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Lions' defense dooms Eagles

Photo by Christine Troyke

Photo by Christine Troyke

SUWANEE -- Collins Hill's boys did a good job of pulling the Peachtree Ridge defense out to the perimeter in the early stages of their Region 7-AAAAA clash Tuesday night at Collins Hill.

It turned out to be the worst thing the Eagles could've done.

The Lions' extended defense forced numerous second-half turnovers, which they often turned into transition points to spark a third-quarter rally that keyed their 68-58 road victory.

Big men C.J. Blackwell and Rasheed Fischer enjoyed a big night, with each posting a game-high 21 points to help Peachtree Ridge (16-6, 12-3) solidify its hold on second place in the region.

But it was the perimeter defense sparked by Blackwell, Jordan Grant and reserve Daryan Griffin that made the difference as the Lions broke open a two-point halftime lead and built a comfortable working margin in the third quarter.

"When we did the trap -- the 1-2-1-1 -- that got us going a little," Peachtree Ridge coach Keith Arrington said. "We did not press them at all with that press the first time we played them (a 77-66 win at Peachtree Ridge on Dec. 18). That definitely helped us."

The Lions didn't start the game in their trap, and Collins Hill (15-7, 10-5) took advantage with the hot early shooting of Andre Allen.

The sophomore knocked down a trio of 3-pointers for half of his team-high 18 points on the evening in the first 3:02 of the game as the Eagles built a quick 8-0 lead and had two other seven-point leads in the first quarter before taking a 17-13 at the end of the period.

Collins Hill's lead reached 25-18 after Herdie Lawrence's stickback with 3:19 left in the first half before Peachtree Ridge began to chip away by getting to the foul line.

The Lions connected on 11 of 12 free-throw attempts in the first half, including 7 of 8 during a 13-4 run over the final 2:49 of the half that vaulted them into a 31-29 lead at intermission after Blackwell's buzzer-beating tap in.

And after Saah Nimley's 3-pointer 26 seconds into the second half gave Collins Hill a brief 32-31 lead, the Peachtree Ridge defense began to strike.

Blackwell countered with 3-pointers from each corner on consecutive possessions, while Jordan Grant added a basket and two assists in transition off turnovers and Griffin capped a 15-2 Peachtree Ridge run with a steal and coast-to-coast drive to give the Lions a 46-34 lead with 2:32 left in the third quarter.

"We had a lot of people not in the right spots," Collins Hill coach Josh Grayson said of his team's 18 turnovers, the bulk of which came in the second half. "They (Peachtree Ridge) are so long, a fingertip here and there makes a big difference. And they did a good job finishing on the break."

Peachtree Ridge's length came into play most of the night as the Lions finished with a 42-29 rebounding advantage, led by 12 from Blackwell and seven from Fischer.

And their ability to create turnovers and finish on the other end came in handy when Collins Hill made a run midway through the fourth quarter.

The Eagles had cut a 50-37 Peachtree Ridge after three quarters to just 52-46 after J.C. Bonny capped a 9-2 run with a three-point play with 5:32 remaining.

But Griffin answered by following a missed shot on a fast break created by another turnover to keep the Lions' margin comfortable.

"We thought we'd give them a little pressure to see how they'd do," said Griffin, who finished with eight points, three assists and a game-high four steals. "We saw how they did, so we put more pressure on them."

Collins Hill twice more pulled as close as seven points and had a chance to pull even closer. Lawrence was fouled intentionally and hit both free throws to make the score 60-53 with 3:11 left.

However, Griffin once again stepped up, stripping Nimley of the ball and going the distance for the layup that pushed the Peachtree Ridge lead back to 62-53 with 2:45 to play.

Grant joined Blackwell and Fisher in double figures with 10 points as the trio combined for 20 fastbreak points on the night.

Nimley was the only other Collins Hill player in double figures with 15 points and dished out a game-high six assists.