For the first time in 12 years, Spring Garden won't advance to the Northeast Regional Tournament in Jacksonville.
Collinsville junior guard Christy Cox connected on a 3-pointer with 5:14 left in the Class 1A, Area 14 tournament semifinals, breaking a 30-all tie and ultimately leading to a 44-37 victory.
Collinsville (20-10) advances to Saturday's area championship game where it will face Cedar Bluff (14-13) at 7 p.m. The Lady Tigers defeated Valley Head in Thursday's area tournament semifinal nightcap 55-34.
Spring Garden's season comes to a close at 17-12.
"Their tradition is they go to Jacksonville every year, and to beat them on any given year is big for your program," Collinsville coach Jon Tidmore said. "It was a low-scoring game, so any bucket was big. They were spending a lot of time and effort on (senior post player) Kristen (Ford). They did what they had to do tonight to keep one of our better players from touching the ball. They did a box-and-one on Christy that worked some, but I'm so proud of our girls for coming through in a close game."
Another Ford helped keep things close early for Collinsville in junior Kiana Ford. She scored seven of her 12 points in the first quarter, which Collinsville led 11-10. The homestanding Lady Panthers managed to take a 21-17 advantage at halftime off a 3-pointer by junior guard Brittany Tidmore and a putback of a rebound at the buzzer by sophomore Hanna Hornbuckle in the second quarter's final 30 seconds.
However, Collinsville's lead was a precarious one.
Spring Garden managed to battle back and take a 29-25 lead with 1:43 left in the third on a bucket by junior post Tori Pierce. Cox drained a trey before the half to cut Spring Garden's lead back to one at 29-28 at the end of three quarters.
Cox came up big again at the 5:14 mark of the fourth with another trey, the beginning of a 14-7 run in game's stretch run. Seven of those points came from the free-throw line.
Cox was limited to 10 points and four rebounds, but the points she had seemingly came at crucial times for Collinsville.
"They did a good job of making the plays at the end of the game and we didn't," Spring Garden coach Ricky Austin said. "They made a good run at us when we went up four. We lost their shooter (Cox) and left her wide open. How we left her wide open I don't know. That's been our point of emphasis for two weeks. We left her open and she drained it. That just fired them back up and got them going. That most definitely changed the flow of the game."
Brittany Tidmore also tallied 10 points to go along with seven assists for Collinsville. Kristen Ford came away with seven points and 15 rebounds.
Senior guard Jordan Sides led Spring Garden with 13 points, three rebounds and a pair of steals. Sophomore guard Haley Motes added 10 points, three rebounds and two steals. Freshman guard Emory Reedy finished with seven points.
Most of Spring Garden's offensive production came from outside the paint. Inside the key was a different story.
"We didn't get anything inside, which we knew we weren't going to score inside unless it was off penetration," Austin said. "Their posts are hard to score on. Everything I could have written down on paper that didn't need to happen for us to be able to win, they forced those things to happen. You've got to credit Coach Tidmore for playing to his strengths. They did a fantastic job of doing what they needed to do."
Austin said he's proud of Sides leaving all she had on the court. He also praised Spring Garden's lone senior for her contributions throughout her career.
"She will go down in Spring Garden history as one of the best players to come through there," Austin said. "She will be one of those players always talked about who changed the game. She put this whole team on her back this year with broad shoulders and she did everything she could possibly do to make us move forward. I told her in the locker room 'How can you walk out of here with your head down when you know you had an impact on our girls team?' It's sad, but she'll learn something out of it."
Meanwhile, Collinsville extends its season for at least two more games, with the first being Saturday's area championship against Cedar Bluff.
"It should be the loosest game you play all year. The only thing is the size of the trophy and where you go," Tidmore said. "You get another week. Both teams should play their best. We love to play at home. We're going to do our best to prepare, and hopefully being at home will be an advantage."
Cedar Bluff girls 55, Valley Head girls 34
COLLINSVILLE - Cedar Bluff sophomore guard Katie McGinnis scored a game-high 22 points and had five steals to lead the Lady Tigers to a 55-34 victory over Valley Head in the Class 1A, Area 14 tournament semifinals on Thursday.
Audrey Hargitt added 12 points and nine boards. Hannah Leach had eight points, six boards and a blocked shot for Cedar Bluff (14-13).
"We knew last time they tried to take away our high-low game, so we just worked the short corner and said we're going to flatten you deep and zone out," Cedar Bluff coach Joe Carpenter said. "At times, it worked. At times, we had to depend on Katie driving on the inside. She's had that capability all year long, but she's real conscious of her other teammates and doesn't want to be centered out. We pushed her to do that, plus Coach (Johnny) Amison did a wonderful job of coming up with an offensive game plan for their big girl (6-foot-4 center Haven Downer) so we could get the ball around her."
Cedar Bluff jumped out to a 15-6 advantage at the end of the first quarter. The Lady Tigers extended their lead to 24-8 at halftime and held a 35-15 advantage through three quarters.
Downer led Valley Head (11-13) with 17 points and 13 rebounds. Caitlin Kirby came away with seven points, four rebounds and three steals.
Riley Johnson added nine points for Cedar Bluff. Candria Dupree finished with five assists, four rebounds and three steals.
Next up for Cedar Bluff is a showdown with top-seeded Collinsville. The area championship game is set for 7 p.m. Saturday in Collinsville.
"It's going to be a huge challenge for us," Carpenter said. "Collinsville has beaten us twice this year, and they are a really outstanding ball team. It's been a long time since Cedar Bluff has been in a championship game. I think the last time was 2004. We're thrilled we're going to get some postseason play out of this. I'm extremely excited for these girls to be in this championship game and to get that experience."