High School Sports

Girls high school basketball: Columbus stays composed to defeat Alexander 52-40 in Region 5-AAAA quarterfinals

A basketball game delayed -- and later moved to another venue -- due to rain. A four-point play.

Both are rare occurrences, but both happened Tuesday night as the Columbus Lady Devils got past Alexander, 52-40, in the quarterfinals of the Region 5-AAAA Tournament at Jordan High. the game was originally scheduled to be played at Columbus High, but Tuesday's torrential downpour caused the gym at Columbus High to leak, forcing the second half of the Carrollton-LaGrange game as well as the Columbus-Alexander contest to be moved to Jordan High.

"I think not playing this game at home affected us," said Columbus coach Joseph Cherrone. "I think it shook us up a little mentally and that showed early on in the game. But we have a great group of kids who can focus on what they need to do. It wasn't pretty, but we got the job done."

With the win, Columbus advances to Thursday's semifinals at Sandy Creek in Tyrone, Ga., where the Lady Devils will take on Fayette County at 6 p.m. The victory also clinches a berth in the state playoffs, which get under way next week.

The sequence that helped the Lady Devils finally shake a pesky Alexander squad came courtesy of KeKe

Gunter midway through the fourth quarter. Armed with a 40-33 lead, Columbus had the ball out of bounds in its frontcourt. Gunter flashed out to the right wing, got the inbounds pass and made a 3-pointer while getting fouled. She made the subsequent free throw and Columbus' lead grew to 44-33 with 3:14 remaining and the Lady Cougars never threatened again.

"That was a giant play," said Cherrone. "That was the play that finally got us over the hump.

"We'd stay ahead by five or seven points, but we'd struggle to get a bigger lead than that until (Gunter) made that play for us."

Columbus (19-8) was hitting from long range early, as Alexia Manning hit three 3-pointers to account for the Lady Devils' first nine points and Gunter drained another trey as the buzzer sounded to give Columbus a 15-11 lead after one quarter. The Lady Devils held Alexander to eight points in the second period, but free-throw woes kept them from extending their lead, as Columbus made just three of its 10 free-throw attempts in the quarter. Nevertheless, Columbus still took a 24-19 lead into the locker room at halftime behind 11 points from Manning and seven from Gunter. Claudia Hester led Alexander with eight points, including five in the first quarter.

"We missed a lot of free throws and layups," said Cherrone. "There's no excuse for those kinds of things. If we get to the line, we have to make our free throws and if we get open enough to have a layup, we have to put the ball in the basket."

Daijea Anderson kept Alexander in the game in the second half, scoring all 12 of the Lady Cougars' third-quarter points. No other Alexander player scored in the second half until Molly Brown made a runner with 2:26 to go, but that only cut the Lady Devils' lead to 44-35 and Columbus scored the next three straight points to go up 48-35 and salt the game away.

Manning finished with a game-high 20 points to lead Columbus -- which made just 17 of its 33 free throws (51.5 percent) and Gunter tossed in 16, nine of which came in the fourth quarter. Anderson was the leading scorer for Alexander with 15, 14 coming in the second half, and Hester had 11 for the Lady Cougars in the loss.

Tuesday at Jordan High

Alexander 11 8 12 9--40

Columbus 15 9 12 16--52

Alexander (40)

Matthews 4, Claudia Hester 11, Brown 8, Daijea Anderson 15, Dorsey 2. Totals 16 7-10 40.

Columbus (52)

KeKe Gunter 16, McIntosh 3, Lloyd 7, Alexia Manning 20, Warren 2, Hayes 4. Totals 15 17-33 52.

Records: Alexander 9-18, Columbus 19-8; Next: Columbus/Alexander vs. Fayette County (Region 5-AAAA Semifinals at Sandy Creek) Thursday at 6 p.m.