The phrase “winning by a nose” exists for games like Saturday’s contest between the Columbus State women and visiting Armstrong Atlantic.
The Lady Cougars led by five points with 47 seconds remaining and by three with less than 30. In the final 15 seconds the Lady Pirates dropped in a layup, stole the ball and had one final look at a layup as the buzzer sounded. The ball bounced off the rim, however, and Columbus State held on for an important 79-78 win at the Lumpkin Center.
The win gave the Lady Cougars (10-4, 5-3) a boost in the conference race against a team that came in with the same conference record and helped them avoid their second consecutive loss.
Coach Jonathan Norton was happy his team got the win, but still frustrated at how the game was played.
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“I haven’t ever been more frustrated after a win,” Norton said. “There isn’t enough ink in the sports section to list everything. In the first half, they outplayed us effort-wise and toughness-wise. The officials were letting us kill each other. They turned up their whistles in the second half, but we just couldn’t make the free throws.”
The Lady Cougars shot 13 of 22 from the line for the game.
And speaking on the final play of the game, a fast break fueled by the team’s 22nd and final turnover, Norton said his team didn’t do a good enough job protecting the ball.
“We turned it over way too much,” he said. “We have to be able to protect the ball. I was surprised (she missed the shot at the end). I guess she was just going too fast and put the ball up too hard.”
In both halves, Columbus State took decent leads early on and had the chance to take control of the contest. It led by eight midway through the first and the second, 20-12 and 60-52, respectively, but both times allowed Armstrong to inch back into the game.
In the second half, the Lady Pirates went on a 10-2 run after falling behind by eight to tie the score at 62 with seven minutes remaining in the contest.
Every time Armstrong seemed to seize momentum, however, the Lady Cougars relied on Chatil Bradford to shut the door.
Bradford scored 28 points, seven off her career high at Columbus State, and grabbed eight rebounds.
“Coach said before the game that I needed to take (my defender) all game,” Bradford said. “She was a little slower on her feet, so they would go for any fake.”
And she used it to great effect in the paint all game.
“Cha was incredible,” Norton said of Bradford. “She saved us today. People game plan for her, and she’s still able to be active inside.”
She made two free throws for the team’s 78th and 79th points, giving them a 79-74 lead inside of a minute, just enough to hang on for the victory.
In addition to Bradford, the Lady Cougars also got a double-double from post Carrie Washington, who scored 12 points and matched her career high in rebounds with 15. Dee Dee Deshazer scored 12 points and Tae Smith added 10.
Armstrong also had four players in double figures. Brigitta Barta led the team with 19 points, followed by Bryonna Davis’ 17, Tyler Carlson’s 16 and Stephenie Coney’s 14.
Columbus State returns to action against Flagler on Monday at the Lumpkin Center.