DULUTH -- It took until the third quarter for Saah Nimley to get going in the Region 7-AAAAA tournament Wednesday night, but once he did, the Collins Hill guard made the difference many anticipated.
His team-high 22 points led the Eagles past Chattahoochee 70-51 at Duluth and into the state playoffs for a third consecutive time. The Eagles' third victory over the Cougars this season put them into Friday's 8:30 p.m. semifinals against Peachtree Ridge at Peachtree Ridge.
"I did what I had to do, and now we're in the state tournament," said Nimley, who averages 24 points and scored a season-high 41 previously against Chattahoochee. "Being in state is a real motivator because a lot of people didn't think we'd make it this far."
Coming off a 34-point performance in a regular season-ending victory over North Gwinnett, Nimley sat out most of the second quarter against Chattahoochee with two fouls and had only five points by intermission. During those first two quarters, the Eagles (19-7) led the Cougars (12-15) by no more than six twice. In the third quarter, however, Nimley scored nine to propel Collins Hill toward a victory margin identical to their 65-46 one in the teams' second meeting last month at Chattahoochee.
"Even when he's not scoring, he's getting the ball to the right people," Chattahoochee coach Kacey Martin said.
Collins Hill's Andre Allen supplemented Nimley's output with 16 points, and J.C. Bonny chipped in 10.
"We finally started hitting our shots," Collins Hill coach Josh Grayson said of the third and fourth quarters, in which the third-seeded Eagles outscored the sixth-seeded Cougars 20-19 and 21-9, respectively. "We also did a better job of keeping (Chattahoochee's Jaron Blossomgame) from getting his touches."
Still, Blossomgame matched Nimley's 22 points, while teammate Markus Terry contributed 11. Blossomgame, who came in averaging 21 points, sparked a first quarter in which the Cougars came back from six points down to finish ahead, 13-10.
Cody Jackson's 3-pointer tied the game 21-21 with 1:49 remaining in the first half, but Collins Hill's Herdie Lawrence answered with a 3, and the Eagles never trailed again.
Peachtree Ridge 63, Northview 52
Despite trailing by 11 in the first half, Peachtree Ridge went ahead for good 33-32 on Daryan Griffin's 3-pointer with 5:01 left in the third quarter. Northview, however, proved pesky and drew within a basket several times down the stretch.
Rasheed Fischer ignited Peachtree Ridge fans with a fast-break dunk with 2:48 left, before C.J. Blackwell's 3-pointer and Xavier Johnson's layup preserved the Lions' eight-point lead as time wound down. Peachtree Ridge (19-6) held its biggest advantage in its third straight win over the Titans, 61-49, on Griffin's two foul shots with 47 seconds left.
Peachtree Ridge was led by Blackwell's 21 points, Fischer's 13 and Johnson's 10. Jaron Wright and Alex Flagler both scored 13 to lead Northview (12-16).
"It's difficult to beat a team like Northview three times, but we showed a lot of composure (when behind), hung in there and got it done," Lions coach Keith Arrington said. "I thought our defense picked it up when we needed it, and our energy level picked up, too."
Chattahoochee girls 66, South Forsyth 37
Alexis Alexander's game-high 20 points and Erika Ford's 16 propelled the third-seeded Cougars to their third victory this season against ninth-seeded South and into Friday's tournament semifinals. Alexander had 16 by halftime, by which the Cougars (17-6) built a 32-13 advantage and never looked back.
Courtney Clark and Nicole Rosanwo led South Forsyth with 14 and 10 points, respectively.