It was almost déjà vu for the Columbus State men's basketball team in their 86-84 overtime win over division rival Young Harris Saturday afternoon in the Lumpkin Center.
Just like the Cougars' last home game, an 88-86 win over Clayton State on Feb. 3, senior guard Cam Baker had the ball for CSU's final offensive play on Saturday, with the same result. After C.J. Wilson's layup for Young Harris knotted the game at 84 with
12 seconds left in overtime, Baker made good on his opportunity, slicing through the Mountain Lions' defense for the game-winning layup with just one second remaining on the clock.
"It was familiar for me," Baker said. "I just got the ball and waited until the clock ran down, went right by (my defender), and laid it up."
"We just wanted to get the ball back in to Cam and spread the floor," said CSU coach Robert Moore, who celebrated his birthday on Saturday with the win. "Cam did a great job of breaking down the lane and scoring the bucket to win it. That's our offense when it gets that late in the game. We want the ball in his hands, and he's got to make a play."
The game-winning shot helped overshadow a game where Baker went 8 of 27 from the field and 5 for 9 from the free throw line, finishing with 22 points.
"It lifts me up," Baker said of making the game-winner despite his stats. "Even after shooting bad tonight, my team still put trust in me to take the last shot. I really appreciated that."
"Cam had a tough time at the line tonight, but that happens," said Moore said. "He stayed in the game and stayed mentally focused. I thought he did a great job with that, giving him an opportunity to win the game by staying focused and locked in."
Besides Baker, fellow senior guard Brent Jackson was the spark plug that helped the Cougars rally back from a deficit as big as 12 points early in the second half. His heroics in overtime included three offensive rebounds in the span of two minutes, one a leaping save from the baseline on an errant three-pointer. Jackson ended the game with a team high 24 points and tied Wilson for the game high. "It's crunch time," said Jackson. "Tonight was one of those nights where I had to put it to the limit. It's really all just hustle. That's all it is. You just have to make big plays to win big games."
"I tell Brent all the time he's got to make plays like that being a senior," said Moore. "He played last year on an NCAA tournament team, so he knows what it takes to get to that next level. He's the only guy I felt like had a lot of energy out there offensively and defensively. He made some key hustle plays for us to keep the ball alive.
"Hustle plays, taking charges, those are the kind of plays that are going to win championships. I hope it's contagious so that other guys step in and do that."
The Cougars' comeback masked the team's sluggish start in the first half, a half in which they never led and shot just 12 of 32 from the floor to head into the locker room down 34-27.
"I was so agitated the beginning of the game because we came out so flat," said Moore. "I think the guys just didn't have the energy and that boost. They're 18, 19, 20 years old. They've got to find a way to reach down deep inside and find ways to win the game."
The Cougars (17-6, 11-5 Peach Belt Conference) are now tied with Young Harris (13-12, 11-5) for second in the PBC's Western Division. Both are one game behind Montevallo, which will face CSU at the Lumpkin Center on Wednesday night. Only three games remain on the schedule; after Wednesday, the Cougars host North Georgia on Feb. 20 and then travel to Clayton State on Feb. 24.
"Tonight we struggled, but I'll take the 'W' any way we can," Moore said. "We've just got to play better. You want to play your best basketball during this time. We gutted it out tonight, and we'll see what happens when we come play Montevallo on Wednesday. Our guys understand these next three games are big, so we've got to just come out and play."
YOUNG HARRIS (13-12, 11-5 PBC)
C.J. Wilson 8-22 7-9 24; Ben Waterhouse 5-10 2-3 13; J.B. Charles 5-8 0-0 11; Marques McKoy 5-9 1-3 11; Marcellus Roberts 5-10 1-3 11; Bjorn Walker 2-7 4-4 10; James Laput 1-1 0-0 2; Devin Coleman 1-2 0-0 2; Darrius Sizemore 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 32-69 15-22 84.
COLUMBUS STATE (17-6, 11-5 PBC)
Brent Jackson 10-16 2-3 24; Cam Baker 8-27 5-9 22; Arben Camaj 6-12 2-3 14; DeMarcus McVay 4-6 2-6 10; Brentine Taylor 4-6 2-4 10; Demetres Abrams 2-5 0-0 4; JaCori Payne 1-3 0-0 2; Matthias Sigurdarson 0-1 0-0 0; Darren Daniel 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 35-78 13-25 86.
Halftime--Young Harris 42-34. End of regulation--Tied at 76. 3-point goals--Young Harris 5-17 (Bjorn Walker 2-4; Ben Waterhouse 1-5; C.J. Wilson 1-5; J.B. Charles 1-3), Columbus State 3-18 (Brent Jackson 2-4; Cam Baker 1-5; Demetres Abrams 0-3; JaCori Payne 0-2; Matthias Sigurdarson 0-1; Arben Camaj 0-3). Fouled out--Young Harris-Marques McKoy; Marcellus Roberts, Columbus State-Brentine Taylor. Rebounds--Young Harris 46 (Marques McKoy 11), Columbus State 44 (DeMarcus McVay 11). Assists--Young Harris 10 (J.B. Charles 3), Columbus State 10 (Cam Baker 2; Brentine Taylor 2). Total fouls--Young Harris 21, Columbus State 19. Technical fouls--Young Harris-None, Columbus State-None. A-442