'YOU'LL SEE THEM AGAIN': No. 2 Mars Hill Bible upends No. 1 Cold Springs 69-47 to win Class 2A title

Mar. 3—BIRMINGHAM — Friday's outcome wasn't what Tammy West had in mind.

The longtime Cold Springs coach, who has watched her group grow significantly since tipping off the season in November, had hoped with every fiber of her being the Lady Eagles would put it all together inside Birmingham's Legacy Arena and achieve the success she so desperately wanted them to achieve.

In the end, though, West's hopes — and her team's title dreams — failed to come to fruition as No. 2 Mars Hill Bible defeated the Class 2A No. 1 Blue and Gold 69-47 to claim the program's first state championship since 2005.

Although the season ended on a sour note, West offered effusive praise for a group of girls that she and a proud community know is deserving of such applause.

"This one game does not define our season at all," said West, who was seeking her fifth state title. "That's what I told the girls. This doesn't take away from everything they accomplished. If you had told me at the start of the year that we were going to be in this position I would have told you we were probably a year away.

"But these girls proved me wrong. Winning 31 games is just incredible for a team that only had one senior on it and had never played together before this season. They worked extremely hard and fought all year long and won all year long. You'll see them again next year."

Cold Springs got off to a blistering start, racing out to a 14-2 lead — Ciara Calvert fueled the crowd-pleasing spurt with seven points — at the 2:08 mark of the first quarter.

Unfortunately for the Lady Eagles, however, Mars Hill began to settle in after that.

And coach Flori Sweatt's squad (26-5) did so behind the fantastic play of Belle Hill.

The 5-foot-11 seventh-grader corralled 18 points over the final 10:08 of the first half, leading a spirited charge that allowed the Lady Panthers to seize a 34-26 advantage at intermission.

"We got in a little bit of foul trouble and No. 4 (Hill) decided she was going to play," West said. "When she decided she was going to play, she was extremely hard to stop. You can't watch that game and think she's a seventh-grader. She's a phenomenal player. We had to focus so much energy on her and the players around her started playing exceptionally well. They were clicking on all cylinders."

Cold Springs (31-3) tried to keep pace in the second half — twice trimming its deficit to six in the third quarter — but Mars Hill was simply too much on this day.

The Lady Panthers extended their cushion to 50-36 entering the final period and led by as many 24 points late in the game.

"It was so tough," West said. "You're trying to go against a team that is so well-rounded. They were hurting us on the boards and getting two or three shots. You've got the Hill girl and you're trying to worry about her. But you've got shooters out there you know can shoot it well."

Ella Dickerson (16) and Maci Brown (14) paced the Lady Eagles offensively en route to securing spots on the All-Tournament Team. Calvert (seven), Ella Bruer (six), Malaya Taylor (two) and Baylee Perdue (two) also contributed.

Hill, meanwhile, finished with 27 points and eight rebounds to earn MVP honors. She was accompanied on the All-Tournament Team by Emma Kate Wright (16) and Kadence Rolston (11).

Despite Friday's outcome, the future remains bright for the Lady Eagles.

Cold Springs welcomes back its top six contributors — Brown, Bruer, Calvert, Dickerson, Taylor and Kenady Graves — next season and should be in prime position for another state run.

West believes her team will do everything in its power to accomplish just that.

"One hundred percent," she said. "I would never even have to ask them. They're constantly trying to improve their games — and that's what we're going to do."

Dickerson echoed those sentiments with a determined resolve that belied her years.

"I thought we worked hard this offseason to get to this point, but I know we're going to work ten times harder now because we want that Blue Map," the freshman said. "We want it so bad and we're going to put in the work necessary to get it."