Columbus junior Tatyana Wyatt stood on the stairs just outside the LaGrange gym on Saturday, clutching a trophy and sporting a grin from ear to ear.
“I’m so happy,” she said with a laugh.
She had just finished off a 20-point performance to help lead the Lady Blue Devils to a 53-51 win over Carver, a team that had become a thorn in their side this season by beating them twice, in the Region 1-5A championship game.
With the win, the Lady Blue Devils earned the top seed out of the region in the state playoffs, which begin next week. Carver will be the 2 seed.
On Saturday night, Columbus was able to keep up with the Lady Tigers’ ferocious pace, break the press that Lady Blue Devils coach Joe Cherrone called one of the best in the state and execute inside on just enough occasions to come out with the win.
“The mental focus is there now,” Cherrone said. “We dropped a couple to Hardaway and Auburn, and I think we went back and refocused. We executed tonight. You’re not going to find a better press or better speed than what we faced tonight.”
It was something Columbus had been unable to handle in losses of 15 and six points during regular season play. Too many times, the Lady Blue Devils had been forced into turnovers that resulted in quick baskets at the other end. Going into the game, Cherrone said his team had focused on improving in that area.
“We worked on being patient, on knowing what we’re going to do with the ball in every situation,” he said.
“We were just more conditioned than in the past, and we learned how to slow down and take our time,” Wyatt said.
Junior guard Brittany Floyd was a big part of the success, using her speed and ball handling ability to break through the Carver defense and set up in the half court offense. Over and over again, she found Wyatt and Ariyah Copeland (17 points) inside for easy baskets.
“She did a phenomenal job,” Cherrone said. “She’s one of the fastest guards in our area, and she just did a great job, again, of being patient and letting the game come to her.”
On the other end, it was Copeland causing problems for the Lady Tigers offense. She blocked two shots and snagged 21 rebounds in the game. Wyatt finished the game with 20 points and six rebounds. Cherrone said their effort was indispensable.
“It was huge,” he said. “I got onto Tatyana late in the third quarter, early in the fourth. She kind of dialed it back a little, but she picked it up and was huge for us.”
Wyatt scored six of her 20 points in the fourth quarter.
Now, Columbus turns its attention to the state playoffs, where it will try to make a run at a state championship. It advanced to the Class 4A state championship game two years ago, but a slip up in last season’s region tournament forced it to hit the road in the first round.
Now, with a top seed and home-court advantage, Copeland said Columbus has the momentum.
“Coming out of this and going to the playoffs now, we’re really confident,” she said. “We feel like we can go make a run.”
Carver was led in the loss by Mya Milner’s 15 points and Alexis Burns’ 14.
Saturday at LaGrange
Columbus 15 17 11 10—53
Carver 14 15 10 12—51
Tatyana Wyatt 20, Ariyah Copeland 17, Floyd 7, Scott 5, Vasquez 2, Griffin 2.
Mya Milner 15, Alexis Burns 14, Reese 9, Givens 5, Igus 4, Holloway 2, Smith 1, Archie 1.
Records: Columbus, 21-5, Carver, 23-4. Next: Columbus, vs. Mundy’s Mill in Class 5A first round, Tuesday; Carver, vs. Morrow in Class 5A first round, Tuesday.
Northside 58, Harris County 53
The Northside girls held off Harris County 58-53 in the Region 1-5A consolation game on Saturday at LaGrange, earning the 3 seed in the first round of the state playoffs on Tuesday. The loss dropped Harris County to the 4 seed.
The two teams entered halftime tied at 26-26 and the fourth quarter tied at 39-39. The Lady Patriots outscored Harris County 19-14 in the final quarter to hold on for the five-point victory.
Tselem Gahagan notched 20 points, 11 of which came in the final quarter of play. Jasmine Herndon added 15 for the Lady Patriots.
In the loss, Harris County was led by Jessika Carter’s game-high 24 points and Taziha Fanning’s 15.
Saturday at LaGrange
Harris County 8 18 13 14—53
Northside 15 11 13 19—58
Harris County (53)
Jessika Carter 24, Taziha Fanning 15, Keith 8, Adams 4, Dumas 2.
Tselem Gahagan 20, Jasmine Herndon 15, Je. Herndon 9, Jakes 5, Woods 3, Austin 2, Allen 2, Cole 2.
Records: Harris County, 18-10; Northside, 19-7. Next: Harris County, Tuesday vs. TBD on Tuesday in Class 5A first round; Northside, Tuesday vs. TBD on Tuesday in Class 5A first round.
NORTHSIDE 58, CARVER 52
The Northside boys erased a seven-point deficit in less than two minutes to open the fourth quarter and outscored Carver by 13 points to win 58-52 on Saturday in the Region 1-5A tournament consolation game at LaGrange.
With the win, Northside clinched the 3-seed out of the region in the Class 5A playoffs, which begin next week. The loss dropped Carver to the 4-seed.
The Patriots were led by 25 points from Davion Thomas and 12 from Cordale Scott. In the loss, Stefan Harris led Carver with 12 points.
Saturday at LaGrange
Northside 15 10 9 24—58
Carver 14 14 13 11—52
Davion Thomas 25, Cordale Scott 12, Walton 8, Hopkins 6, David 2, Anderson 2, Daubon 2, Apiag 1.
Stefan Harris 12, Wilson 9, Madden 7, Nelson 5, Pass 5, Melvin 4, Flowers 3, Watts 2, Cummings 2, Payne 2, James 1.
Records: Northside, 18-9; Carver, 18-9. Next: Northside, vs. TBD in Class 5A first round; Carver, vs. TBD in Class 5A first round.
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