Columbia advances to state championship

Columbia High School boys’ basketball team beat Lovett School 67-52 March 6 to advance to Georgia High School Association’s 2A State Championship in Macon.

Columbia defeated Lovett in the regular season and lost to Lovett in the region tournament held at Pace Academy, but the final four game was dominated by Columbia from start to finish.

Columbia jumped to a 9-0 lead in the first three minutes and led 20-7 after the first quarter. Julius Lymon and Mason Lockhart combined for 16 points in the first quarter.

Lovett had problems stopping Columbia’s offense—with Lockhart’s shooting ability pulling Lovett big man Ryan Mutombo out of the paint, and Columbia’s guards starting a lot of fast break opportunities—but Columbia Head Coach Phil McCrary credited his team’s defense for making the biggest difference.

“That first game we played in, they hit 10 threes. We were able to survive that. The second game, they hit 11 threes on us, and we were just giving them shots,” said McCrary. “We really felt good if we could close out on those shooters and make them put in on the floor. We’ll let Mutombo get his twos, but those threes hurt us the most.”

Mason Lockhart (24) had 14 points against Lovett, including eight points in the opening quarter. Photos by Jay Phillips

In the first half, Lovett only scored 14 points—seven in each quarter—and Columbia led 31-14 heading into halftime. McCrary said Columbia’s shot making helped the Eagles take their initial lead.

“We were able to knock down some shots that we’ve been missing all year, and that really helped us,” added McCrary.

The Eagles’ limiting Lovett’s open perimeter shots was apparent in the stat sheet, as Lovett only had four threes, and Mutombo scored 33 of Lovett’s 52 points. Mutombo scored 18 points in the fourth quarter, but Columbia responded with a 21-point fourth quarter led by Kawasiki Ricks, who continued making clutch plays for Columbia.

“He’s been there for us all year long, especially in the playoffs,” said McCrary of Ricks. “We’ve played four road playoff games in hostile environments, and the first three prepared us for [Lovett]. My hats off to the coaching staff and the kids for doing what they needed to do.”

Kawasiki Ricks (11) made game winning layups against Callaway High School and Washington County High School in back-to-back playoff games and led Columbia against Lovett with 14 points and eight rebounds.

Ricks had eight points in the fourth quarter, all of which came at the free-throw line and led Columbia in scoring with 14 points. Lockhart had 14 points and Lymon and Rashard Headges added 10 points each.

Mutombo’s big fourth quarter cut the score to single digits at 49-40 with 4:01 left to play, but Columbia extended its lead back to double digits less than a minute later when Jadan Baugh stole an inbound pass, got his own rebound twice and turned the second rebound into an one layup.

Columbia will get another region foe in the state championship, as the Eagles are set to play Pace Academy March 11 at 2:30 p.m. in Macon. Pace Academy is coached by former Miller Grove High School Head Coach Sharman White. White won six consecutive state championships at Miller Grove.

The game against Pace will be McCrary’s ninth state championship appearance at Columbia and Columbia’s 11th state championship appearance. McCrary won state championships in 2006, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012. This will be McCrary’s first trip back to the state championship since resuming his post as Columbia’s head coach.


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