Walton Verona holds off Collins in girls' 8th Region Tournament

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Collins’ season comes to end in 1st round, 52-42

By Josh Cook

LAWRENCEBURG – The Collins girls’ basketball team made two comebacks against defending champ Walton-Verona in the first round of the 8th Region Tournament on Tuesday night.
The Titans’ third try wasn’t the charm, though, as the Bearcats held them off for a 52-42 victory at Anderson County.
After Collins tied the game at 33-all with 2:50 to play in the third quarter Walton-Verona reeled off nine straight points in the game-deciding run. The Titans got no closer than six points in the fourth quarter as the Bearcats (27-6) improved to 16-1 this season against 8th Region foes.
“There’s a reason why they’re the defending champs, and they showed why,” said Collins Coach Phillip Conder, whose team rallied from six points down in the first half and eight points behind in the second.
Walton-Verona took advantage of its height inside on offense, while forcing the Titans (22-11) into 32.7 percent shooting and 25 turnovers in their season-ending loss.
Courtney Sandlin, a 5-foot-11 junior forward, scored 14 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, while 6-0 junior center Michele Judy added 11 points.
Those two combined for the first six points of the game – four by Judy and two by Sandlin – as the Bearcats bolted to a 6-0 lead.
Leeara Cardwell’s corner 3-pointer ended Collins’ offensive drought at the 5:12 mark before Sandlin sandwiched baskets around one by Wells.
“They did a great job of getting it inside and taking advantage of it,” Conder said. 
“We didn’t rebound early, we weren’t blocking out, and they were flying in and getting layup after layup after layup.”
The Titans tried to combat Walton-Verona’s size with their speed, pressuring the Bearcats in the backcourt, then getting out and running after a rebound or a steal.
Wells’ bank shot was followed by a Becca Mouser drive and layup to cut Walton-Verona’s lead to one, 10-9 with less than two minutes left in the first quarter.
But the Bearcats answered with the last two baskets of the quarter to lead 14-9 before the Titans tallied the first two field goals – layups by Wells and Cardwell – in the second to cut it to one again.
Walton-Verona’s Molly Clinkenbeard hit two free throws before Cardwell hit a pull-up jumper. Sandlin answered with a bank shot before Collins came back with four straight points - a Skylar Clemens jumper and a layup by Cardwell – to take their first lead of the game (19-18) with 4:25 to play in the first half. Cardwell was fouled on her basket, but she missed her free throw – a common first-half theme for the Titans.
However, Collins’ lead didn’t last long.
Kara Taulbee scored the Bearcats’ next eight points – her only points of the game. First she hit on a layup, then she sandwiched two long, well-defended 3-pointers around a basket by Collins reserve Sydney Cloyd.
Shelby Mullikin’s driving layup with four seconds left gave Walton-Verona a 28-21 halftime advantage.
The Titans could have been closer, but they were 0-for-5 from the free throw line in the first half.
“We wanted to get to the line, but you’ve got to convert,” Conder said.
The Bearcats opened up an eight-point lead early in the second half, but just when it looked like Collins might be done, the Titans rallied.
Wells hit two free throws, then Cardwell hit 1 of 2 from the line and followed that up with an old-fashioned three-point play before Mouser’s two freebies – which came as the result of Judy’s fourth foul – with 2:50 to play in the third quarter tied it at 33.
Sandlin hit two free throws 30 seconds later before Collins went to a delay.
“We gave them a go there in the third quarter, we were trying to catch our breath,” Conder said.
The Titans failed to convert and then Sandlin scored with three seconds left in the period to put the Bearcats up 37-33.
Walton-Verona kept it going early in the fourth as Lizzie Hoffa hit a layup, then Clinkenbeard hit a 3 from the top of the key to put the Bearcats up by nine, 42-33.
The Titans pulled within six – on Clemens’ 3-pointer with 4:11 to play – but that was as close as they’d get.
Collins finished 16 for 49 from the field and just 7 of 15 (46.6 percent) from the line. Cardwell topped the Titans with 15 points. She also grabbed five rebounds and recorded four steals. Wells added 13 points and 11 rebounds and Clemens tallied eight as Collins finished its second season with seven more victories than its first.
“We had a great year, I couldn’t be more proud of the seniors,” Conder said. “I hate it for my seniors, it’s the worst feeling in the world.”