SUWANEE — After a missed layup by Eric Hamilton, Collins Hill opted for pandemonium.
In the final minute, the Duluth big man missed the mark on a drive to the basket and the Eagles’ Jalen Mitchell came down with the rebound. Trailing by one point, Mitchell first found himself trapped under the basket, but eventually split the defenders and drove the length of the floor.
Like Hamilton, Mitchell missed his attempt at the rim, but the junior fought for the rebound and laid the ball back in, giving Collins Hill a 53-52 lead with 10.6 seconds left. The game-winner is the second in as many games for Mitchell, who hit the winning shot Saturday against Peachtree Ridge.
“It was crazy,” Mitchell said. “I didn’t think we were going to come out on top for a minute, but we came through.”
The Eagles held on for the Region 7-AAAAAA victory, stifling Duluth over the final seconds and not allowing an attempt at a go-ahead basket.
“I felt like their defense had given us a little trouble and if we got in transition we’d be better,” Collins Hill head coach Eric Nathan said. “We scrapped for it.”
“Scrapped” rings true for Collins Hill’s win. Trailing almost the entire game, the Eagles’ defense kept Duluth off balance just enough. When they pressured Duluth either in the half or full court, the Wildcats struggled to generate much offense and the intensity created turnovers.
“They are tricky to play,” Nathan said of Duluth. “I didn’t want them to pick us apart and I didn’t want us to wear out.
“They shot so well in the first half.”
Led by 10 points from Kai Lambert, Duluth built a modest 19-11 lead in the first quarter. Lambert hit a pair of 3s in the first eight minutes and Zaynah Robinson hit another for the Wildcats. Collins Hill answered with five points from Devin Watson and four from Mitchell.
In the second quarter, cold shooting combined with sloppy play and each team playing a type of zone defense rendered almost no scoring. The two teams combined for five points and it wasn’t until Lambert hit a layup with 1:22 left that either team recorded a field goal. Duluth tried to play for the last shot of the half, but Collins Hill forced a turnover and Watson scored at the buzzer, cutting the Duluth lead to 21-14 at halftime.
Collins Hill had opened the game with a 3-pointer, but hadn’t found much offense since and after leading 3-2 played from behind the rest of the night. But that early 3 played overture to a second half filled with long balls from the Eagles.
Collins Hill hit six of its seven 3s in the second half, getting three from Mitchell, two from Devin Watson and one from Devin Mitchell. Jalen Mitchell led all scorers with 19 and Devin Watson followed with 13 for the Eagles.
But it wasn’t just Collins Hill hitting big shots. Robinson scored 14 of his team-high 17 points in the second half for Duluth and Hamilton hit a pair of 3s on his way to 15 points. Lambert ended with 14 after his 10-point first quarter.
Hamilton hit his first 3 of the fourth quarter in the opening minute following an offensive rebound by Lambert and Duluth took an 11-point lead. The Wildcats held the lead much of the fourth quarter until Collins Hill forced enough stops to climb back and set up Jalen Mitchell’s heroics.
“We always come back,” Jalen Mitchell said. “That was a pretty tough game, but I believed that we could.”
Duluth girls 67,
Collins Hill 47
Katie Powell got things rolling, scoring 14 of her 19 points in the first half, and Endia Banks hit three 3-pointers in Duluth’s 67-47 win at Collins Hill.
Banks led the Wildcats with 21 points in the win.
For the Eagles, Marissa Bayer scored 14 points, Syndey Brown hit three 3s on her way to 13 points and Jazmin Smith followed with 10 points.