During Columbus senior Tatyana Wyatt’s photo shoot for All-Bi-City Girls Basketball Player of the Year, she returned to a familiar spot on the gym floor.
On the court at Columbus High School, Wyatt stood behind the arc on the right corner of the floor, nearly parallel with the goal in front of her. It was the same spot she stood on the court at McCamish Pavilion on March 10, when she took a late 3-pointer to end her high school career with a state championship.
With a basketball lying close by for the shoot, someone asked if Wyatt could hit the shot again. Welcoming the challenge, Wyatt caught the de facto inbound pass, set her feet and let the ball fly.
Just like the time before in Atlanta, Wyatt’s shot was nothing but net.
Wyatt’s clutch shot in March was the ideal send-off for the 6-foot-2 forward. After making the state title game with the Lady Blue Devils as a freshman, she had a desire to go back and win the game ever since, though the challenge was daunting. Columbus got knocked out of the playoffs in the first round her sophomore season, then lost in the quarterfinals the next season.
Looking back at the game, Wyatt said several moments come to mind. Marlisa Scott’s three-point play to open the game after several quick, unsuccessful possessions by Columbus and Carver. Jha’Mesia Griffin’s assertive blocks on defense and Brittany Floyd’s timely steals. Ariyah Copeland’s momentum-swinging baskets.
Those efforts were all crucial in Columbus’ overtime victory. Still, they can’t hold a candle to how Wyatt ended the game.
When she thinks back to that moment, she remembers exactly how the play was set up. With Carver up 67-66 in the final seconds of overtime, Floyd inbounded the ball, but a Lady Tiger player deflected it, sending it out of bounds. Wyatt quickly went to her bench and asked if they had any timeouts. She was told there were none left.
“I was like, ‘Oh, crap,’” Wyatt said. “I got worried.”
Anxiety aside, Wyatt prepped for Floyd’s next inbound attempt. The plan was for Floyd to get the ball to Wyatt, who would drive toward the basket and attempt a layup. As the play developed, however, Wyatt read the Carver defense and took a gamble with her adjustment.
“I was getting double teamed, so I just decided to pop out,” Wyatt said. “I shot it, and when I let it go, I was like, ‘That’s good.’”
Pandemonium ensued soon after, as the Lady Blue Devils players and coaches celebrated the first girls basketball championship in program history.
The 2016-2017 season was Wyatt’s last shot at grabbing a title. Looking back at how the year started, Wyatt admitted the prospects didn’t look great.
“When we started the season, it was a little shaky,” Wyatt said. “We weren’t all the way put together; it was a mesh thing. (It came down to) just going in and developing everyday and working as a team.”
Wyatt said the growth the team had as a unit through the season was evident in its playoff run. After beating Burke County in the opening game then topping North Forsyth by 3 in the second round, the Lady Blue Devils really got rolling. They blew out Spalding 71-43 in the quarterfinals then beat Sandy Creek in the semis to face off with hometown rival Carver for the right to call themselves state champions.
The end of her high school career sets up the beginning of her collegiate days. Wyatt will continue playing basketball at Kentucky, stepping into an SEC program that plays in one of the strongest conferences in women’s basketball.
“I’m very excited,” Wyatt said. “Coming in as a freshman, it’s like starting all the way over from high school. Going to Kentucky will be something very new to me, and I just hope I do well, work hard and am able to play.”
Wyatt thanked her teammates for the amount of hard work they consistently put in to help the Lady Blue Devils make history. The chance for her and the other four Columbus seniors to go out as champions was a rare one, and Wyatt knows it was one not many can say they’ve accomplished.
“That’s very special,” Wyatt said. “You can say a dream’s come true.”
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports