Columbus senior Tatyana Wyatt’s trip to the state championship game as a freshman left her eager for another shot at a title. On Saturday, Wyatt proved to be the driving force in getting the Lady Blue Devils back to the big stage.
Wyatt was instrumental in Columbus’ 62-50 victory over Sandy Creek to clinch the program’s third championship game appearance in school history. Wyatt led the way for the Lady Blue Devils down the stretch, using her unique combination of size and knack for long-range shooting to down the hard-charging Lady Patriots.
Wyatt ended the outing with a game-high 24 points along with 13 rebounds, one block and one steal.
“She’s a huge player,” Columbus head coach Joe Cherrone said. “We need her to make big shots in crucial moments during the game. We weren’t getting many calls inside, so we had to extend our game and allow her to advance to the 3-point line and really make some big shots from out there.”
Columbus desperately needed someone to step up in the third quarter against the Lady Patriots. After leading the game from the opening tip, the Lady Blue Devils’ offense went dormant, and Sandy Creek took advantage.
The Lady Patriots briefly took a 33-32 lead with under four minutes left in the quarter, leaving the Lady Blue Devils in search of someone to make plays.
Wyatt stood tall from that point forward, immediately stealing the ball and delivering a layup to put Columbus back in the lead. She followed that up on the next Sandy Creek possession, getting the ball again off a Sandy Creek turnover and converting it into two points. She showed off her range as the quarter dragged on, delivering several 3-pointers that left the Lady Patriots shaking their heads.
The Lady Blue Devils rode the momentum into the fourth, outscoring Sandy Creek 34-25 in the second half to get the victory.
“I noticed we were having a little trouble on offense and on defense,” Wyatt said. “I just tried to lead the team and do what I had to do to get us back in the game. After that, we just kept going.”
Columbus’ need for a surge in the third quarter was a contradiction to the team’s hot start to the game.
The Lady Blue Devils seemed destined to roll into the title game via a blowout, as Wyatt and Ariyah Copeland used their heights to overpower Sandy Creek early on. Columbus stormed out to an 8-2 start in the opening minutes, forcing the Lady Patriots to take two quick timeouts.
Sandy Creek eventually adjusted as the game went along and mounted its own scoring frenzy, which forced Columbus to find some semblance of an answer and do so quickly.
That answer, as has been the case several times this season, came from Wyatt.
As the players exited the locker room, beaming from their latest victory, Wyatt smiled as she thought about the game Friday at Georgia Tech. The hard work she and her teammates had put in all year had paid off, and a ticket to the championship showdown had been punched.
With one game to go in her high school career, Wyatt couldn’t contain her confidence about what will happen next.
“This time, we’re going to hopefully win it,” Wyatt said. “Well, not hopefully. We are going to win it.”
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports