Columbus State coach Jonathan Norton has led the program to new heights this season with its third straight NCAA Division II national tournament bid.
CSU is making its ninth appearance in the NCAA tournament overall. The third straight trip to the NCAA is a first for the program.
But Norton is trying for his first regional championship. The Lady Cougars bowed out in the first round in 2014 and in the second round last season. CSU has won two regional titles in 2000 and 2001. Both seasons, the Lady Cougars advanced to the national semifinals before bowing out.
CSU opens this year’s Southeast Regional at noon Friday against Wingate. Columbus (24-5) is the No. 3 seed in the regional, while Wingate (21-8) is No. 6.
"We're excited to get started in the NCAA tournament," Norton said in a news release. "We have been here before and know what it takes, so we are ready and up to the challenge."
Wingate won the South Atlantic Conference tournament last week with a win over Anderson. Wingate has won 11 straight.
Wingate is making its 15th trip to the NCAA tournament. It has won three regionals, the last one coming in 2008. Last year, it lost to Lander in the first round.
Wingate has three players who average in double figures. Shelby Tricoli leads at 10.4 with Morgan McGee and Danasia Witherspoon averaging 10.0 each.
CSU is led by two-time PBC Player of the Year Michelle Mitchell, who is averaging 20.3 points per game. Britteny Tatum averages 10.4 and Ashley Asouzu 10.1.
CSU lost to Wingate 82-71 in the first round of the regional in 2005.
CSU is entering the game off a loss to Lander in last week’s Peach Belt Conference tournament championship game. That prevented CSU from winning its third straight PBC tournament title.
That loss in last week’s Peach Belt Conference championship game to Lander does not bode well for the Lady Cougars’ chances in the regional.
Each time CSU has lost in the PBC tournament finals and gone on to the NCAA tournament, it has lost in the regional.
The winner of this game will meet the winner of the Lander-Francis Marion game on Saturday in the regional semifinals.
NCAA SOUTHEAST REGIONAL
at Limestone University
Noon — Columbus State vs. Wingate
2:30 p.m. — Lander vs. Francis Marion
5 p.m. — Limestone vs. Augusta
7:30 p.m. — Clayton State vs. Anderson