Going into their game against Young Harris Saturday afternoon at The Lumpkin Center, the Columbus State Lady Cougars found themselves in the thick of the hunt not only for an NCAA Tournament berth, but a Peach Belt Conference regular-season title as well.
When the dust had settled, Columbus State had taken care of business, knocking off the Mountain Lions, 70-63, to stay just one game out of first place in the conference standings and avenge a 68-63 loss at Young Harris back on Jan. 15.
"We needed revenge," said Columbus State senior Tae Smith, who finished with 21 points, five assists and two steals. "You can't lose to the same team twice in the same season. We just want it all right now and we're going to leave it all on the court."
Smith made seven of her 12 shots in the game, including four of her eight 3-pointers. She had 10 of CSU's first 20 points and helped the Lady Cougars weather a cold streak of one field goal in 5:18 in the first half.
"I played with a lot of confidence today," said Smith. "This is the first time that I really feel like I played with this much confidence. In the past few games, I'd miss a shot or two and get down on myself. Today, if I missed a shot, I just told myself to keep shooting and to get it back on the defensive end of the floor."
Young Harris (17-6, 12-4) -- which has dropped two of its last three since a run of six straight wins -- put together an 11-2 run and led 23-17 with 7:32 to go in the first half, but Columbus State (18-5, 13-4) closed the half with a 15-6 burst of its own to lead 32-29 at the break. Smith had 10 points to lead the Lady Cougars, with fellow seniors Chatil Bradford and Asha Alexander netting seven and six, respectively.
Peyton Robertson was the high scorer for Young Harris, pouring in 10 points before leaving the game with an ankle injury with 5:30 to go before halftime and not returning. The Mountain Lions also got eight points and 10 rebounds from Ladondra Johnson, who came into the game averaging 18.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per contest.
The Lady Cougars scored the first five points of the second half to open up a 47-39 advantage, but Young Harris came back and the teams battled evenly for the next 10-plus minutes. CSU went on a 13-6 run over a span of 4:33 to build a 61-52 lead with 5:24 remaining, but Young Harris made one last push. The Mountain Lions scored seven straight points, capped off by a 3-pointer from Jenna Thompson, to get to within 61-59 with 3:35 left.
However, as has been the case more often than not this season, the Lady Cougars came up big when they needed it most. Carrie Washington made a layup and Bradford got a basket of her own to extend CSU's lead back out to 65-59 and Young Harris got no closer than four points the rest of the way. CSU did make things interesting by only draining 5 of its last 9 free throws in the final 2:35, but the Lady Cougars held Young Harris without a field goal for the last 3:35 of the game to preserve the victory.
"I have to give credit to our senior leadership," said Columbus State head coach Jonathan Norton. "They take care of things and everybody on this team knows their role. Our kids knows teams are going to make a run and we just know we have to step up and make a basket or get that stop we need. The players really deserve the credit for the toughness they've shown this season."
Along with Smith's 21, Bradford had 20 points, five rebounds and two assists and Alexander finished with 14 points, two rebounds, two assists and a steal. Also having solid games for the Lady Cougars were Washington (five points, eight rebounds and three assists in 21 minutes due to foul trouble) and reserve Ashley Asouzu (four points, seven rebounds and two steals in 16 minutes).
Johnson had 18 points, 18 rebounds and two steals to lead Young Harris. Lauren Smith scored 12 points and had four rebounds, four assists and a steal and Robertson and Thompson chipped in 10 apiece for the Mountain Lions.
Columbus State plays again Wednesday, when the Lady Cougars travel to Dahlonega to take on North Georgia. Tipoff for the game is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.
YOUNG HARRIS (17-6, 12-4 PBC)
Ladondra Johnson 9-19 0-0 18; Lauren Smith 6-15 0-0 12; Jenna Thompson 3-5 3-4 10; Peyton Robertson 4-6 2-2 10; Kaycee Cash 2-5 2-2 6; Shereese Williams 2-5 1-3 5; Keta Robinette 1-8 0-0 2; Breanna Gleeson 0-1 0-0 0; Shaquaya Daniels 0-0 0-1 0. Totals 27-64 8-12 63.
COLUMBUS STATE (18-5, 13-4 PBC)
Tae Smith 7-12 3-4 21; Chatil Bradford 7-13 5-6 20; Asha Alexander 6-12 2-4 14; Carrie Washington 2-2 1-2 5; Ashley Asouzu 1-3 2-4 4; Kayla Richards 1-2 0-0 3; Britteny Tatum 1-3 1-4 3; Mary McCarty 0-0 0-0 0; Kim Blake 0-0 0-0 0; Dee Dee Deshazer 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 25-49 14-24 70.
Halftime: CSU 32-29. 3-point goals--Young Harris 1-12 (Jenna Thompson 1-2; Lauren Smith 0-2; Keta Robinette 0-7; Breanna Gleeson 0-1), Columbus State 6-14 (Tae Smith 4-8; Chatil Bradford 1-2; Kayla Richards 1-2; Dee Dee Deshazer 0-2). Fouled out--Young Harris-None, Columbus State-None. Rebounds--Young Harris 38 (Ladondra Johnson 18), Columbus State 29 (Carrie Washington 8). Assists--Young Harris 11 (Lauren Smith 4), Columbus State 16 (Tae Smith 5).
Total fouls--Young Harris 21, Columbus State 16. Technical fouls--Young
Harris-None, Columbus State-None. A-869