Ragland shot 62.9 percent from the field, including 70.6 in the decisive second half, and routed Collinsville 64-44 in Tuesday’s second Class 1A boys’ semifinal in Jacksonville State University’s Pete Mathews Coliseum.
The Purple Devils (20-8) hope to bring some of that hot shooting into Friday’s 8 p.m. final against Cedar Bluff.
“We’ve gone back and done a lot of work on finishing under pressure,” Ragland coach Andy Eden said. “All that work in practice on finishing under pressure has paid off.”
Indeed, of Ragland’s 22 field goals in 35 attempts, only two came from outside the 3-point arc. The Purple Devils outscored the Panthers 38-12 in the paint.
Forward Brandon Collins made all 12 of his field goals in 13 attempts from inside the arc, taking it into the teeth of the Collinsville defense. He finished with 24 points, and KiJana Lindsay added 20.
“We were just playing as a team,” Collins said. “Just shoot it, drive it in.”
Eden said Ragland took advantage of Collinsvile’s double-teams.
“We knew they play a lot of pressure defense,” he said. “KiJana is an excellent ballhandler and our other guys, Karson Winn, and we thought that if they came and double-teamed and overplayed us, we could slip the double-team and get the ball past them.”
While Ragland was finding the basket hard to miss, Collinsville (22-7) was finding it hard to hit. The Panthers shot 25.9 percent, 18.2 in the second half.
Unlike Ragland, Collinsville missed several driving shots to the basket and even a few reasonably open layups.
“During one their runs, we actually got some good shots,” Collinsville coach Jon Tidmore said. “They just didn’t go down.
“We missed a couple of layups and missed a couple of free throws, and they weren’t missing. We had to keep pacing them and make a run, and then we ended up kind of fatiguing ourselves with the pressure.”
Things snowballed quickly on Collinsville as Ragland scored 25 of the first 30 points of the second half, turning a one-point game at halftime into a 49-28 lead by 6:07 of the fourth quarter.
Collinsville came no closer than within 12 points down the stretch.
The Panthers overcame Ragland’s 55.6 percent shooting in the first half to stay within 24-23 at halftime. They did it largely from the 3-point line, hitting five in the first half.
Charles Coker and Christopher Jones hit two apiece.
Ragland came out determined to get hands in the faces of Collinsville’s shooters and make them drive in the second half.
“We defended the three a lot better,” Eden said.
David Posey led Collinsville with 12 points, and Eric Moore added 10.
Ragland now moves on to its first appearance in the regional final since 1995, when the Purple Devils lost to Collinsville. They bowed out in the semifinals in 1996, 1998 and 2009.
“I’m very proud of these young men and what they’ve accomplished,” Eden said.
“We’re very proud to be going to the regional finals.”
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @jmedley_star.