Only the strong survive. Sarah King saved Cornersville's basketball season Monday night when she hit a short bank shot with four seconds left to lead the Lady Bulldogs to a dramatic 51-50 victory over the Collinwood Trojanettes at home in the second round of the Region 6-A tournament.
Cornersville had pulled out a pair of hard fought victories against Collinwood (21-10) during the regular season, including a thrilling 56-54 comeback victory on Jan. 6, but the Trojanettes appeared they would gain their revenge Monday evening, as they held a 47-41 lead midway through the fourth quarter. The Lady Bulldogs, however, dug down deep and closed the contest with a 10-3 run to escape with the one-point win.
Thanks to their victory over Collinwood, Cornersville advanced to the Region championship game for the first time in 12 years and earned a spot in the Sectional round of the playoffs.
"It feels great. This is the furthest I've ever been in the playoffs since I've been here," said King. My goal since I was a freshman was to make it this far and hopefully we'll make it to the State Tournament."
Lady Bulldog head coach Micah Landers, meanwhile, believes Monday's win could serve as a springboard for his program and thought Cornersville's role as tournament host played an integral part in his team's comeback.
"We talked about it before the game. I told them that we had gotten here before three years ago, but we lost to Richland. This was the next step for the program," said Landers. "You don't win that kind of game on the road. Emotionally it's hard to recover when you fall behind by six points in the fourth quarter. Our fans were tremendous tonight and have been all season."
Both teams executed well on offense, as the Lady Bulldogs shot an impressive 52 percent from the floor (22-42), knocked down four three-pointers, and committed only 11 turnovers, while Collinwood finished with 21 field goals on 55 percent shooting, hit four treys, and had just 10 turnovers.
The Trojanettes though struggled mightily at the foul line and made only 4-of-14 free throws overall, which included a 1-of-4 effort in the final minute of the contest. Cornersville, conversely, made all three of their foul shots and also out rebounded Collinwood 24-13.
King's game winner capped a brilliant performance by the senior center, as she finished with a game high 27 points on 13-of-15 shooting to go along with 10 rebounds and one steal.
Sara Nelms followed King with nine points, six assists, and four rebounds, while Haley Fagan and Makenzie Hopkins each added five points. Brittney Wheeler (three points) and Morgan Carroll (two points) rounded out the scoring for the Lady Bulldogs.
Trista Rich paced the Trojanettes with 18 points, while Allie Ward and Summer Thompson both had 10 points. Kara Jones and Blakely Robertson also notched seven and five points respectively for Collinwood.
Cornersville got off to a fast start and raced out to a 10-2 lead early in the first quarter with the help of a couple of three-pointers from Fagan and Nelms.
The Trojanettes quickly counterpunched and put together a 13-6 run to slice the deficit to 16-15 early in the second, but King tallied the next four points on an offensive put back and a layup to give the Lady Bulldogs a 20-15 advantage.
After Collinwood narrowed the gap to 23-22 late in the half, King sandwiched two field goals around a layup by Rich to push Cornersville's lead to 27-24 before the Lady Bulldogs took a 27-25 advantage into the break.
In the third, King scored on a layup to stake Cornersville to a 29-25 lead, but the Trojanettes rattled off seven straight points to pull ahead 32-29 midway through the quarter.
The Lady Bulldogs outscored Collinwood 8-5 the rest of the period thanks to four points from King and a pair of field goals by Fagan and Nelms to tie the game at 37-37, before the Trojanettes opened the fourth with a 10-4 run to seize a 47-41 advantage with 3:35 left in the contest.
King, however, converted a three-point play to begin Cornersville's comeback before Hopkins buried a trey from the right wing to cut the deficit to 49-47 with 2:31 remaining.
After Ward hit one of two free throws to make it 50-47, Collinwood had a chance to pad their lead further, but Thompson missed the front end of a one-and-one with :41 left.
Nelms then canned two foul shots with 28 seconds remaining to narrow the gap to 50-49, before Robertson missed the front end of another one-and-one.
On the Lady Bulldogs' ensuing possession, King took an entry pass from Wheeler, spun towards the basket, and knocked down a five foot bank shot to put Cornersville up 51-50.
Following a timeout with 1.5 seconds left, the Trojanettes committed a turnover on their final possession when King deflected the inbounds pass and the ball bounced off a Collinwood player to seal the Lady Bulldogs' victory.