That experience proved to be invaluable down the stretch.
Junior guard Shon McElrath netted a game-high 20 points, including nine in the fourth quarter, and grabbed six rebounds to help propel Collinsville to the Class 1A, Area 14 championship game with a 56-39 victory.
Collinsville (20-6) will face top-seeded Cedar Bluff (16-13) on Monday at 7 p.m. The Tigers defeated Valley Head 72-40 in the other area tournament semifinal on Friday.
Collinsville jumped out to a 15-6 lead in the first quarter and built a 29-13 lead at halftime. It led 38-26 at the end of three quarters, but Spring Garden didn't back down. Three consecutive 3-pointers - two of which came from sophomore guard Jay Prater - closed Collinsville's advantage to 40-37 with 3:13 left in the game.
"I challenged them at halftime," Spring Garden coach Ricky Austin said. "I said 'Guys, you can still get the hot hand. We can still win this thing.' We got the hot hand and closed it, but we had a couple of breakdowns defensively that hurt us and changed the flow of the game. We cut it to three and had two big breakdowns. It got us in foul trouble. That's all part of basketball."
After Prater's second trey cut Collinsville's lead to three, McElrath took over. He led Collinsville on a 16-2 run to close out the game and end Spring Garden's season at 14-14.
"I thought he (McElrath) started to press a little bit, took some ill-advised shots and didn't really play well for a while," Collinsville coach Jon Tidmore said. "We got our backs to the wall, then he really stepped it up at the end and stopped doing the things that caused him to struggle. He started moving the ball, and when he got the mismatch, he took advantage of it."
Fellow junior guard DeShawn Moore also had a solid outing despite battling foul trouble. He finished with 15 points and eight rebounds.
Tidmore noted it was the first time this season Moore got into foul trouble.
"That hurts us," Tidmore said. "We depend on him for energy, leadership, everything, but he was still able to deliver some numbers. We sat him as long as we thought we could."
Of course, Spring Garden's game plan had a lot to do with that. Austin said he was pleased with how well his Panthers defended.
"For us to hold them to that many points, I was proud of our defense," he said. "Our defense has been pretty decent all year, but they've (Collinsville) been scoring a lot of points lately. I thought we did a good job with the tempo of the game. I thought we did a good job of spreading things out, but they did a good job exposing our weaknesses off of it."
On the flip side, Collinsville's defense was just as effective. They held Austin's top shooters in Josh Hale and Logan Whorton to two and five points respectively. Hale also had four rebounds and Whorton pulled down eight boards.
Junior forward Jake Grogan picked up the offense inside. He led Spring Garden with 12 points and four rebounds.
"He's worked really hard and he wants to be that go-to player," Austin said of Grogan. "He can be a great player for us. I expect for him next year to pick up where he left off in this game. I expect him to go forward. He's got the athletic ability to be a David Posey (Collinsville forward). I just hope he evolves into that."
Prater added eight points for Spring Garden, all in the fourth quarter. Will Westbrook had six points and three rebounds. Will Ivey contributed five points and three boards.
Posey posted five points and six rebounds for Collinsville. C.J. Jones also finished with five points.
With Friday's battle now over, an even great challenge awaits Collinsville in Cedar Bluff. The Tigers took two of their three regular-season meetings.
"They're such a seasoned team," Tidmore said of Cedar Bluff. "They're ready for that run again. They're dangerous. They've got great players all over. They're very athletic and change defenses a lot. It's going to be a challenge."
Cedar Bluff 72, Valley Head 40
CEDAR BLUFF - Cedar Bluff junior forward DeAngelo Hardy was his usual self Friday. He posted 19 points, five rebounds and had four steals in leading the Cedar Bluff Tigers to a 72-40 thumping of Valley Head in the Class 1A, Area 14 semifinals on Friday.
Terrence Scales added 15 points, seven assists, five rebounds and four steals for the Tigers (16-13). Rihied Harris contributed 12 points, five boards and four assists. DeVonte Dixon finished with eight points and seven rebounds.
After a sluggish start, Cedar Bluff jumped out to a 20-6 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Tigers led 35-15 at halftime and 60-25 after three quarters.
"We had a hard week of practice, but that's not exactly the way you want to start a ball game," Cedar Bluff coach Joe Carpenter said. "I was impressed with some of the things we did. Some of them turned it up another level tonight and tried to pick up the pace a little bit, but I still think we need to box out better. The outside shots still aren't falling, and we've got to have better post play."
Gage Jones led Valley Head (3-18) with 17 points. Dallas Gregory added six points and Christian Henry finished with five points.
The Tigers advance to take on Collinsville in the area tournament final on Monday at 7 p.m.
"It's going to be a challenge for us Monday," Carpenter said. "This will be the fourth time we've played this year. Every time you play, you know each other just a little bit better. It gets a little bit more tougher. It's going to be a short turnaround to try and get ready in one day."