Rebels in regional finals
West Morgan in title game first time ever
By Brooke Milam
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HANCEVILLE — Midway through the fourth quarter of a tight Northwest regional semifinal contest against Cold Springs, usually reserved West Morgan senior Micah Randolph pumped his fist.
He had just hit a layup to put the Rebels up four points. It wasn't time to celebrate, but Randolph and the Rebels were playing with a refuse-to-lose attitude and it worked.
West Morgan beat Cold Springs 43-38 at Wallace State on Tuesday and advanced to the finals to face Tanner on Friday at 2 p.m. The Rattlers were a 76-65 winner over Mars Hill in the other Class 2A semifinal.
West Morgan improved its record to 21-9. Cold Springs' ended at 25-6.
With the win, West Morgan exercised several past stumbling blocks — avenging a disappointing loss to Cold Springs in December that the Rebels had a chance at the end, and advancing to the regional finals for the first time.
"We lost some close games early in the season and lately we've done better with that," West Morgan coach Ricky Bowling said.
West Morgan had made it to the Northwest Regionals three previous times, losing in the first round each time — most recently in 2002.
None of the current Rebels had played at the regionals before and Randolph said the support from Trinity had everything to do with the win.
"Our student section was great. I heard them all night long," Randolph said.
Cold Springs led 9-8 after the first quarter, but the Rebels found their groove in the second.
West Morgan's Blake Gholston knocked down a 3-pointer off an assist from Randolph that tied the game at 11 early in the second quarter, and another Gholston trey seconds later had the Rebels ahead 14-11.
With the score tied at 14 midway through the second period, Gholston again hit another 3-pointer that put the Rebels up 17-14 with 3:15 to play in the first half. But Cold Springs led 19-17 at the break.
"Those 3's were huge because we hadn't made anything up to that point," Bowling said.
The score was tied at 21, 23 and 30 late in the third quarter before a break-away dunk by Phillip Powell put West Morgan up 32-30 heading into the fourth.
With the game tied at 36, Grant Harbin's steal and basket gave West Morgan a 38-36 lead with 2:37 remaining.
Defense was key in the fourth.
West Morgan used a pressure man-to-man rather than the zone defense it used when it faced Cold Springs earlier, and Cold Springs coach Tim Burleson said that made a significant difference.
"We didn't shoot the ball very well, but I give West Morgan credit for that. They played great defense," Burleson said.
With West Morgan ahead 41-38 and Cold Springs facing a last attempt, a foul called away from the ball on the Eagles gave the Rebels possession with 16 seconds remaining.
With nine seconds to play West Morgan's Jake Sparkman sank two free throws for the final margin.
Powell led West Morgan with 13 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and three steals, while Randolph added 12 points and five rebounds, and Gholston scored 10.
For Cold Springs, Justin May totaled 14 points, six rebounds and three steals.
Matt Williams had 13 points and eight rebounds.
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