The Cold Springs Eagles came soaring back from an early 20-8 deficit to win in overtime against the Hanceville Bulldogs to punch their ticket to the championship game for a rematch against the Good Hope Raiders. Cold Springs earned the hard fought win in an instant classic, but junior star Brayden Harris didn’t make it easy for them, dropping 30 points.
Harris and fellow junior Zach Campbell opened the floodgates in the first quarter with Campbell pouring in eight straight for the Bulldogs and Harris later adding seven straight of his own on their way to a 20-10 first quarter lead.
While most teams would fold after such a lightning fast start, in the words of Cold Springs head coach Tim Willoughby “these seniors have been there before. They’ve experienced about everything you can. They never give up. They always fight til the end.”
Cold Springs started the second quarter with a 7-2 run to cut the Bulldog lead to 5. Cold Spring’s John Mark Smith caught fire from 3, knocking down three in the period, and Tanner Kilgo added seven points of his own. The Hanceville lead quickly evaporated and just like that Cold Springs went into the half up 35-29, outscoring Hanceville 25-9 in the quarter.
From there it was a slugfest with each throwing blow after blow. Campell started the third quarter much like the first and scored two quick baskets. Harris knocked down three 3’s in the period and both free throws for. Cold Springs Brody Peppers and Cody Bales kept things going for the Eagles with the two going 7/7 from the stripe in the quarter. It was Hanceville now who had clawed back to take a one point lead into the 4th quarter 47-46.
Bales came up huge for the Eagles in the second half, where he scored all ten of his points. He also added clutch rebound after clutch rebound. The senior is always straight faced and never seems rattled, but after opening the 4th with a 3pter you could see the fire inside his eyes. Harris decided to fight fire with fire and came down and knocked down another three of his own.
Moments later Harris would drain another three, but the Eagles refused to go away. With both refusing to go away each team swapped hitting clutch shot after clutch shot. With just a couple minutes to play trailing by two, Bales was fouled and after hitting the first, missed the second off the back iron. Bales then fought for an offensive rebound and kicked it to Smith put in a huge three for a one point lead. Campbell would go to the line and hit oneto tie it up giving Cold Springs the ball with 27 seconds to go.
After a lot of ball movement Smith turned it over, giving Harris 3.7 seconds to get one final shot off for the win, but the Eagles defense clamped down and the buzzer went off before the shot attempt was taken. Overtime we go!
There were so many possible outcomes for overtime. Would Harris drain big shots giving Hanceville the win? Would the Eagles team effort be too much for the Bulldogs to overcome? While Harris did hit his 8th three of the night in OT and Cold Springs had four different players score in the extra time, it was free throws that would decide this one. The teams combined for 15 free throws in overtime with Cold Springs going 6 for 10 and Hanceville going just 2 of 5. Hanceville deployed a “Hack-a-Shaq” on sophomore Cody Bale, playing for fouled out Seth Williams, and he made them pay hitting 5 of 8. Those proved to be the difference as Cold Springs finished the comeback, winning 70-65.
Hanceville’s Campbell finished with 16. Cold Springs’ Smith finished with 12, all on 3’s. Kilgo finished with 12, and no one came up bigger than Peppers, who finished with 19 points. Peppers banged down in the paint racking up points and rebounds and finished 6/7 at the line.
The winner of this one had Good Hope waiting on them, and Cold Springs now sets up the rematch from last year’s title clash. The Eagles will be looking to repeat, while the Raiders will have revenge on their mind. Will Good Hope complete the season sweep on Cold Springs, who is coming off a huge “high” with the big win? Or will Cold Springs muster up the magic that the program often has in the past and take the crowd? Find up in Tom Drake Gymnasium tonight at 7pm.