PREP BASKETBALL: No. 4 Cold Springs falls to No. 1 Mars Hill in 2A State Semifinals 60-50

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Cold Springs fell to Mars Hill in the 2A State Semifinals 60-50 Monday night. (Nick Griffin/The Cullman Tribune)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The Cold Springs Lady Eagles were back in familiar territory Monday night, competing in the 2A State Semifinals at Legacy Arena for the fourth time in six years and they were facing a familiar foe. The fourth-Lady Eagles met top-ranked Mars Hill in a rematch of last season’s 2A State Finals and after jumping out to an early lead, Cold Springs was unable to fend off Mars Hill down the stretch and the Lady Eagles’ season came to an end with a 60-50 loss in the Final Four. Cold Springs (27-4) Head Coach Tammy West has led her fair share of teams to the state tournament over the years, but she admits the group of seniors on this year’s team will hold a special place in her heart.

“I’m just super proud of these girls. I told them in the locker room that sometimes just things don’t go the way you want it to go but they fought hard. Two years ago, we never thought we would be in this position, and they just worked so hard. They’re the best kids walking around our school and that’s what hurts me the most,” West said. “It’s not the loss, it’s the relationship that I have with these girls. Outside of coaching my own daughters these seniors are the closest thing I’ve ever had outside of my own daughters. They’re a special group.”

Three of those seniors, Ella Bruer, Maci Brown and Ciara Calvert spoke after the game about the last two seasons the Lady Eagles have put together and how much this team has meant to them.

“It’s been pretty good. I wasn’t expecting it a few years ago and now that we’re here it just feels amazing to be here with these girls and with our coach,” Bruer said. “It’s just the best thing ever.”

“When I moved here, I just felt welcomed into the family and it meant a lot to me. I watched them their sophomore year and I knew that I belonged on that team,” Brown said. “I knew that they had something that I needed to step into so all of us could put our puzzle pieces together and bring us here.”

“From 10th grade year looking at our future I really didn’t expect us to make it both of these years in a row and now looking back and just knowing that we made it both years,” Calvert said. “I’m so proud of all of us working together, coming together as a team and finishing strong.”

Mars Hill 60 – Cold Springs 50 (2A State Semifinals)

The Lady Eagles got off to a fast start. Baskets by Malaya Taylor and Ella Bruer gave Cold Springs a 4-0 lead and Paizley Whitlow knocked down a three keep the Lady Eagles in front 7-2. Bruer drilled another three to make it a 10-2 game and later in the period, Taylor converted an and-one play to give Cold Springs a 13-6 lead. Whitlow hit a pair of free throws to make it 15-9 late in the first but Mars Hill was able to trim the lead to one by the start of the second.

Ciara Calvert scored the first four points of the second quarter for the Lady Eagles to keep them ahead 19-16 and another bucket from Taylor made it a 21-18 game early in the second quarter. However, an 8-0 run from the Lady Panthers gave Mars Hill a 26-21 lead midway through the period. Another Calvert basket and a three-pointer from Bruer cut the lead to 28-26 with just over a minute remaining in the first half and Maci Brown laid one in with 40 seconds on the clock to hold Mars Hill’s lead to two at the halftime break.

Taylor and Bruer each split a pair of free throws early in the third quarter, but the Lady Panthers were able to pull ahead 38-30. Baskets by Whitlow and Bruer made it a 44-34 game late in third, but the Lady Eagles were able to cut into the lead before the end of the period. Brown sank a pair of free throws with 12 seconds on the clock to make it an 8-point game and Bruer buried a big three just before the buzzer to trim the lead to 44-39 going into the fourth quarter.

A three-pointer from Whitlow made it 47-42 early in the fourth. Brown laid another in for a score and Calvert hit a pair of free throws to hold the lead to 53-46. Baskets by Calvert and Taylor kept the Lady Panthers from pulling away, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the lead and Mars Hill held on to defeat Cold Springs 60-50.

Four Lady Eagles scored in double figures in the loss, led by Bruer with 14 points. Taylor, Whitlow and Calvert each finished with 10.

When Cold Springs cut the ribbon on its new gym in November, West said they planned to keep decorating the walls and just a few months later, the Lady Eagles have earned the new gym’s first Final Four banner.

“This game doesn’t define their legacy. We got a new gym this year and they put a banner on the wall last year and they’re going to put another banner on the wall this year for being at the Final Four,” West said. “I have grandkids now and I told them that one day you’re going to walk into that gym with your grandkids or your daughters and you can point to that banner and tell them all about what you did and how special it was.”

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