PREP BASKETBALL: Cold Springs, Good Hope preparing to tip off Final 4 matchups

Cold Springs’ Ciara Calvert (left) and Good Hope’s Emma Thompson (right). (Nick Griffin & Martha Needham/The Cullman Tribune)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – After winning their respective Regional Championships, Cold Springs and Good Hope are both headed to the Final Four. The Lady Eagles cruised past Vincent and Locust Fork to advance to the semifinals for the fourth time in six years and the Lady Raiders downed Deshler and Priceville to return to Birmingham for the first time since 2012.

Cold Springs (27-4) v. Mars Hill (23-5) (2A State Semifinals)

No. 4 Cold Springs is back at the Final Four Birmingham for the second straight season and for the fourth time in six years. They returned almost everyone from last season’s team that finished runner-up. They’ve had another strong season so far, as they went into their respective area tournament with a 22-4 record. They rolled past Cleveland and got past Locust Fork to take home the Class 2A, Area 11 championship. They dominated Isabella in the Sub-Regional game and easily got past Vincent, 66-26, in the Central Region game at Bill Harris Arena in Birmingham. Against Vincent, Paizley Whitlow drilled six threes on her way to a 22-point night, and Ella Bruer added four threes of her own as she finished with 15. The Lady Eagles held Vincent to just 19% shooting for the game and jumped out to a 15-2 lead in the first quarter.

Their opponent in the Elite Eight turned out to be a very familiar one: the Locust Fork Lady Hornets. With a trip to Birmingham on the line, Cold Springs got going offensively in the second quarter, as that helped them turn a close game into a 14-point lead at the half. The Lady Eagles went on to knock off the Lady Hornets, 50-28, to win the Central Region and will be going to Birmingham for the second straight season. Cold Springs held Locust Fork to just 26% shooting from the field. Whitlow had another strong game for Cold Springs, finishing with 15 points. Bruer and Maci Brown each put up 11 points. Whitlow, Bruer, Brown, and Kenady Graves (eight points) were named to the All-Tournament team in the Central Region, and Bruer ended up getting MVP as well.

Cold Springs (27-4) will now turn its attention to top-ranked Mars Hill (23-5), the same team that knocked off the Lady Eagles in last year’s Class 2A state championship game. The game will be Monday at 3 p.m. The Lady Panthers knocked off Holly Pond in its Sub-Regional game, 57-41, and defeated Sulligent, 61-43, and Decatur Heritage, 57-44, to take home the Northwest Region title and move on to the state semifinals. Mars Hill has an explosive offense and a tough defense, so this will definitely be another tough test for the Lady Eagles.

Cold Springs’ gameplan for Mars Hill is simple: Play tough defense from start to finish, force turnovers, continue to shoot red-hot from behind the three-point line and from the free throw line and win the rebounding battle. If they do all of that, the Lady Eagles will have a chance to return to the 2A state finals.

Good Hope (31-2) v. Prattville Christian (27-7) (4A State Semifinals)

For the first time since 2012, the Good Hope Lady Raiders are going to Birmingham. Just like Cold Springs, Good Hope returned a majority of their players from last season, plus they added a new addition to their team: junior Ava McSwain. Good Hope rolled through the regular season, losing just one game in their own state. The Lady Raiders hosted their respective area tournament and knocked off East Lawrence and Priceville to take home the Class 4A, Area 11 championship. They carried that momentum into their Sub-Regional game against Randolph, easily defeating them, 67-38, to move on to play in the Northwest Regional.

Their opponent was the Deshler Lady Tigers, the same team that knocked Good Hope out of the playoffs the last two seasons. Good Hope jumped out to a quick 21-9 lead after the first quarter, and they never let Deshler get back in the game, as they picked up a huge 68-45 win to move on to the Elite Eight. The Lady Raiders played stout defense throughout the contest, holding the Lady Tigers to just 29% shooting from the field. Ava McSwain had a great night offensively, finishing with 30 points and eight rebounds. Ivey Maddox added 16 points and 14 rebounds, while Heather and Bailey Tetro finished with a combined 10 assists in the win.

Just like Cold Springs, Good Hope’s Elite Eight opponent was an area foe: the Priceville Lady Bulldogs. The Lady Raiders raced off to a quick 17-2 lead after one period over the Lady Bulldogs, and they didn’t let Priceville get within single digits the rest of the way, as Good Hope collected a 62-44 win to win the Northwest Region. They will be making their first trip to Birmingham since 2012.

McSwain carried her momentum over from last game into the game against Priceville, finishing with 31 points, five rebounds, and four steals. Maddox put up 12 points, and the Tetro twins collected a combined 10 steals in the game. The Lady Raiders forced 27 Lady Bulldog turnovers in the contest. McSwain, Maddox, and Bailey Tetro got All-Tournament honors, and McSwain ended up getting MVP for the Northwest Region.

Good Hope (31-2), the top-ranked team in Class 4A, will face off against No. 2 Prattville Christian (27-7), the defending state champions, Tuesday at 3 p.m. The Lady Panthers rolled past Northside in their Sub-Regional game, 61-19. They easily got past Dora (69-23) and squeaked past Hale County in a defensive battle (33-28) to win the Central Regional. They have a great offense and an even better defense, so Good Hope will definitely have its hands full in this game.

The Lady Raiders will look to do what they’ve been doing all season when they face Prattville Christian, play tough, aggressive defense, get off to another fast start offensively, force turnovers, win the rebounding battle and don’t let the Lady Panthers gain any momentum. If they can do all of those things, Good Hope will have a chance to play for a state title later in the week.

Copyright 2024 Humble Roots, LLC. All Rights Reserved.