Playing their fourth road game of the Class 2A boys high school basketball state playoffs the No. 4 ranked Columbia Eagles jumped on the No. 3 ranked hosts Lovett Lions early on the way to a convincing 67-52 semifinal win at Lovett on Saturday night.
The Eagles jumped out to an early 9-0 lead on the Lions (20-8) and forced Lovett to play catchup the entire game unlike Lovett’s win in the second meeting of the season in the semifinals of the Region 6-2A Tournament three weeks ago.
In that earlier game Lovett hit eight three-pointers to take a commanding lead at the half, but the Lions struggled from behind the arc in the state semifinal game as the Eagles contested every shot.
Dequavious Harrison hit his second three-pointer of the game just before the buzzer ended the third quarter giving Columbia an 18-point lead of 46-28 with one quarter to play.
Lovett concentrated on getting the ball inside to Mutombo in the fourth quarter and he responded with 18 points in the period as Lovett closed the gap to 51-45 on a Mutombo three-point play with 3:11 to play.
Lockhart answered on the other end with a layup on a nice pass from Jaden Baugh and the Eagles surprised the Lions with a press after the made basket. Baugh got a steal, a basket and free throw to push the advantage back out to double digits at 56-45 with 2:49 to go.
Lovett was forced to foul, and the Eagles responded by hitting 11 of 12 at the free-throw line to secure the trip to Macon next week to take on another Region 6-2A foe in the No. 1 ranked Pace Academy Knights.
Headges hit the first two in a string of 10 consecutive free throws as Ricks was 5-6 and Coleman was 4-4.
Columbia (21-6) scored on its opening possession of the game on a Mason Lockhart jump hook over Lovett’s big man Ryan Mutombo to start a 9-0 run in the first 2:40 of the game. Lockhart followed with a fake on Mutombo and a reverse layup to make it 4-0.
Julius Lymon scored on an assist following Baugh’s steal and pass up court and came back on the next possession on an inside out play with Lockhart to nail a three-pointer from the top of the key forcing Lovett to call a timeout.
Lockhart would sandwich Lymon’s second three of the opening period with a short jumper along the baseline and a dunk on a fee from Rashard Headges to make it 16-5.
Headges got a return of the favor from Lockhart for an easy layup and Julius Coleman hit a pull up jumper out front with three seconds on the first quarter clock to make it 20-13 heading into the second quarter.
Harrison hit a three-pointer from the right corner to extend the lead to 17 (29-12) midway through the second period of play. The two teams scoring slowed down with only basket by Lovett’s Jay Joshi following a steal.
Ricks got inside for layup with 10 seconds left in the first half to send the Eagles into the half up 31-14. Columbia held a 17-4 rebounding margin in the first half.
Senior guard Kawasiki Ricks who has been the clutch guy in the state playoffs with winning layups against both Callaway and Washington County in back-to-back games led four Eagles in double figures with 14 points and eight rebounds. Joining Ricks in double figures were Mason Lockhart 14 points and Julius Lymon and Rashard Headges with 10 points each. Lymon added seven rebounds for the winning cause.
Ryan Mutombo had a game-high 31 points with 7 rebounds as the only Lion to reach double figures.
Columbia is in the state finals for the first time since a 2014 title game loss to Jonesboro that ended a five-year run of making the state championship game including three consecutive state championships from 2010 to 2012 directed by McCrary before giving up the reigns of the program to Kerry Sandifer in 2013.
McCrary picked up his 640th victory (640-232) in 30 seasons (1988-2012, 2017-21) as head coach at Columbia.
The Class 2A state championship game is set for 2:30 pm on Thursday at the Macon Centre-plex as Columbia makes its 11th championship game appearance and ninth under the direction of McCrary.
DCSD STATE BASKETBALL PLAYOFFS RESULTS
CLASS 2A BOYS SEMIFINALS AT LOVETT
Saturday, Mar. 6
Columbia (21-6) 67, Lovett (20-8) 52
DCSD STATE BASKETBALL PLAYOFFS SCHEDULE
CLASS 2A BOYS CHAMPIONSHIP – MACON
Thursday, March 11
Columbia (21-6) vs. Pace Academy (26-1), 2:30 pm
Source: DCSD Athletics