By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
Triston Chambers and Layne Rice carried the offensive load in the first half, and Tyler Rice and Adam Carney took over in crunch time, helping Cold Springs dethrone reigning Cullman County-champ Fairview with a 49-36 triumph Wednesday at Tom Drake Coliseum.
The Aggies had their chances to keep it close in the fourth quarter but struggled at the charity stripe, going 7 of 13 and only sinking two straight once from the free-throw line in the last eight minutes.
That was A-OK with sharpshooter Layne Rice, who put the finishing touches on a 15-point outing by draining 3 of 4 attempts from the charity stripe in the closing minutes.
“I'd never won at Wallace,” the senior said. “I was just looking forward to this season, and I'm glad we came out with a win tonight and are going to the semifinals.”
With Chambers, the elder Rice and Josh Freeman accounting for Cold Springs' 34-26 lead after three quarters, the Eagles younguns decided to join in the fun in the fourth.
Tyler Rice jumpstarted the frame with a steal and layup, while Adam Carney dialed up a pair of 3-pointers from deep downtown. The younger Rice, who just so happens to be Layne's cousin, also converted a 1-and-1 to round out his contributions.
Chambers was Cold Springs' top scorer with 18 points, and Freeman pitched in six, but it was Carney's six and Tyler's four that had Layne talking after Wednesday's game.
“It's very nice to see them step up,” the senior leader said. “They're only in the 10th and 11th grade, and they've got a lot to learn. They stepped up big tonight.”
Layne and Freeman pulled down eight and seven rebounds, respectively, while Chambers came away with six to go with six steals and a block.
There were two dunks on the evening, and both resulted in technical fouls. A pregame slam by Fairview's Tyler Yearwood resulted in two free throws for the Eagles before tip-off. Chambers followed an emphatic throw down early in the second with too much hangtime on the rim to draw the 'T.'
Chambers, just a sophomore, notched his 1,000th career point by draining his first free-throw attempt before the game.
“It was great, but it was dumb on my part hanging on the rim,” a sly-smiling Chambers said of the dunk. “I just thank whoever passed me the ball and God for giving me the chance to do it.”
Added coach Tim Willoughby: “He just has so much firepower offensively. When it's going good for Triston, he's a different kind of player than the normal athlete. Tonight, he was really big rebounding and on defense. As a coach, the 1,000 points are great, but I'm proud he does the other things, and I believe he's getting better at doing those other things that sometimes go unnoticed.”
Fairview's stifling half-court defense gave the Eagles fits early on and had a lot to do with their 10-9 advantage at the end of the first quarter. Cold Springs bookended the second stanza with matching 5-0 runs, though, to keep the Aggies at a more comfortable 21-15 deficit at halftime.
Fairview senior Elijah Garrison finished off his last Cullman County tourney game with an 18-point, seven-rebound performance.
Tyler Yearwood and Ethan Widner were next in line for the Aggies with seven points apiece. The former was good for 12 boards and the latter, nine.
Chance Hill capped off the Purple and Gold's scorers with four points.
The Eagles (14-9) move on to face West Point Friday at 7:30 p.m. Cold Springs topped the Warriors 75-65 at home back in November.
Big-man Ryder Jones had 15 points Tuesday for West Point, which advanced with a 66-35 rout of Vinemont.
“First of all, we've got to shut Ryder down. He's a great player,” Chambers said of the Eagles' gameplan for the semifinal showdown. "We've just got to keep us in our rhythm and keep it out of their rhythm. Really that's all we need to do.”
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 138 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.