Familiar foes take the court at the Macon Centreplex on Thursday at 2:30 pm as Region 6-2A opponents in the No. 4 ranked Columbia Eagles face off with the No. 1 Pace Academy Knights meet for the second time this season.
Pace (26-1), the Class 3A state champ in 2020, won the first meeting 67-56 at Pace on January 11 and an anticipated rematch in the Region 6-2A Tournament was upended by Lovett to push Columbia into the No. 3 seed heading into the state tournament.
The Eagles (21-6) went on the road four consecutive games in the state playoffs to set up the rematch. Columbia opened with No. 10 Chattooga winning 74-67 behind some clutch free throw shooting by Kawasiki Ricks (8-8 down the stretch). Ricks finished with 17 points and 10 assists in the game and Mason Lockhart added 10 points and 12 rebounds.
The second round was a trip to Hogansville to take on Callaway. Columbia was trailing 56-55 in the final 10 seconds Ricks came through with a layup for the game winner. Kenneth Hardaway hit six three-pointers in the game and finished with 20 points while Ricks added 11 points and six assists.
Columbia moved on to take on No. 7 Washington County in the quarterfinals making the long trip to Sandersville and coming away with a 49-47 victory. Ricks was again the playmaker taking the inbounds pass on the defensive end of the court with 3.9 seconds left on the clock and racing past defenders before lofting a short shot off the glass for the 49-47 victory. Julius Coleman had the hot hand for the Eagles with 20 points to go with 12 points and 9 rebounds by Mason Lockhart.
Last Saturday the Eagles had a shorter trip as they traveled to Lovett for the third meeting of the season with the No. 3 ranked Lions. Columbia had won the regular season matchup with the Lions getting the 6-2A Tournament win.
The Eagles jumped out to a 9-0 lead in the first 2:30 of the game and had the Lions trying to play catchup the rest of the game in a convincing 67-52 victory. Columbia hit a string of 13 consecutive free throws to help seal the win after the Lions led by Mason Lockhart (14 points, 10 rebounds), Ricks (14 points) along with Julius Lymon (10 points) and Rashad Headges (10 points).
Columbia makes its 11 appearance in the state title while head coach Dr. Phillip McCrary is making his ninth and first since his three consecutive titles in 2010-12 at Columbia before his coaching hiatus. McCrary led the Eagles to state titles in 2006 and 2008.
The Eagles reached the state finals in 2013 and 2014 under then coach Kerry Sandifer but failed to capture the title. The Eagles made the Final Four nine consecutive seasons from 2006-2014.
McCrary won his 640th game on Saturday against Lovett and is 640-232 in 30 seasons at the helm of the Eagles.
Columbia is the first DeKalb team to reach the state finals since Tucker’s last second 46-43 loss to Tri-Cities in 2019. DeKalb has a string of 20 consecutive seasons with at least one team reaching the Final Four.
DeKalb won 31 state titles (16 girls, 15 boys) from 2004 to 2016 including four titles in 2010 and 2012. Five of those years three titles came home to DeKalb (2006, 2008, 2009, 2013, 2014) with two in both 2011 and 2016.
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Source: DCSD Athletics