June 12, 2013

Collins and Bautista shine

Both earn Georgia Player of the Game honors

Devin Golden
devingolden@daltoncitizen.com

— Despite her team’s loss, Megan Collins left an impression on this year’s Stump on Sports Tennessee-Georgia All-Star Basketball Classic.

In the boys game, Alex Bautista’s late-game heroics went a step further, bringing Georgia its first victory in this year’s All-Star Classic series.

Collins, a Southeast Whitfield graduate, scored 24 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and earned the Georgia Player of the Game award, but the Peach State all-stars lost 66-57 to their Tennessee opponents on Tuesday at Notre Dame High School in Chattanooga. In the boys game, Bautista, a Dalton alum, banked in a game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the contest into overtime, which Georgia won 76-74.

The games, which started in 2003, pit recent graduates from a dozen counties in southeastern Tennessee against those from a dozen counties in northwestern Georgia.

In the girls game, Georgia led 36-28 at halftime but Silverdale Baptist’s Mariah Massengill scored six of her 12 points in the fourth quarter to lead Tennessee to the victory. She also had seven assists, four steals and three rebounds.

“I was just playing as hard as I could,” Collins said. “I was hoping we’d win but they came back and we got down. That’s just how it went.”

Collins, who also excelled in golf and volleyball at Southeast, had 19 points and eight rebounds at halftime. She also finished second in the 3-point contest held during the mid-game break. Tennessee player Brianna Farris of Girls Preparatory School won, making 12 from behind the arc to Collins’ 11.

Collins plans to attend Jacksonville State next fall but said she has elected not to continue her athletic career.

“I just kept going back and forth between just being a normal student and wanting to keep playing,” she said, “and I guess I eventually decided to just be a student.”

Georgia coach Michael Durham coached Collins this past season at Southeast. The Lady Raiders finished 15-11 one season after winning just one game. Durham said he’ll miss Collins.

“That’s an understatement,” he added. “She’s a good one. People lose players every year, and you need others to step up.”

Aside from Collins, Georgia had four other Whitfield County standouts participate. Northwest Whitfield’s Kaitlin Wade finished with seven points and seven rebounds and Autumn Blackwell, another former Lady Bruin, added seven points and six rebounds. Dalton’s Brooke Thomas chipped in seven points and four rebounds, while Southeast’s Tavi Parris had five rebounds.

“They all played well,” Durham said. “It’s an all-star game. Every few minutes, I’d put four more out there. ... I could’ve let Megan play longer. I could’ve had Autumn Blackwell play more. I wanted to get all the girls in the game as much as possible.”

Durham said Georgia trailed by four points in the waning minutes and missed eight straight free throws.

“They were trapping us in the half court,” he said. “They were getting by with a little of pushing and grabbing. At one point, they had 10 fouls and we had two. ... We just couldn’t buy a basket. It was still a lot of fun.”

Tennessee leads the girls series 7-4 and has won the past four meetings.

In the boys game, Bautista finished with seven points, three rebounds and two assists on his way to being named Georgia Player of the Game. Dalton’s Demond Rucker added nine points and three rebounds, while Rico Mears chipped in six points and six rebounds. Murray County’s Brady Todd added eight points and six rebounds, while North Murray’s Zach Vess tallied two points and six rebounds.

Tennessee, which had won the previous three meetings, still leads the series, 7-4. Six of the 11 games have been decided by five points or fewer.

The series kicked off last Saturday with the all-star football game, which Tennessee won 10-7.

In addition to the basketball and football games, the series will include games for girls and boys soccer (1:30 and 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga), baseball (6 p.m. Tuesday at Ridgeland High School in Rossville) and softball (6 p.m. on June 19 at Frost Stadium in Chattanooga).

Stump Martin, the Classics’ creator, was a reporter for the Chattanooga News-Free Press and Chattanooga Times Free Press for 19 years and also was on ESPN Radio’s 105.1 The Zone in Chattanooga. He is managing editor of Friday Night Football Live Tennessee and co-owner of Tennessee’s high school Rivals.com website, TN-Varsity.com. He has hosted “Stump on Sports Late Nite,” a live sports television show, for nearly 30 years.