By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
COLD SPRINGS —
With Chayse Elliott, Tristan Chambers, Layne Rice and Josh Freeman on his roster, Tim Burleson is well aware how much his Cold Springs’ boys basketball team likes to shoot the ball.
As much as offense helps, however, it’s defense that generally wins championships, a message the coach has preached to his Eagles all season long.
That lesson apparently didn’t go unnoticed by Chambers, who rose to the occasion and blocked an Altamont 3-pointer with less than five seconds remaining to preserve a gutsy 61-58 sub-region victory at home on Friday.
Burleson unleashed a fist pump and let out a celebratory yell following Chambers’ game-saving rejection, while the student section joined in the fun with roaring chants of, “Wallace State, Wallace State,” the Eagles’ destination for next week’s Northwest Regional Tournament.
“I was proud that it took a defensive stop and that they got it at the end to win the ballgame,” Burleson said.
Senior standout Chayse Elliott led Cold Springs’ offense with a triple-double in his last game at home, but it was Chambers, just a freshman, who came up with the key play on defense to help his team advance.
The hero was mobbed by many of his teammates following the final buzzer, making his trek back to the bench to shake hands with the Knights a bit more difficult than originally planned.
“I knew they needed a 3, and it was just good defense by all five guys,” Chambers said of Altamont’s final possession. “Brandon (Whaley) helped good over, and I just had the good chance of God to block the shot.”
The ending for the Eagles was a whole lot sweeter than the way they started Friday night. The Knights quickly jumped out to a 10-0 lead before Terry Campbell, Layne Rice and Chambers combined for seven unanswered points to put Cold Springs on the board.
Rice, Campbell and Josh Freeman kept knocking down timely baskets to keep the Eagles close, but Altamont stayed on top the rest of the first half and entered the locker room with a decent 37-29 cushion.
Cold Springs swung the momentum in its favor by outscoring Altamont 21-8 in the third quarter. Elliott had the bulk of those points with nine during the eight-minute stretch, while Rice closed out the frame with a 3-pointer to put the Eagles up by five.
The Knights proceeded to tie the score at 53- and 55-all in the final quarter, but Elliott responded each time, coming through with Cold Springs’ last eight points to set up Chambers’ big moment on the other end of the court.
“We didn’t play very well, but we found a way at the end to win,” Burleson said. “This team has kind of faced adversity all year long, they’ve overcome and they’re better for it. We’re proud to be going to Wallace again.”
Elliott finished with a spectacular stat-line of 19 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, while Chambers, Rice and Freeman pitched in 11 points apiece. Rice and Freeman each drained three 3-pointers.
Campbell, whose presence in the post proved to be extremely valuable, chipped in eight points, and Austin Moore had one.
Brandon Sutton’s 15 points were tops for Altmaont. Luke Hartman and Jordan Danels both had 10 points.
The Eagles (18-10) will head to the Tom Drake Coliseum next Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. for a matchup with 18-9 Hatton, Cold Springs’ first regional semifinal opponent not named Tanner since 2011.
“I’m glad we’re not aligned with Tanner,” Burleson said of the team that’s ended the Eagles’ last two seasons. “But I’m just glad to get down there. We’ve got some experience on that floor, and I think we’ll be ready to play.”
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 257 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.