minute to play in the third but the Lady Panthers ended the quarter with a pair of baskets to take a 42-32 lead into the final frame.

Rice knocked down a jumper cut the lead to eight early in the fourth quarter and Hill put one in off the glass to make it 42-36 with five minutes to play. A three-pointer from Collinsville stretched the lead back to nine midway through the period but Hill netted a pair of free throws on the other end to make it a 7-point game. Another Hill bucket held the lead at seven with just under three minutes to play but the Lady Panthers converted a three-point play to move back in front by 10. Hill completed an and-one play of her own to make it a 50-43 game with less than two minutes remaining but senior forward fouled out on the ensuing Collinsville possession. The Lady Panthers knocked down four straight from the line to take a 54-43 lead with just over a minute to play and the Lady Eagles ran out of time to chip away, falling to Collinsville 58-45 and finishing as this year’s 2A Girls State Runners-up.

West led the way for Cold Springs offensively with 17 points. Hill finished with 13, Ellison posted eight, Rice added six and Hamby scored one in the loss for the Lady Eagles. Hill and West also earned spots on the 2A All-State Tournament Team.

Ellison, a senior on this year’s Cold Springs squad, has enjoyed every minute of her playing days with the Lady Eagles and is already looking forward to seeing what West and her other returning teammates can do next season.

“I’ve loved the past four years playing here. I can’t wait to come back and watch Toni (West) and I know they’re going to have another successful year next year,” Ellison said. “I’ve just loved every minute of playing with them and it was great to make it back this year.”

Hill will be graduating from Cold Springs in May as well and while she’s disappointed that she and her team fell short Friday morning, she recognizes what they have accomplished in their time playing together.

“I’m just really thankful for all my teammates and coaches and this community we have,” Hill said. “It couldn’t have been a better four years and to make it here twice is a big accomplishment so I’m just really proud of everybody.”

West will return next year for her senior season with the Lady Eagles and is proud to have been such a big part of back to back championship runs. She knows there a very small number of teams that get the chance to compete at this level and she’s proud to have been on two of them so far in her career.

“We’re just really blessed to be here, especially for the past two years. There are lot of other teams that would love to be in our position as the runner-up or winner,” West said. “We’re in the state finals so I’m just proud of this team and how far we’ve come.”

Neely Ellison, Kylon Hamby, Emma Chambers, Elizabeth Hill and Emi Harbison will be gone when the Lady Eagles hit the court again next season but after putting together another impressive championship run this year, don’t be surprised if you see Cold Springs chasing another blue map in 2021.

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