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Hillcrest clamps down late to beat Cottage Hill for berth in state tournament

Cottage Hill’s Clay Scofield is forced to put up a tough shot against Hillcrest-Evergreen’s defense Wednesday during the Class 3A South Regional final at Garrett Coliseum in Montgomery. Scofield scored 17 points but the Warriors fell 69-61. (Helen Joyce/Call News)




MONTGOMERY — Hillcrest-Evergreen made sure the Scofield Kid was shooting blanks in the final minutes and slammed Cottage Hill Christian Academy’s toe in the door leading to the state tournament for the third straight season.

The Jaguars held the Warriors’ leading scorer Clay Scofield to just two points from the field in the final 4:50 and went on a closing 15-4 run to beat Cottage Hill 69-61 in the Class 3A South Regional finals Wednesday at Garrett Coliseum.

In the marquee game of the regional, the No. 7-ranked Warriors and No. 9 Hillcrest exchanged the lead 14 times before the Jaguars finally took command, leaving CHCA with a third straight emotionally numbing loss in the regional finals.

Last year, Hillcrest edged the Warriors 72-71 on a missed free throw in overtime. In November, Cottage Hill beat the Jaguars 64-46 behind Scofield’s 24 points and entered the regional rematch with plenty of confidence. But back in Garrett Coliseum, the Warriors saw a 57-54 lead evaporate in the final 4:50 as Hillcrest succeeded in keeping Scofield out of the lane and its superior depth began to tell.

The Jaguars (26-3) got 64 minutes from their reserves and outscored CHCA 18-2 off the bench.

“It’s tough to lose to the same team two years in a row,” Warriors coach Adam Thomas said after emerging from a long postgame talk with his players. “They’re a good team. I don’t take anything away from them. They’re consistent in what they do. Their rotation was too much for us at the end.”

Scofield — the big 6-5 senior guard who averaged 18.7 points and 7 rebounds to lead the team — finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds Wednesday but got tangled up in Hillcrest’s zone late in the game. He had one lay-in, missed a 3-pointer under pressure and was often forced to give the ball up instead of drawing fouls.

“Their zone gave us some problems late,” Thomas said. “They wouldn’t let us get into the spots we wanted. We had some chances in the low block but we couldn’t finish.”

Jaguars coach Terean Pinkney said his defense was nearly perfect in the final 4:50.

“I told them every time (Scofield) got the ball to back off and make him shoot threes,” Pinkney said. “We went zone and kept him out of the lane and that was the difference in the game. Him and (Shadrick) Toodle, if they get in the lane, they’re going to knock them down.”

Meanwhile, Hillcrest made 7 of 12 free throws in the final 4:50 and took the lead for good on Jermonte Stallworth’s 3-pointer to make it 60-59. On the next two possessions, Jordan Bonner converted a three-point play off a fast-break layup and Scofield’s foul, Trey Simpson gobbled up a loose ball for a lay-in and the Jaguars made six of their last eight free throws.

The Jaguars held Cottage Hill to 2-of-12 shooting in the fourth period while making 6 of 9 shots themselves. They outscored the Warriors 36-26 in the paint, 16-6 off turnovers and 23-14 on second-chance points.

Simpson had 21 points and Stallworth 15. Toodle led CHCA (20-11) with 24 points.

“Everything’s got to go right to challenge for it all and we fell a little short,” said Thomas, whose teams are 97-16 in the last four seasons. “I feel like we’ve got one of the best programs in the state.”

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