Winning in the playoffs is difficult because everyone is there for a reason, though that reason may vary from team to team.
On Monday, the Columbus girls basketball team got something a little different than it was used to when it faced visiting Marist in the second round of the Class AAAA state playoffs, and it struggled to adjust for most of the first half.
A big run going into the break plus defensive adjustments in the second half, however, were enough to propel the Lady Blue Devils to a 50-37 win in front of a rowdy home crowd.
The win moves Columbus (28-1) to the quarterfinals where it will host Columbia on Wednesday.
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“When you get in this round, it’s tough,” coach Joe Cherrone said after the game. “Everyone shows you something different.”
Marist showed patience.
After a solid first quarter in which guards Dominique Odom and Kelsey Carrier traded three baskets apiece, Marist was ahead 14-10. Coming out in the second quarter, though, it slowed the pace to a crawl, holding possession for big chunks of time and adding seven more points before the Lady Blue Devils finally got back on the board at the three-minute mark.
The lead was 11, but that basket for Columbus started a 7-0 run and cut the score to 21-17 heading into the half.
“It was a turning point,” said senior Jacqueria Gunter, who finished with nine points in the game. “Once we got that close, we were able to play our game. They played their game in the first half, we played ours in the second.”
“That was definitely huge,” Cherrone said. “We were able to make some adjustments at the half, come out and put some pressure on them. Brittany Floyd did a great job on defense, stealing the ball.”
After a pair of free throws temporarily extended the lead back to six, Columbus took control in the third. Tatyana Wyatt hit a pair of free throws and senior Alexia Manning hit a three. Floyd had back-to-back steals and freshman Ariyah Copeland converted a three-point play and knocked down a putback to give Columbus its first lead, 27-25, since it was 3-2 in the first quarter.
Columbus never relinquished the lead.
Wyatt scored eight points and blocked three shots in the final frame and Gunter knocked down four big free throws in the final two minutes to keep Marist at bay.
“(Gunter) made those huge free throws for us,” Cherrone said, stressing how big they were. He also highlighted the contributions of Wyatt, who finished with a team-high 12 points, and Copeland, who finished with nine.
Odom led Marist in the lost with a game-high 14 points.
Next up will be Columbia for the Lady Blue Devils, which comes as a blessing and a curse. They will get the game at home, where the crowd was “deafening,” in Cherrone’s words, but they will face a team that has the ability to match up.
“That game would be a battle,” Cherrone said of facing Columbia before learning which team Columbus would get.
Monday at Columbus
Marist 14 7 9 7—37
Columbus 10 7 14 19—50
Dominique Odom 14, Carrier 9, Chadwick 8, Bell 6.
Tatyana Wyatt 12, Gunter 9, Copeland 9, Floyd 7, Manning 7, Lloyd 4, McIntosh 2.
Records: Marist, 21-9; Columbus, 28-1. Next: Marist, season over; Columbus, Wed. vs. Columbia at home.