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Cold Springs girls pull away from Red Bay in NW Regional Final
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Saturday, February 23, 2019
Red Bay`s Macy Faulkner Shoots 3 in Regional
Red Bay`s Macy Faulkner Shoots 3 in Regional

FFP   by Mike Self   20feb2019

HANCEVILLE - Cold Springs entered Tuesday’s Class 2A Northwest Regional final with a well-earned reputation as a prolific three-point shooting team.

Red Bay’s girls (capable but prone to streakiness from beyond the arc) actually kept pace with the Lady Eagles on threes Tuesday afternoon. The one's and the two’s, however, gave the Lady Tigers trouble.

Red Bay struggled to finish shots around the basket and went 5-for-14 from the foul line, allowing Cold Springs to pull away and punch its ticket to the Final Four for the first time in 10 years with a 54-36 win at Tom Drake Coliseum.

“I sort of thought we did what we needed to do,” said Red Bay coach Holly Kuykendall, whose team matched Cold Springs (26-6) with seven threes on the day but made only five baskets from inside the arc and shot just 21 percent (12-for-57) from the floor overall. “We just missed too many easy shots. Then they just pulled away at the end and got a little lead on us. The game plan pretty much went how it was supposed to go. We just missed too many layups.

“The girls played hard. I couldn’t have asked for much more from them—other than a few more layups, and a few more free throws.”

Layups and free throws were mere afterthoughts in the first quarter as the two teams bombed away from distance, combining to make eight three-pointers (four by each squad). Seniors Reagan Kuykendall and Mallori Miller hit one three apiece for Red Bay, and then sophomore guard Macy Faulkner buried back-to-back triples to cap off an 11-3 run by the Lady Tigers that cut Cold Springs’ lead to 19-16 at the end of one.

“Red Bay did a great job tonight,” said Lady Eagles coach Tammy West. “They shot the ball well. I’ve watched them a lot, and I hadn’t seen them shoot the ball like that. They came out prepared and shot the ball well. They came out on fire at the start of the game from outside, and that was something I really didn’t think was gonna happen.”

Faulkner nailed her third three of the game off an assist from Lila Blackburn barely a minute into the second quarter, pulling Red Bay even at 19-19.

“It felt good, since I haven’t been hitting them a lot in practice,” said Faulkner, who hit another three in the third quarter on her way to finishing with a team-high 13 points and earning All-Tournament honors. “I got in there and missed my first few, and I was like, ‘You’re just gonna have to get your head in.’ I stopped thinking about it and just let it fly.”

The Lady Tigers cooled off late in the first half, however, enduring a scoreless stretch of nearly four-and-a-half minutes. Toni West and Camryn Crider each knocked down a three in an 8-0 run by the Lady Eagles that gave them a 27-19 lead with 2:40 left before the break.

Kuykendall scored on a drive to snap Red Bay’s drought, but Elizabeth Hill and Crider each made a pair of free throws to send Cold Springs into the locker room with a 31-21 lead.

“I told the girls at halftime that I felt like [Red Bay] had shot the ball so well,” Tammy West said. “And we weren’t shooting it bad at the time either. But I felt like we would be able to score with Elizabeth taking the ball to the basket and not having to rely as much on the outside shot.”

West was right, as Hill (a 5’11 junior guard) attacked the paint in the third quarter on her way to scoring eight of her game-high 20 points. The Lady Tigers, meanwhile, continued to struggle converting good looks around the basket, shooting just 2-for-12 from the floor in the third and watching Cold Springs open up a 42-28 lead.

Destiny McCollister, a 6’0 sophomore coming off a season-high 14-point outing (on 7-for-10 shooting) against Altamont in last week’s regional semifinals, shot just 1-for-11 on Tuesday (including 0-for-4 in the third quarter) and finished with three points.

“We had already played them earlier, and we have a little bit of size, so she really didn’t hurt us the last time we played her,” said West, whose team had beaten Red Bay 42-25 on December 27. “We did want to be aware of where she was, but we felt like she’d have a harder time scoring against us just because of our size.”

Despite her offensive struggles, McCollister did finish Tuesday’s game with 11 rebounds and three blocked shots. She also got a strong vote of confidence from her head coach moving forward.

“I think Destiny felt a little bit of the weight of the world on her,” Holly Kuykendall said. “She was feeling like she had to do so much. Just being a tenth-grader, she’s gonna continue to be an outstanding player. With just a little more time, she’s really gonna bring it on home for us and be a difference-maker.

“I knew we were gonna have to shoot the ball well today to play with [Cold Springs]. We were gonna have to hit outside shots well and make our inside shots, too. I thought as soon as we started hitting outside shots, the openings inside would come available. We just didn’t capitalize on it.”

Faulkner’s fourth and final three of the game late in the third pulled Red Bay within 14 going to the fourth, and the Lady Tigers got a baseline floater from Miller and a bucket from Kuykendall to cut the lead to 11 at 44-33 with 4:15 remaining. Cold Springs went 5-for-6 at the foul line over the next couple of minutes, however, pushing the lead back out to 16 at 49-33 and sealing the deal on a regional championship.

“We’ve had some big wins down here the last two years, but we haven’t been able to get the big win,” said Tammy West, whose team lost to Phil Campbell in last year’s regional final and is now headed to Birmingham for the first time since 2009. “It’s a great feeling to get to this point. It’s all we’ve talked about since we lost down here last year.

"Red Bay shot the ball well, but I thought Elizabeth Hill just took over the game with her ability to drive and get to the rim, and we were finally able to get the win."

Hill, who left the floor in the fourth quarter with a sprained ankle and was on crutches after the game, finished with 20 points, five rebounds and four assists, earning Regional MVP honors. West added 11 points and eight rebounds, and Crider had eight points and five boards. Cold Springs shot 39 percent (16-for-41) from the floor and 15-for-21 from the line.

Faulkner led Red Bay with 13 points. Kuykendall joined her on the All-Tournament team and finished Tuesday’s game with 12 points and seven rebounds. Miller added five points and four assists. Sarah Williams scored two points, and Cassidy Kuykendall had one.

The Lady Tigers finished with a 16-15 record, but Reagan Kuykendall credited a tough schedule with helping her team put together a successful season--one that included a perfect 6-0 record in area play during the regular season, an area tournament title, and four straight postseason wins prior to Tuesday's loss, culminating in an Elite Eight bid.

"The competition we had throughout the whole season has definitely brought us to this point, helping us finish games," said Kuykendall, one of Red Bay's two senior starters and the only Lady Tiger with any on-court experience in Hanceville prior to last week.

Faulkner agreed.

"The tournaments we played in were unreal," she said. "We played some really tough teams."


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