By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times
HANCEVILLE — Once, twice, three times a champion.
The two-time defending champion Cold Springs junior varsity girls made it three-in-a-row on Saturday, outlasting Holly Pond 45-38 in the finals of the Cullman County Basketball Tournament at the Tom Drake Coliseum.
The Eagles were in total control of the game before a Bronco run in the fourth quarter made it a close contest at the end.
"It definitely got interesting in the fourth quarter," Cold Springs' coach Tammy West said. "They were on a little run. When Emme (Willoughby) fouled out, they kept getting closer and closer."
Cold Springs raced out to a commanding 27-12 halftime lead, taking advantage of 12 first-half turnovers by the Broncos. The Eagles were also very efficient on offense.
"We hit big shots and rebounded well," West added. "We also played pretty good D for most of the game."
Cold Springs led 38-17 heading into the fourth quarter and was seemingly on its way to coasting to a victory.
Holly Pond, however, wasn't ready to throw in the towel just yet.
The Broncos opened the quarter on a 15-2 run, slicing their deficit to eight points with four minutes left on a 3-point play from Bailey Shedd.
Shedd scored nine of her 11 points in the fourth to fuel Holly Pond's comeback attempt.
It wasn't enough, though, as Cold Springs was able to step up its defense and make some clutch free throws down the stretch — the Eagles were 7 of 12 in the fourth quarter — to ice its third straight county title.
"I'm proud of the girls," West said. "We finished 10-1 on the season, with one of those losses coming to this Holly Pond team. I give them a lot of credit. They fought hard until the end, and that's what you want to see in a team."
Bailey West led all Eagles with 14 points and was 10 for 15 from the charity stripe, while her teammates Willoughby and Rilee White added 10 and eight each, respectively.
Kaleigh Merring tossed in seven points; Hannah Watson, three; and Josie Stanley, one.
West, White and Willoughby were all named to the All-Tournament Team following the game.
Holly Pond's Ruth Horton scored 13 points, earning one of two spots for the Broncos on the All-Tourney squad. Abby Gambrill, who contributed seven points, snagged the other.
Melissa Clingman netted four, Taylor Tankersley was good for two and Adair Gillian had one.
The remaining players chosen for the All-Tournament Team were Good Hope's Sydney Phares and Kaylee Maddox, as well as West Point's Daeshia Smith.
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 258 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.