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Collins lifts BA in final seconds

Collins lifts BA in final seconds

Collins lifts BA in final seconds

The entire Bulloch Academy team and c...

DUBLIN — It had been a rough night for Bulloch Academy center Taylor Collins.

She had been bounced around by Westminster monster center Amber Davis and battled toe-to-toe with tall Samantha Trobaugh. Normally the team’s leading scorer, she had just four points going into the fourth quarter.

But the junior had the last laugh.

Collins hit an improbable game-winning basket from just inside the three-point line at the top of the key to give the Lady Gators a 27-25 win at the buzzer in the GISA Region 4-AAA basketball tournament Thursday night.

"I knew it was a little out of my range," said Collins. "But there was only about one second left so I threw it up and prayed it would go in. It was like slow motion as the ball rolled around the rim and finally dropped in."

The win advances Bulloch to today’s semifinals where the Lady Gators take on top-seeded Trinity Christian at 4 p.m. Regardless of the outcome, Bulloch will enter the first round of the Class AAA state tournament next Wednesday at John Milledge Academy in Milledgeville.

"That was nothing but divine intervention," BA head coach Paul Webb said of Collins’ winning basket. "For that ball to roll around the rim and then drop in as the buzzer sounded was just a miracle. Before each game, we circle up, hold hands and pray. What was really cool was that, after the shot went in and we got back to the locker room, the girls said, ‘Coach, we got to pray.’"

Westminster (9-13) took its first lead of the game with 2:59 left in the fourth quarter when Davis hit both ends of a one-and-one situation. The baskets gave the Lady Wildcats a 21-19 advantage.

Bulloch (18-9) knotted the score at 21-21 at the 2:38 mark when Rachel Gilbert hit both ends of a two-shot attempt. The senior had six points on the night.

Cautious yet intense play ensued as the lead changed hands several times. The Lady Gators went up by three when junior Haley Burke drained a three-pointer from the left baseline with 1:28 remaining. Burke led Bulloch with nine points.

As the clock dipped below one minute left, the Lady Wildcats amped up the play. Anna Hearon dribbled to the right side and launched a three-pointer to tie the score at 25-25. Hearon led the Lady Wildcats with seven.

Bulloch brought the ball down, looking to push the ball inside for the high-percentage shot. Webb couldn’t find the right combination so he called time out with 17.6 left.

On the inbounds pass, the Lady Gators whipped the ball around the perimeter, still searching for the right shot. Again, it wasn’t there so Webb called another timeout with 5.6 seconds left.

"Coach Webb wanted the ball to come in to Rachel," said Collins, who had just seven points on the night. "We were supposed to push the ball to Anna (Newton) at the low block. But she was double teamed. The next option was Haley in the corner. She was covered. I stayed up top and was open so the ball came to me. I saw the big girl (Davis) running up to guard me and I knew I had to shoot it quick. I had to jump up to get it over her."

After the shot went it, a screaming Collins backpedaled down the court. She was mobbed at half court by her teammates and coaches.

The low-scoring game was a contest of screens and pick-and-roll plays. Both teams ran play after play, trying to push the ball down low. The battles in the paint between Davis and Collins and then Trobaugh and Newton were savage.

Bulloch took a 9-6 lead at the end of the first quarter when sophomore Lauren Dennard popped a 16-footer at the buzzer.

In the second quarter, a total of four points were scored. BA’s tight 2-3 zone kept the Lady Wildcats out of the paint while WSA’s quick man did the same. At intermission, the Lady Gators had an 11-8 advantage.

Both teams emerged from the locker rooms in the third and couldn’t find the basket. But Bulloch did manage to pull out to a five-point lead late in the quarter. Gilbert drained a three-pointer at the 2:15 mark to put BA up 15-10. Burke hit from the left wing with 13.9 left to give the Statesboro squad a 17-13 lead when the buzzer sounded.

Bulloch kept the advantage early in the fourth. But WSA’s Nina McCallie drove the lane and floated in a six-footer to knot the score at 19-19 and set the stage for the late fourth-quarter dramatics and Collins’ heroics.

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