Collins-Shelby Co. girls' game was an instant classic

To me there are two words that best describe Wednesday night’s 30th District Tournament girls’ basketball semifinal between Collins and Shelby County - instant classic.

There’s no other way to describe the Titans’ 52-48 double-overtime victory over the Rockets at Collins. If Shelby County had its own version of ESPN Classic the game would’ve already been aired five or six times.

“It was a great game,” Titans Coach Phillip Conder said. “It was a great game to be a part of, I’m sure the fans enjoyed it.”

It featured a sensational performance by Collins senior standout forward Aaliyah Wells (36 points, 11 rebounds, 6 steals), last-second shots, last-second free throws, several lead changes and plenty of drama.

Wells hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter and a last-second jumper at the conclusion of the second period. She then scored the first basket of the third quarter to push the Titans’ lead to 10 points. In that type of slow-tempo game that advantage was probably more like a 16- or 18-point cushion, but the Rockets never folded.  

Sophomore point guard Katie Hudgens started Shelby County’s comeback with a layup and a 3-pointer to quick cut Collins’ lead in half. The Rockets eventually tied the game in the fourth quarter, however, on Savannah Raizor’s game-knotting 3-pointer Hudgens fell hard on the floor.

She was taken off the floor on a stretcher with a left hip injury (thankfully all x-rays afterward were negative), but didn’t return. [Side note: The Collins players & coaching staff sent Hudgens some flowers after the game]

It was a tough blow for Shelby considering that Hudgens is the team’s best ball-handler, but the Rockets didn’t back down. If anything it seemed to energize them. They took the lead and still had it in the final seconds. At that point I already had the first sentence for my story in Friday’s paper figured out – This one was for Katie – it would have read.

Instead Wells would hit two free throws with no time on the clock to send the game into overtime. She was the only one on her side of halfcourt when she shot the free throws (no pressure, right?!). Now afterward there was debate as to whether the final whistle of regulation should’ve been a block or a charge, and if that whistle itself even came before the clock hit zero. I still haven’t seen a replay of that last call and I can’t even give an opinion because I was on the opposite end of the court and was looking through my camera lens at the time.

“I won’t say anything about the calls, I’ll let other people pass judgment,” Shelby County Coach Mike Sowers said afterward.

For my part I’ll say this. Yes there were some debatable calls, but you have those in every game. My guess is that those will only add to the lore of this game when people remember it years from now.

“They did everything to win the game and I thought both teams did,” Conder said. “That’s one of those games you hate to see any team lose. They played their hearts out and we played our hearts out.”

To me those are the signs of an instant classic.