By Chris McCarthy/Editor
To the misfortune of Southside on Thursday (Feb. 14), Columbia picked a good day to elevate its performance at the free-throw line.
Shooting 48 percent coming into the game, the Lady Eagles shot 81 percent from the charity stripe on the way to a 51-42 victory the Class 5A subregional round at SHS.
Columbia (14-17) advanced to next week’s Northeast Regional Tournament at Jacksonville State.
The Lady Panthers, who ended their season at 19-7, went a collective 63 percent (10-for-16) at the foul line.
Trailing 32-27 after 24 minutes, Southside kept within six points over the first part of the fourth quarter.
The Lady Eagles entered the bonus free throw situation with 3:31 remaining in the game, however, and the visitors knocked down 11-of-12 freebies from that point on.
Haley Troup’s 3-point basket with 50 seconds left drew the hosts within 46-42, but Southside was forced to foul to regain possession.
But Columbia was in the double bonus by then, and Jasmyn Batt essentially put the game out of reach by going 5-for-6 at the line over the final 37 seconds.
“You have to give Columbia credit for making their free throws down the line,” said Southside head coach Kim Nails. “If you look at them statistically for the year, I think their best [free throw shooting] on any player was like 60-something percent, and most of [Columbia’s players] probably tripled their season average tonight. When it’s a close game in the playoffs, free throws can win a lot of ballgames for you.”
Troup led the Lady Panthers with 14 points, while Morgan Harris and Jakari Mckissack each scored six.
Ahead 21-16 at halftime, Southside increased its lead to seven points a minute into the third quarter on a basket by Morgan Harris.
The Lady Eagles soon wiped out that advantage by way of a 14-4 run.
Southside last score of the third quarter came on Haley Troup’s layup at 4:03, a basket that provided the Lady Panthers with a three-point advantage
That turned out to be Southside’s final lead of the night.
An 8-0 run made it 32-27 in favor of Columbia at the start of the fourth quarter.
“I felt that we were coming out in a good position in the third quarter, but [Columbia] capitalized on a few turnovers, and it snowballed a time or two before we rebounded. Against a good team like that, you’ve got to stop their run real quickly.”
The Lady Eagles jumped out to a 10-3 lead before the hosts pulled within 13-8 after one period.
Southside retained the momentum throughout the second quarter. McKissack’s coast-to-coast layup began a 13-3 stretch, during which Columbia scored just once from the field.
Thomas’ buzzer-beating jump shot put Southside up by five points at halftime.
“Being in a position we hadn’t been in before, we were a little nervous in the first quarter, but we settled down and played,” said Nails.
Batts paced Columbia with 20 points, including a 7-for-11 effort from the foul line. Destiny Reynolds and Tia Stevenson each scored 10 points.
“For me at least, the sad part about tonight was not so much that we lost, but we lost two great leaders (in seniors Savannah Thomas and Sydney D’Eath). But we’ve laid the foundation and got a little taste of it, so hopefully this will make the girls want to reach a little bit higher next season. I’m grateful for the effort these girls have given, not just tonight but for the entire year.”