RAINSVILLE — After engaging in a back-and-forth semifinal game, the Collinsville girls will defend their DeKalb County championship Saturday.
Tyla Tatum scored a game-high 23 points and Caroline Brannon added 13 points as the No. 2-seeded Panthers held on to beat the No. 3 Sylvania Rams 47-44 in the DeKalb County Tournament semifinal round on Thursday night.
Panthers coach Jon Tidmore said he was proud of the way his team closed the fourth quarter by not getting rattled when Sylvania (18-6) grabbed the lead with 3 minutes left.
“When Sylvania took the lead, we responded without panic,” the coach said. “We ran our offense and didn’t panic or get tight.”
Trailing by three, Rams coach Kyle Finch called timeout with 1.9 seconds left after his team secured a rebound from a missed free throw. The ensuing inbounds pass sailed high and the ball bounced freely before Collinsville’s Olivia Akins recovered it and time expired.
Kenadie Lee led Sylvania with 11 points, Anna Farmer had nine points and Ambriel Stopyak and Kylie Moree added six points apiece.
After the game, Finch told his player to not dwell on the outcome, rather on the positive plays that have worked in their favor all season long.
“It’s going to be a short turnaround time for us. We have to have a short memory,” Finch said. “We have to use what we did and turn it into something good and not let it beat us next week.”
The Panthers (18-4) forced turnovers early in the fourth and led by as many as seven after Hadley Hamilton dished to Tatum for a 3-pointer with 6:30 remaining.
Lee drew a foul and made a couple of clutch free throws at the 6:10 mark to bring the Rams within 40-36.
Sylvania made some defensive stops of its own and Lee found Stopyak in transition for a jumper with 4:40 left to make it a one-possession game.
Stopyak collected a rebound and made a jump shot at the 3:35 mark before converting a fast-break layup to give the Rams a 42-41 lead with 3:14 remaining.
“When you trail a really good team like Collinsville, it’s tough to come back,” Finch said. “So (our players) could have easily gotten down on themselves and quit, but we continued to fight. Even when we went down by one late in the game, we had about two or three opportunities that were easy ones that just didn’t go in.
“Our effort is where it needs to be, and now we have to turn it into the good things we want to see, from boxing a girl out to finishing at the rim when it’s crunch time.”
Emma Terrell sank a foul shot to tie it at 42 and Hamilton drove to the basket for the go-ahead score with 1:07 to play.
Leianna Currie made a jumper with 5.2 left to pull Sylvania within 46-44 before Tatum was fouled and split free throw chances with 2.9 on the clock, leading to Sylvania’s last inbounds play.
The Rams were in front 28-26 at intermission after leading by as many as six points. Katelyn Sammons had an offensive rebound and putback to give Sylvania a 27-21 advantage, leading to Tidmore calling timeout with 2:33 left in the half.
Collinsville looks to retain its county crown against top-seeded Plainview at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
“I think Plainview is as good defensively as I’ve seen,” Tidmore said. “They’re long and athletic and run good plays. It’s a big challenge for us.”