The Columbus Lady Blue Devils’ seniors reached this point in the playoffs three years ago. Even though that semifinals venture led to a championship game appearance, those players and the rest of the team are looking for even more this time.
In order to do that, Columbus has to first survive Saturday’s game.
Columbus faces off with Sandy Creek at 2:00 p.m. in the Class 4A semifinals as part of a doubleheader that includes Carver playing Cross Creek. The Lady Blue Devils enter the game at Augusta University in the strongest part of their postseason run, having struggled against Burke County in the first round before outlasting West Hall then blowing out Spalding.
Senior forward Tatyana Wyatt was one of those inexperienced players who helped the Lady Blue Devils dominate Woodland in the semifinals in March 2014. With another championship game berth in reach, Wyatt sounded up to the challenge of facing off with the Lady Patriots for that right.
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“Every year it has been a goal to get back (to the championship game),” Wyatt said. “I honestly wouldn’t want to be going to the Final Four with any other team. We work hard every day, and I think this is something we have worked hard for and something that we deserve.”
Columbus head coach Joe Cherrone said the team’s playoff run thus far was all thanks to an unexpected and undesirable outcome back in early February.
After leading for most of the Region 1-4A championship game against Carver, the Lady Blue Devils fell 54-53 on a buzzer beater by Mya Millner. As a result, the Lady Tigers grabbed the No. 1 seed from the region, with the Lady Devils taking the No. 2 spot.
The loss was a chance for Cherrone to regroup his team, getting them to go all in for what needed to happen going forward. With the win-or-go-home mode now in session, there was no cushion for subpar efforts or second chances if a night ended disastrously.
From there, Columbus went to work.
“My girls have started thinking everything happens for a reason,” Cherrone said. “We got put on the opposite side (of the bracket) and we played some competition we could handle. We feel like we can handle our business on Saturday. We came out where we needed to come out, and we just continue to do what we do.”
Cherrone was able to grab a front-row seat for Sandy Creek’s quarterfinals game against Madison County on Wednesday. He complimented the Lady Patriots’ guard play but liked the matchup his team has at the forward positions. He said he was also confident in how his guards have handled themselves down the stretch, particularly point guard Brittany Floyd.
If Cherrone’s team can slide past Sandy Creek on Saturday, it will result in the team’s third state title game appearance in school history and second under Cherrone’s watch.
Wyatt’s first taste of a title game was bittersweet, but if she and her Columbus teammates can finish what they’ve started on Saturday, the team’s seniors will have the second chance they’ve been working for.
And according to Wyatt, this one wouldn’t be wasted.
“If we have the opportunity to play for the state championship, my team and I will be prepared and make history at Columbus High School,” Wyatt said.
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports