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Lions survive to reach region finals

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. Peachtree Ridge's C.J. Blackwell (32) drives to the basket as Collins Hill's Jeff Glover (11) tries to block the shot on Friday.

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. Peachtree Ridge's C.J. Blackwell (32) drives to the basket as Collins Hill's Jeff Glover (11) tries to block the shot on Friday.

SUWANEE -- Peachtree Ridge's C.J. Blackwell had just committed what could've been the biggest turnover of his high school career.

With his Lions leading Collins Hill 59-58 in the semifinals of the Region 7-AAAAA tournament Friday night at Collins Hill, Blackwell took a feed from a Peachtree Ridge guard in the lane and leapt toward the basket for a dunk that would've built a three-point lead with 16.5 seconds left.

But he walked, giving Collins Hill one more possession.

However, that chance at a Collins Hill victory turned into a chance at redemption for Blackwell when stole the inbounds pass as the Eagles tried to find Saah Nimley on a back door cut, preserving the Lions' 59-58 win.

Blackwell's steal put an end to a grueling 32 minutes that, at times, was more like a war. The game featured 36 common fouls, three technical fouls, numerous bodies hitting the floor and even more numerous chants at the officials from the crowd.

The win vaulted the Lions into tonight's tournament championship game against Norcross at 7 p.m. at Peachtree Ridge.

Collins Hill, last year's tournament winner, will play North Gwinnett at 5 p.m. for third place.

After a tight first half that saw Peachtree Ridge lead 33-32 at the break, the Eagles put in a trapping defense in the third quarter, allowing them to close out the period with a 12-2 run and seemingly take control with a 49-42 lead after the third.

The Lions responded with a 9-0 run of their own to open the fourth, helped in part by two consecutive three-point plays from Blackwell and Rasheed Fischer with 5:43 to play.

Collins Hill answered with the next three points to go up 52-51 but Peachtree Ridge came right back with the game's next six points to build a 57-52 lead with 2:45 left.

Nimley, who struggled with his outside shot all night but still led the Eagles with 18 points, scored the next four to give Collins Hill the lead back at 58-57 with 1:14 left.

Xavier Johnson, who had just six points on the night, came up huge for the Lions on the next possession when he converted a layup from the right baseline, putting his team up for good 59-58 with one minute left.

Blackwell finished with 13 points for Peachtree Ridge while Daryan Griffin, who also did a nice job hounding Nimley, finished with 16 points. Jordan Grant also played well with 14 points.

Herdie Lawrence tallied 14 points for Collins Hill while Andre Allen chipped in with 12 points.