PREP BASKETBALL: No. 1 Cold Springs downs No. 9 Francis Marion 70-60 to advance to Final 4

The Cold Springs Lady Eagles defeated Francis Marion 70-60 Wednesday night to punch their ticket back to the Final 4. (Cold Springs High)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The Cold Springs Lady Eagles were back in action at Bill Harris Arena Wednesday night, taking on Francis Marion in the Central Regional 2A Girls Finals. Cold Springs got it done from the free throw line and the three-point line to fend off the Lady Rams 70-60 and will make its return to the 2A Girls State Semifinals next week.

The Lady Eagles knocked down 11 of their 13 free throw attempts in the fourth quarter, led by Maci Brown who finished 9/10 from the line in the final period. Ella Bruer also led the way from long range, draining five three-pointers in the win.

The Lady Eagles came out shooting in the first quarter. Ella Bruer’s first three-pointer of the day gave Cold Springs a quick, 3-0 lead and Malaya Taylor scored inside to make it 5-0. Bruer’s next three put the Lady Eagles in front 8-4 later in the period and after Maci Brown split a pair of free throws, Bruer’s third three-pointer made it a 12-4 game midway through the first. Taylor laid another one in to add to the lead and after Ella Dickerson sank a pair of free throws, Brown drained a three in the final minute of the first to give Cold Springs a 19-12 lead going into the second.

Francis Marion was able to trim the lead to 19-16 early in the second quarter but Dickerson stopped the run with a pair of free throws and kept the Lady Eagles ahead 21-16. Another free throw from Bruer made it 22-18 midway through the period and Dickerson laid one in with two minutes remaining in the half to keep Cold Springs ahead 24-21. Brown drilled a three to give the Lady Eagles a 27-21 lead with just over a minute on the clock and after a 5-0 run from the Lady Rams, Brown knocked down a halfcourt shot at the buzzer to put Cold Springs in front 30-26 at the halftime break.

Francis Marion opened the second half with a 9-0 scoring run to take a 35-30 lead over the Lady Eagles but baskets by Brown and Bruer cut the lead to 35-34 with just over four minutes to play in the third. Ciara Calvert buried back to back three-pointers to keep the momentum going and put Cold Springs back in front 40-37. Bruer’s fourth trey of the game made it 43-37 and Dickerson scored in transition to extend the lead to 45-37. Calvert scored to make it a 10-point game with less than two minutes remaining in the quarter and Bruer knocked down another three to stretch the lead to 50-39. Taylor scored inside to keep the Lady Eagles ahead 52-42 and Cold Springs went into the final frame leading Francis Marion 52-45.

Baskets by Dickerson and Kenady Graves kept the Lady Eagles ahead 56-50 early in the fourth and Calvert drained another three-pointer to make it a 59-50 game. Brown sank her next four free throw attempts to maintain a 63-56 lead with less than three minutes to play. Taylor split a pair of shots from the foul line to make it 64-56 and with just over a minute left on the clock, Brown netted two more free throws to give Cold Springs a 68-57 advantage. The Lady Rams hit one more three-pointer on the other end, but they didn’t have enough time to threaten the Lady Eagles’ lead and Cold Springs punched its ticket to the Final Four with a 70-60 win.

Brown led the Lady Eagles with 21 points and 11 assists in the win. Bruer added 18 points, Calvert finished with 12, Dickerson posted 10 points and 10 rebounds and Taylor collected seven points and 15 rebounds.

Dickerson, Bruer and Brown all earned Central Regional All-Tournament honors and Brown was named Tournament MVP.

Cold Springs (30-2) will now prepare for a Final Four matchup against Lanett at the BJCC’s Legacy Arena in Birmingham Monday at 6 p.m.

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