The Columbus State women’s basketball team was trying to accomplish a feat never done before in the Peach Belt Conference — win three straight tournament championships.
But Lander point guard Bre Crum proved unstoppable in finishing with 25 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Lady Bearcats to the 72-68 upset on Sunday the Lumpkin Center.
The loss ended a string of 31 straight home wins for CSU.
Fifty percent from the free-throw line in a close game is not going to get it done.
Jonathan Norton, CSU women’s coach
“They are playing confident,” Norton said of Lander. “That is why they won 13 in a row. … Our goal was — they average 79 (points per game) — if we could keep them in the 60s, we would have a chance to win. We almost did that.
“We won the statistical categories we wanted to except free throws. We missed eight free throws and lose by four. Fifty percent from the free-throw line in a close game is not going to get it done. Giving up 72 in our own gym was disappointing.”
Norton tried a variety of methods in an effort to stop Crum.
He used both of his guards — Gabby Williams and Britteny Tatum — but Crum routinely drove past them for easy baskets. Norton even went to a zone, but the Lady Bearcats started making too many 3-pointers for his liking.
Norton finally went to his All-American Michelle Mitchell with less than four minutes remaining in the game. Mitchell stopped Crum’s first drive and she threw the ball away.
Lander didn’t put the ball in Crum hands for the next two possessions. Meanwhile, CSU, which had fallen behind 7-0 to start the game, finally caught Lander for the first time, at 68-68.
But with less than a minute to play, Lander put the ball back in Crum’s hands. She used a double screen to separate herself from Mitchell just enough to hit a tough six-footer.
That gave Lander the lead for good at 70-68 with 40 seconds remaining.
She took it to us. Even when we felt like we had her walled off, she would cross over, spin back and she would create a crease. She is a great player
Jonathan Norton, CSU women’s coach on Crum
“It was like she was playing downhill and the rest of us were running uphill,” Norton said. “… She took it to us. Even when we felt like we had her walled off, she would cross over, spin back and she would create a crease. She is a great player.
“I thought Michelle’s length might bother her. but I think Michelle was fatigued and Gabby was in foul trouble. We had to do something. Brittany was in foul trouble and was having a hard time containing her, so we had to go with something different.”
After Crum gave Lander the lead back, CSU had a couple of chances, but Mitchell shot an air ball from just inside the 3-point line. CSU got the rebound and called timeout with 14 seconds remaining.
The play called for the inbounds pass to go to Mitchell, but Brea Walker threw the ball into Tatum, who was surrounded and lost the ball.
“That is not where the ball is supposed to go,” Norton said. “… we got too excited and threw it to the first white jersey we saw. But that is on me. We had not put Brea Walker in that position enough for her to be confident in knowing exactly where the ball is supposed to go, so that is coaching.”
Mitchell finished with 30 points, but she was just 12-of-27 from the field. Ashley Asouzu had 17 points and nine rebounds. Tatum had nine points, but she was 4-of-11 from the field, 1-of-5 from 3-point range and 0-for-4 from the free-throw line.
CSU is expected to receive a bid to the NCAA Division II Southeast Region. Those bids are announced late on Sunday night.
Bre Crum 9-15 7-10 25; Breshay Johnson 5-8 6-6 16; Ty’Hesha Reynolds 6-15 0-0 14; Mylea McKenith 2-6 2-3 6; Ashleigh Zandi 2-4 0-0 6; Sannayyiah Johnson 2-4 0-0 5; Victoria Baldwin 0-0 0-0 0; Jada Wallace 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-52 15-19 72.
COLUMBUS STATE (24-5)
Michelle Mitchell 12-27 6-10 30; Ashley Asouzu 8-12 1-1 17; Britteny Tatum 4-11 0-4 9; Ashley Johnson 2-4 0-0 4; Brea Walker 1-3 0-0 3; Gabby Williams 1-5 1-1 3; Erin Morrow 1-3 0-0 2; Kristian Carter 0-0 0-0 0; Tatiana Wayne 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 29-66 8-16 68.
Lander........................ 18 18 22 14 - 72
Columbus State................ 11 19 21 17 - 68
3-point goals--Lander 5-16 (Ashleigh Zandi 2-4; Ty’Hesha Reynolds 2-6; Sannayyiah Johnson 1-2; Mylea McKenith 0-1; Bre Crum 0-3), Columbus State 2-11 (Britteny Tatum 1-5; Brea Walker 1-2; Erin Morrow 0-2; Tatiana Wayne 0-1; Michelle Mitchell 0-1). Fouled out--Lander-None, Columbus State-Gabby Williams. Rebounds--Lander 33 (Bre Crum 10), Columbus State 35 (Ashley Asouzu 9). Assists--Lander 9 (Bre Crum 3), Columbus State 10 (Gabby Williams 4). Total fouls--Lander 14, Columbus State 21. Technical fouls--Lander-None, Columbus State-None. A-908