Columbus’ performance against Northside in the girls Region 1-5A semifinals on Thursday was enough.
The Lady Blue Devils held off a late charge by the Lady Patriots, making just enough free throws down the stretch to win 52-48, clinch a spot in Saturday’s region championship game against Carver and home-court advantage in the Class 5A playoffs next week.
It was enough. But coach Joe Cherrone that won’t cut it anymore.
“It was enough, but we can’t just do enough anymore,” he said. “These teams are going to keep getting tougher, so we have to be better.”
Columbus had beaten Northside twice in the regular season, once by 19 points and the next by nine. This time, a 5-0 run by the Lady Patriots over the course of 27 seconds, from the 1:05 mark to :38, cut the score to 50-48. Northside’s Jasmine Herndon changed directions in the lane to create an opening for a short basket to cut the lead to 50-45, and a steal and a three-pointer by Tselem Gahagan got the Lady Patriots within two.
Northside even had a clean look at a three-pointer trailing 51-48 inside of 15 seconds, but missed to allow Columbus to hang on.
Herndon was a force inside for Northside, scoring 21 points and being a constant pest to Columbus on both sides of the ball.
“She played tough,” Cherrone said of Herndon. “She did a lot for them tonight. And that’s a well-coached team, too, so I give them a lot of credit.”
But still, it was enough. Columbus made 10 of 14 free throws in the final quarter to keep it a two-possession game to the end. Tatyana Wyatt scored a team-high 19 points and Ariyah Copeland finished in double-figures with 12.
Copeland was strongest in the first quarter, scoring half of her points in the first five minutes of the game. The Lady Blue Devils were able to move the ball inside to her consistently, letting her go one-on-one on the low post to score three quick baskets with ease.
After the first quarter, during which Columbus outscored Northside 15-6, however, Cherrone felt like his team lost its rhythm.
“We got in a really good groove early on, then we started to try to do other things,” he said. “We weren’t looking at the basket and trying to get the ball inside. We were passing up some easy shots. The girls have got to understand we have to do what works.”
Despite staying close all game — the deficit was never more than the nine-point margin at the end of the first quarter — Columbus trailed just once at 19-18 after a pair of free throws by Northside’s Caitlyn Jakes with 3:45 left in the first half. Copeland followed those two free throws with a basket at the other end to put the Lady Blue Devils ahead 20-19, and they never trailed again.
Jakes finished with 12 for Northside, and Gahagan added 11.
Columbus advanced to the region championship game, which it will play at 6 p.m. on Saturday against Carver at LaGrange. Northside, which has already clinched a playoff berth, plays Harris County in the third-place game at 3 p.m. at LaGrange.
CARVER GIRLS 55, HARRIS COUNTY 49: Harris County got 32 points from freshman Taziha fanning and outscored Carver 14-3 in the final quarter, but fell just short of the come-from-behind victory.
Carver held on for a 55-49 win to advance to the Region 1-5A tournament championship game against Columbus at 6 p.m. Saturday at LaGrange. With the loss, Harris County moves into the third-place game against Northside at 3 p.m. Saturday at LaGrange.
Harris County got as close as 26-24 in the first half, but Carver went on a 12-0 run to close the second quarter up 38-24. That lead was extended to 17 at the end of the third quarter, 52-35, but Harris County battled back to get within six points by the end of the game.
Carver was led by three players in double-figures. Alycia Reese scored 16 points, while Arnesia Smith and Mya Milner both scored 10. In addition to Fanning’s 32, Jessika Carter scored 11 for Harris County.
Thursday at Carver
Northside 6 15 14 13—48
Columbus 15 14 11 12—52
Jasmine Herndon 21, Caitlyn Jakes 12, Tselem Gahagan 11, Austin 2, Cole 2.
Tatyana Wyatt 19, Ariyah Copeland 12, Vasquez 9, Griffin 6, Williams 4, Floyd 2.
Records: Northside, 18-7; Columbus, 20-5. Next: Northside, Saturday vs. Harris County at LaGrange; Columbus, Saturday vs. Carver at LaGrange.
Thursday at Carver
Harris County 11 13 11 14—49
Carver 21 17 14 3—55
Harris County (49)
Taziha Fanning 32, Jessika Carter 11, Johnson 4, Keith 2.
Alycia Reese 16, Arnesia Smith 10, Mya Milner 10, Love-Hill 7, Igus 6, Burns 4, Holloway 2.
Records: Harris County, 18-9; Carver, 23-3. Next: Harris County, Saturday vs. Northside at LaGrange; Carver, Saturday vs. Columbus at LaGrange.