SNELLVILLE - After playing Collins Hill tough both inside and out in the first half, South Gwinnett's boys basketball team found itself picking its poison in the second half of Thursday's quarterfinal game of the Deep South Classic.
When the Comets packed in the zone in the third quarter, the Eagles went to the perimeter and hit three 3-pointers and three more perimeter jumpers to grab the lead.
When they switched to a man-to-man in the fourth quarter, Collins Hill pounded the ball in to Jeremy Olsen, who dominated the final frame to the help the Eagles move on with a 63-57 victory at South's gym.
The 6-foot-10 junior posted 10 of his team-high 16 points and seven of his team-best nine rebounds in the final frame to help Collins Hill (10-4) advance to today's 8:30 p.m. semifinal, where it will take on GAC at South.
"I told the guys at halftime, 'We've just got to hit some shots,'" Collins Hill coach Josh Grayson said. "We had some good looks in the first half, but we did a much better job of getting all squared up and hitting them. Then, (Olsen) did a good job of clearing space, and we did a good job of getting him the ball."
South (7-2), which will play Peachtree Ridge in a consolation bracket game today at 5:30 p.m., did a good job of taking Olsen out of the game for the first three quarters by packing a tight 2-3 zone into the lane.
Combined with hot shooting from the perimeter and quickness on the boards that led to a 40-32 rebounding advantage on the night, the smaller Comets looked in command when Adonis Harrison's stickback gave them a 38-35 lead with 3:42 left in the third quarter.
But 3-pointers by Andrew Anderson and Kameron Phillips, combined with a pair of buckets - including a perimeter jumper - by Reed Buck vaulted Collins Hill into a 45-44 lead by the end of the third quarter.
Those shots also convinced South coach Emmett Rouse it was time to come out of the zone and guard the perimeter closer.
"When they started hitting those (perimeter shots), we had to come out and get them," Rouse said. "It's hard to match up (with Olsen), and he just did a good fundamental job of hitting shots (in the fourth quarter)."
Indeed, Olsen went to work once South went man-to-man, hitting two shots inside the lane and adding a pair of free throws that helped stretched the Eagles' lead to 51-48 with 3:05 left.
"That made me happy," Olsen said of the defensive switch. "I was able to go one-on-one, and (my teammates) did a good job of getting me the ball. You've always got to play big in the fourth quarter."
South refused to quit, and tied the game 56-56 on a 3-pointer by Mario Vasser with 2:03 remaining.
But Olsen received a pass from Buck in the lane and answered with a jumphook, and Collins Hill created four South turnovers in the final 1:31 - plus connected on 5 of 7 free throw attempts - to pull away for the win.
"When it got down to crunch time, we had too many missed free throws and too many turnovers," Rouse said. "That's something we've got to work on and get better at as the year goes along.'