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Titans good to the last shot

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Roberts’ heroics stolen by visitor’s final basket

By Josh Cook

The Collins girls’ basketball team lost a heartbreaker Wednesday night.

North Bullitt sophomore guard Erin Dolan’s running left-hander in the lane beat the buzzer and the host Titans, 69-68.

Dolan’s last-second shot – just moments after Michelle Roberts’ 3-pointer with 3 seconds to play gave Collins its first lead since the start of the game – spoiled the Titans’ comeback from a 19-point, first-half deficit.

And although the loss was difficult to face, Collins Coach Phillip Conder said that he hoped it wouldn’t derail the progress his young team is making or its “best half of basketball” of the season.

“I’ve never been as proud of a team making that comeback,” Conder said. “I’m extremely proud of them, but I hate it for them too….We did everything we needed to do to win the game.”

Collins outscored North Bullitt, 40-26, in the second half after trailing by 15 points at halftime, and nearly handed the Eagles their second loss.

Collins (3-7), which was coming off its largest loss of the season (69-34 at Meade County last Friday night), took a 2-0 lead on Roberts’ basket 16 seconds into the game.

However North Bullitt (11-1), whose only loss this season was to Ballard, the No. 4 team in this week’s Associated Press Top 10, scored 14 consecutive points to take control. The Eagles, who continually got easy inside baskets early in the game, led, 23-12, at the end of the first quarter and increased that lead to as many as 19 points before Collins closed to 43-28 by intermission (Titans freshman reserve forward Maddie Federle hit a basket with 2 seconds left).

“At halftime we talked about not giving up,” Conder said. “We’ve played one of the toughest schedules in the state, and I don’t think that we’ve given up one game. We had to battle back. And, that’s what we did.”

The Titans began chipping away in the third quarter behind their 1-3-1 half-court trapping defense and senior forward Katie Vogel. Collins forced the Eagles into five of their 19 turnovers in the period, and Vogel scored nine points, many on the heels of those miscues, as the Titans outscored North Bullitt, 18-11.

Vogel’s old-fashioned 3-point play pulled Collins to 49-40 – the first time the Titans had been within single digits since the first quarter – with 3:52 to play in the third quarter. Fifty-nine seconds after that Vogel scored inside again to trim the Eagles’ advantage to seven.

North Bullitt led 54-46 at the end of the third quarter before Katie Downey hit a 3-pointer 10 seconds into the fourth quarter to boost the Eagles’ lead back to double figures.

Collins countered with a 7-0 run to cut North Bullitt’s bulge to four with a little more than 6 minutes to play, before the Eagles answered with five consecutive points of their own.

North led by nine with 2:49 to play before the Titans made their final run.

Collins scored six consecutive points – on layups by Mary Borders, Roberts and Vogel – directly off Eagles’ errors as it closed to 67-64 with 1:49 to play.

That’s where it stood with 33.7 seconds left, before Roberts hit one of two free throws.

The Titans then fouled Dolan with 14.8 seconds to play. She missed the first free throw in a one-and-one situation, and sophomore forward Whitney Pullen rebounded for Collins. Pullen dribbled the ball up the court, and then to the wing, before passing to Roberts, who drilled a 24-footer with 3 seconds to play.

“She stepped right into it and hit it. That’s the type of player she is, going back to last year. She’s got a killer instinct when it comes to that fourth quarter,” Conder said of Roberts, whose free throw in the final seconds beat South Oldham last season in the first round of the 8th Region Tournament. “I have no problem with her taking the last-second shot of any game.”

It wasn’t the last shot of the game, though. That belonged to Dolan.

After a timeout, and having to go the length of the court in 3 seconds, the Eagles threw the ball to midcourt. Five-foot-10 Collins freshman forward Hannah Renfro nearly picked off the long pass, but the ball eventually bounced into the hands of Dolan, who was moving to her left near the top of the key. A southpaw, she took two dribbles, rose and hit a contested shot just before the buzzer.

“It seemed like the ball bounced well for them. Nothing against them. They had a good play drawn up,” Conder said. “We got some hands on the ball. We just have to make sure we possess it in that situation.

“But you can’t take anything away from that girl. She hit a terrific shot.”

Roberts scored a game-high 24 points as the Titans finished with a season-high point total (15 points better than their previous high).

She hit 9 for 19 shots from the field, helping the Titans shoot 44.8 percent (26-of-58), including 51.2 percent (21-of-41) from 2-point range. Vogel’s marksmanship, 8-of-9 from the field, was a big reason for Collins’ accuracy.

Borders had 10 points, grabbed a game-high nine rebounds and recorded a team-high-tying three steals for the Titans, who had 11 thefts but 26 turnovers.

Collins also was hamstrung by poor free-throw shooting (2-of-10) in the first half before going 9-for-12 after intermission.

“We hit free throws much better in the second half. We rebounded much better in the second half, and we anticipated much better [on defense] in the second half,” Conder said. “We can’t let that [last-second] shot define us. We can’t sulk about it.

“We’ll look at the good things we did, and we’ll look at the things we didn’t do well and learn from them. I thought we made a big step forward. We have to build on it.”

Collins next hosts top-ranked Anderson County (11-2) at 7:30 tonight in a 30th District game.