Sand Rock girls hold off late Collinsville 3-pointer surge

Sand Rock’s Katelyn StClair spots up for a 3-pointer against Collinsville on Wednesday. Photo by Shannon Fagan.

By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director

COLLINSVILLE – Sand Rock girls basketball coach Lisa Bates has seen her Lady Wildcats lose a couple of close games this season because of “not knowing what to do at the end of the game.”

They were faced with that exact scenario again on Wednesday at area rival Collinsville.

The Lady Panthers sank seven fourth-quarter 3-pointers to pull within a basket on three occasions late, but junior guard Katelyn StClair connected on 6-of-6 free throws down the stretch to help Sand Rock escape with a 61-57 victory.

“I was glad we hit some free throws that gave us a cushion because they were on fire at the end,” Bates said. “If we didn’t hit those that would’ve been a different ball game.”

Sand Rock (9-8, 4-0) built a 31-21 halftime advantage and led 43-34 at the end of three quarters before Collinsville (6-4, 1-3) caught fire – particularly senior guard Rylee Tillery.

Tillery tallied four fourth-quarter treys, with her final one coming at the 1:10 mark to bring Collinsville within a basket at 53-51.

“I’m not surprised we hit them because we’ve been shooting the ball really well in games,” Collinsville coach Jon Tidmore said. “It’s just we could not get them off the boards. We had to spend so much energy on StClair because she’s so dynamic. She can shoot deep threes, can get to the goal. She’s just a great player. When you commit two at times to her, and they’re already good on the boards, I think rebounding was the difference in the game.”

Following Tillery’s final trey, StClair and Zoey Handy then hit on 3-of-4 free throws to stretch Sand Rock’s lead back out to five at 56-51, but a 3-pointer by Tyla Tatum brought the Lady Panthers back within a basket at 56-54 with 27.2 seconds remaining.

StClair connected on four more free throws to push the Lady Wildcat lead out to six at 60-54 before Sophia Wills sank a trey with 5.8 seconds to go to make the score 60-57.

Sand Rock’s Chloe Stephens hit the back end of two free throws with 3.9 seconds remaining for the final.

“We’ve just got to get more confident with the basketball and more confident in our end-of-game situations, but we’re coming out of Collinsville with a ‘W’,” Bates said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s one point or 20 points.”

StClair led Sand Rock with 22 points, including an 11-of-13 free-throw performance for the game. She also sank three treys and had six rebounds, five steals, an assist and a block.

Handy had 19 points, 11 boards and four steals. Chloe Stephens collected seven points, six boards, two assists, a steal and a block. Jacey Stephens and Kennedy Henderson both finished with six points. Henderson also had 10 rebounds, five assists and four steals.

Tillery topped Collinsville with 17 points, including five treys. Tatum, who was honored before the game for recently scoring her 2,000th career point, added 16 points. Nayeli Mata managed three 3-pointers and had nine points. Wills also finished with nine points. Gracie Griggs had six points.

“I do think we’re getting better every day,” Tidmore said. “We’ve got some deficiencies in height and foot speed, but they’re playing hard. I think we’re going to get better and better every game. That’s all you can ask for in the end, to have a chance.”

Collinsville’s Tyla Tatum is presented a ball commemorating her 2,000th career point from Collinsville principal Bradley Crawford prior to the Lady Panthers’ area basketball game against Sand Rock on Wednesday. Photo by Shannon Fagan.
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