In a Sweet Sixteen first round largely devoid of drama, Collins High and Elliott County provided plenty of it Thursday night.
After the first six state tournament games were decided by double digits, the Lions and the Titans traded baskets all the way down the stretch. Over the final 12:28 of the second half, there were only 10 seconds where it wasn’t a one-possession contest. And four quarters weren’t enough to settle it.
Collins senior Dominique Turner made two free throws with 9 seconds left in regulation to tie it, and — after a wild end to the fourth quarter — the Titans scored the first seven points of the extra period to finally put Elliott County away, defeating the Lions, 65-57, in overtime for the school’s first win in the state tournament.
Collins looked to have things under control early on, jumping out to an 8-2 lead and taking a 15-7 advantage in the huddle after the first quarter.
The Lions, who were 3-for-17 from the field in the opening period, clawed back to cut Collins’ lead to three points at halftime, and they took their first lead of the game on Chase Porter’s basket with 2:49 left in the third quarter.
Elliott County led 45-40 for 10 seconds in the middle of the fourth quarter, but — other than that — the two teams were never separated by more than three points in the final period.
Porter’s steal and layup put the Lions up 52-50 with 16 seconds left. Turner’s two free throws pulled Collins back even seven seconds later. And then came a game-changing play.
Box score: Collins 65, Elliott County 57 (OT)
Elliott County sophomore star Korbin Spencer drove the length of the court and attempted a layup with 3.7 seconds left as he collided with Collins senior star Charlie Cochran under the basket. Both players went flying. The two referees closest to the play looked at each other, and — after a brief pause — one called it a charge.
“When he was coming down the court I was thinking, ‘Just don’t foul.’ He’d been making free throws all night long,” said Cochran, who finished with 23 points and 13 rebounds. “I just took a charge and hopefully they called it. And they did.”
Spencer — an 81-percent free-throw shooter who scored 19 points Thursday night — wouldn’t get a chance to sink the game winners.
“It isn’t my place to say what the call was,” he said. “That’s their jobs, not mine. But that was definitely the game-changer.”
Cochran’s and-one finish 18 seconds into overtime gave Collins the lead for good.
“Our kids know how to respond to adversity,” said Titans Coach Chris Gaither. “They’ve been there and they’ve seen it. And I’m really proud of how well they’ve stepped up.”