COLLINSVILLE – Defense has been a trademark of the Collinsville Lady Panther basketball team all season long.
It played a vital role for them once again on Thursday night.
Fourth-ranked Collinsville suffocated the Hokes Bluff Lady Eagles, holding them to single digits in all four quarters of its 47-21 victory in the Class 3A, Area 12 championship game. The Lady Panthers (26-4) will host Area 14 runner-up Sylvania in subregional action on Monday.
“That’s kind of been our identity all year,” Collinsville coach Jon Tidmore said. “We have to play really good team defense, and I thought we really did tonight.”
The defense wasn’t the only thing that was working well for Collinsville. Sophomore forward Tyla Tatum provided plenty offense by netting a game-high 23 points, including three 3-pointers. Tatum was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
“This is a big step forward for us,” Tatum said. “Last year, we lost to Sand Rock in the area championship, so I feel like that helped push us.
“A lot of people don’t know who we are coming into 3A. I feel like they’re not expecting it, but we’re ready. I just hope we don’t get too complacent.”
Tidmore said Tatum “seems to play really good in big games.”
“I thought she came out aggressive and stayed that way,” Tidmore said. “Even if she had a miss, it didn’t effect her aggressiveness.”
That aggressiveness helped provide the Lady Panthers a 14-4 first-quarter advantage and a 25-10 halftime edge. The Lady Panther defense held Hokes Bluff to just two third-quarter points, as Collinsville increased its lead to 44-12.
Hadley Hamilton added eight points for the Lady Panthers, including a pair of 3-pointers. Caroline Brannon and Emma Terrell both finished with six points. Terrell’s points came on a pair of treys.
Hamilton and Brannon joined Tatum on the all-tournament team.
Kileigh Blackwell and Bailee Latronico topped the Lady Eagles with four points apiece. Blackwell and Mattie Smith represented Hokes Bluff on the all-tournament team.
Glencoe’s Kayla Traylor and Geraldine’s Carlie Johnson rounded out the all-tournament selections.
Tidmore said he’s just grateful the Lady Panthers have been able to play this season and have a shot at winning another state championship.
“It’s been a tough year for everybody,” he said. “It didn’t look like we were (going to play this season) for a while. Now it looks like we’re going to be able to finish.
“We’ve handled all that really well. We’ve handled our injuries well. They just seem like they’re having fun, and I think that’s what we need to keep doing. It seems like the looser we are, the better we play.”