With guard Deion Cochran exploiting his new role to the fullest, Collins rolled past South Oldham 60-42 Monday night in an early-season matchup of Eighth Region title contenders.
Cochran, a junior guard, hit 4 of 6 3-pointers to finish with 15 points and with forward Ralphie Stone ignited a 16-0 run by the Titans in the second quarter that broke the game open.
“I got a lot of shots this summer with my AAU team and it definitely helped my confidence,” Cochran said. “They were looking for Ralphie in the post and it left me wide open.”
Stone, a 6-4 forward, led the Titans with 16 points and nine rebounds, but it was Cochran’s four threes from the corner that stuck a dagger in the Dragons’ hearts.
“He’s been shooting it well and he’s a junior, so his varsity time has come,” Collins coach Chris Gaither said. “Basically we need him in that corner hitting shots, but where he has really improved is on defense. He has gone from our laughingstock on that end to someone the other guys look to.”
The Collins defense played a big role as the Titans held the normally potent South Oldham offense scoreless for a five-minute stretch at the close of the first quarter and into the second. The Dragons, the defending regional champions, hit just 14 of 47 shots for 29 percent and connected on just 5 of 24 3-pointers.
“We’re going to continue to shoot it,” South Oldham coach Steve Simpson said. “I am not sure we forced things or took a lot of bad shots; we just had no flow. It was a very frustrating night.”
With South leading 10-9 in the final minute of the first period, Stone started the Collins run with a shot in the lane followed by Brent Kidwell closing the quarter with a drive in the lane to give the Titans a 13-10 lead.
Stone opened the second period with a pull-up jumper in the lane before Cochran buried a three from the right corner to put Collins up 18-10, forcing a Dragons’ timeout.
On the next possession, Collins forced a 10-second backcourt violation and Stone struck again with a 6-foot jumper in the paint followed by a South miss and breakaway layup from Collins’ Jayon Winstead for a 22-10 lead.
Stone closed the 16-0 run with a post-up shot in the lane and free throw after drawing a foul, increasing the lead to 27-10.
South broke the five-minute scoring drought with a Zack McWilliams three off the left wing with 3:31 left in the first half to cut the lead to 27-13. The Dragons, however, never got closer than 13 points the rest of the way as Collins mixed a man-to-man and sticky 1-3-1 zone defense to hold South in check.
“Our defense is better right now than it was at the end of last year, we have come a long way,” Gaither said. “I would have never thought we would hold South Oldham to 42 points the way they shoot the three, but the kids did a fantastic job getting after them.”