Spring Garden, coming off a dramatic victory over Cedar Bluff in the Class 1A, Area 10 tournament semifinals on Friday, played with the same intensity it did just three days prior against the second-ranked team in Class 1A.
However, the home team proved why it has such a lofty ranking by earning a 52-44 victory, securing their second straight area championship. Collinsville outscored Spring Garden with a 17-0 run early in the second quarter and had a 15-7 run down the stretch for the final.
Collinsville (26-3) will host in the sub-regional round on Friday night against Area 9 runner-up Jefferson Christian (10-3). Spring Garden (17-13) travels to Area 9 champion Shades Mountain Christian (13-14) for its sub-regional game.
Shades Mountain defeated Jefferson Christian 39-38 in other area tournament action on Monday.
“The only thing we really talked about before the game in terms of a pep talk was getting to play one more time in our gym for the seniors,” Collinsville coach Jon Tidmore said. “I think that was important to them, to get our fans in here one more time and have that chance to go to Jacksonville in front of the home crowd.”
Speaking of seniors, a pair of them stepped up to lead the home team. Senior forward and all-tournament selection Davey Posey scored a game-high 19 points (14 in the first half) and grabbed six rebounds. Senior guard Deshawn Moore netted 15 points and pulled down seven boards to claim the tournament’s Most Valuable Player honor.
“Going into the game, Coach (Tidmore) said we’ve got to play with intensity and energy. I think when we did that, we played our best,” Posey said. “We’re an up-tempo team. We play best when we play fast. We didn’t crash the boards like we wanted to, but everything turned out all right.”
Moore said he felt like Posey should have been chosen MVP of the tournament, but it didn’t matter to him who got the award as long as the team assured itself of one more home game.
“It’s a big accomplishment for us,” Moore said. “We wanted another game at home. Obviously it will be our last game, and want to go to Jacksonville, so we want to play here. It’s a good feeling.”
But before Moore and the rest of his teammates could have that “good feeling,” they had to battle tooth-and-nail with Spring Garden.
The two teams were knotted at 12 at the end of the first quarter. Spring Garden forged out in front 20-14 with 6:13 to go before the half on a rebound and putback by Jay Prater.
But then Collinsville began to take control.
Three-pointers by David Hernandez, Moore and C.J. Jones were part of a 17-0 run that helped turn a six-point deficit into a 31-20 advantage.
“It starts with our energy and intensity,” Moore said. “We didn’t start off as well as we should have. The second quarter, we realized they came to play. We knew we wanted a championship, so we came out there and played.”
To Spring Garden’s credit, the visiting Panthers didn’t back down. They rallied with a 10-2 run in the early stages of the third quarter. A layup in the lane by senior forward Jake Grogan tied the game at 35 with 3:31 remaining. The game was tied again at 37 at the end of the third quarter.
“That’s a sign of a team wanting something they haven’t had,” Spring Garden coach Ricky Austin said. “I’m proud of my team for fighting back. We haven’t done that a lot when people get us on a run like that, but we didn’t quit fighting. We played this thing up until the horn.”
One of the big keys for Spring Garden was its rebounding. It limited Collinsville to one shot on many trips up the floor.
“We did a great job of rebounding. I couldn’t ask for more,” Austin said. “Collinsville is just one of those teams that cleans us up on the boards. We showed a little toughness tonight. We out-rebounded them, and I was proud of that.”
Added Grogan: “You can’t give a team that can score that high more points. Coach just told us to find our man, get a butt on them and box them out. They’re really good when they get more than one shot.”
On the flip side, Tidmore said Spring Garden is “very difficult to guard because they spread you so deep with their shooters.”
“Grogan’s so hard to handle on the inside, then you’ve got the backside rebounding by (Will) Westbrook,” Tidmore said. “They do a very good job of spreading the floor. Defensively, they stay on the floor and seem to contest every shot. There’s nothing easy with them.”
Collinsville began to pull away in the early stages of the fourth. A 3-pointer by Moore at the 4:27 mark, followed by a steal and a bucket by Jones with 4:15 remaining in the game gave Collinsville a 47-39 advantage. Spring Garden could get no closer than six points the rest of the way.
“We didn’t finish very well, but I thought we really hustled all night,” Tidmore said. “That was probably our saving grace tonight. We were always getting after it. I think at the end of the night, that was probably the difference for us.”
Grogan, along with junior point guard Will Ivey, finished with 10 points apiece. Grogan added six boards, an assist and a steal. Ivey also contributed five assists and a pair of rebounds.
Prater came away with eight points. Westbrook tallied seven points, eight rebounds, three assists and a steal. Logan Whorton had five points, seven boards, an assist and a steal.
“The next game is what we’re preaching,” Austin said. “Us coming here, playing in this environment, a great game against a very good team in their gym, we’ve got to use what we learned tonight and take that on the road with us. If we do that, that’s all I can ask for.”
Hernandez added six points for Collinsville. Jones finished with five points.
Jones joined Moore and Posey on the all-tournament team. Grogan and Whorton represented Spring Garden. DeAngelo Hardy represented Cedar Bluff and Gable Lawson was selected from Gaylesville.