HANCEVILLE — Champions are champions for a reason, and the Good Hope varsity girls team isn't quite ready to give up that title just yet.
The fifth-seeded Raiders made that loud and clear by taking out top-seeded Cold Springs 47-32 on Thursday night to reach the title game of the Cullman County Basketball Tournament.
The two-time defending champs dominated the Eagles from the opening tip, thanks to overwhelming defense and hot shooting from Kayla Tillman and Cara Goodwin, both of whom sank four 3-pointers apiece.
Tillman said her team wasn't feeling nervous entering the game, despite having dropped both of its games to Cold Springs earlier in the season.
"Coming into this game, we thought all of the pressure was on them," she said. "They had beaten us twice so far, but both games were really close. And we had the advantage of having played in this gym before."
That advantage was clear early on, as Good Hope wasted no time taking control.
Two early Goodwin 3-pointers helped the Raiders jump out to a 12-2 first-quarter lead. Then her teammate, Tillman, rose to the occasion in the second.
The senior drained three 3-pointers, allowing her team to extend its lead to 15 points heading into halftime.
Tillman said she thought she was in the midst of a slump before the game, but credited kind words from a teammate helping her battle through it.
"I didn't play very well in the first game here," Tillman said. "But Darcie (Wilson) gave me some encouragement and told me that it was only one game, so I just treated it like that."
It certainly looked that way, as Tillman finished with a game-high 16 points, while Goodwin and Savannah Fendley each notched 12 apiece.
The second half wasn't any better for Cold Springs. The Eagles couldn't get anything going on the offense and never threatened the Raiders' upset victory.
Other Raider contributors included Wilson, three points; and Katelyn Bishop and Kami Calvert, two each.
"I'm really proud of our team," Tillman added. "Everyone stepped up tonight."
The Raiders will vie for a third-straight county title when they take on second-seeded Holly Pond Saturday at 6:15 p.m.
Tillman thinks that her team can make it three-in-a-row.
"We've won it two straight times and have had a really good team the past four years," she said. "We thought we should make it back here. We have five seniors on this team, myself included, and we want it to keep going as long as we can."
The Eagles' leading scorer was Caitlyn Hall with nine points. Keegan Johnson added eight, while McKinnley Davis and Chloe Harbison each netted five. Karlee Perdue made a trey, and Haley Freeman poured in two as well.
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 258 or at firstname.lastname@example.org