COLLINSVILLE — In a season full of signature wins, the Sylvania girls added another to their 2020-21 resume Wednesday night.
Kenadie Lee made five 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 25 points to help the Rams hold off the defending Class 2A state champion Collinsville Panthers for a 62-58 victory in the Class 3A Northeast Sub-Regional round of the state playoffs at L.D. Dobbins Gymnasium.
“Anytime you win in postseason play against a team such as Collinsville, it’s unbelievable,” Sylvania coach Kyle Finch said, “a top-five 3A team in the state at their place. [Panthers] coach [Jon] Tidmore does an unbelievable job year in, year out.”
Sylvania (24-8) hosts Ohatchee in the sub-regional semifinal round at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
The Rams trailed by as many as 14 points early in the second quarter before rallying to overtake the lead for good at the 5:27 mark of the third. Leianna Currie, who finished with 11 points, passed out to an open Lee for a 3-pointer to give the Rams the go-ahead 37-36 edge.
Lee assisted Currie with a 3-pointer to push the Rams into their largest lead of the game (54-47) with 4:32 remaining in the fourth.
Inside the last 3 minutes, the Panthers (26-5) worked for open shots but had some that wouldn’t fall. They also finished 9 of 19 from the free-throw line, while Sylvania shot 14 of 21 from the foul line.
“It does hurt because we’ve put so much into the season,” Tidmore said, “but you just have to give credit to Sylvania, they played really well, hit a lot of shots, made more free throws than we did.”
Lee made a pair of free throws with 2:21 left to make it 56-50 and ran some time off the clock while avoiding a turnover from Collinsville’s defensive double-teams. The Rams drained the game clock down to 1:03 before drawing an intentional foul.
Olivia Akins assisted Emma Terrell with a 3-pointer to pull Collinsville within 56-53 with 52 seconds left, before Akins found Hadley Hamilton for a 3-pointer to make it 58-56 with 34.4 to play.
Terrell attempted free throws with 2.6 left and a 60-58 deficit. She intentionally missed the second shot to allow Collinsville a quick scoring opportunity, but the team was called for a lane violation, giving Sylvania possession.
Anna Farmer sank the Rams’ final free throws with 1.9 left to seal the win.
“They had a little more energy than we did at certain times,” Tidmore said, “and I thought once the deficit went to six, we could’ve quit, but we were right there knocking on the door and had a chance.”
Finch praised his team’s rebounding effort afterward.
“There were a lot of things that were inconsistent throughout the game, but our rebounding was ultimately what kept us in the game,” he said. “Continuously doing the small things — closing out, high hands — all of those things that you preach Day 1 that’s going to make a big difference, and ultimately it did tonight.
Lee scored 13 of her game-high 25 during the second-quarter stretch where Sylvania cut the deficit to trail 30-29 at halftime.
“I thought Kenadie played really well, made some big shots,” Tidmore said. “She never quit moving. She’s a moving target.”
Ambriel Stopyak scored 12 points for Sylvania and Kylie Moree and Farmer each added seven points.
Hamilton led the Panthers with 16 points and made four 3-pointers. Tyla Tatum scored 13 points, Caroline Brannon added 10 points, Terrell had nine and Kayla Beene six.
Tatum found Terrell for a corner 3-pointer to help Collinsville take a 20-6 advantage at the 7:06 mark of the second period. Tatum scored a fast-break layup and Hamilton sank a buzzer-beating 3 to end the quarter with the Panthers in front 14-6.
Stopyak made two foul shots, Currie hit a 3 and Stopyak assisted Lee with a 3 off a turnover to help narrow the scoring gap to 22-15 with 4:15 remaining in the half.
Moree scored in the paint, Stopyak added a pair of free throws and Lee assisted Moree with a layup to pull the Rams within 30-26 before Lee drained a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to send Sylvania into the half with momentum.
“It was about winning every possession,” Finch said. “When you start winning each possession, you start seeing things change on the scoreboard and in momentum. I felt like when we left the floor at halftime that we’d kind of gained that momentum.”
The loss couldn’t quell Tidmore’s pride in what his team accomplished this season, and how it accomplished it.
“I was as proud of them this year as I was of them last year,” he said. “Those girls do it right; they practice hard every day, they have great chemistry and attitudes. I couldn’t ask for anybody to do it any better.”