AUGUSTA, GA –Freshman forward Taya Gibson came off the bench to tally 24 points and 13 rebounds and sixth-seeded Columbus State University erased a 16-point third-quarter deficit to stun second-seeded Lander University 86-83, Saturday afternoon (March 9) in the second semifinal of the 2019 Peach Belt Conference Women's Basketball Tournament.
Columbus State (16-12) advances to face top-seeded and 22nd-ranked University of North Georgia in Sunday's championship contest at 1 p.m. Lander (22-8) must now await the announcement of the NCAA Division II National Tournament field on Sunday evening at 10 p.m. to see if they will receive an at-large bid.
Following Gibson, reserve guard LeeAysia Williamson scored 16 points and senior guard Tatiana Wayne 15. Senior Tatum Jarvis added her own double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
PBC Player of the Year Jessica Harris led Lander with 24 points, six rebounds, and six assists, while freshman Miriam Recarte scored 19 and senior Mylea McKenith 16.
The Bearcats held a 67-51 lead with 2:45 left in the third quarter, but a 25-6 run by the Cougars produced a 76-73 CSU lead with 5:58 remaining in the game and set the stage for an exciting finish.
After Lander re-took the lead at 77-76 on a 17-foot jumper by Sarah Crews, three points from Gibson put CSU on top 79-79. A pair of free throws by McKenith knotted the game at 79-79 with 2:19 on the clock. Following a Tatum reverse lay-up, McKenith against tied the contest with two charity tosses, this time at 81-81 with exactly a minute left.
The Bearcats then forced a CSU turnover, and Symone Starks scored on an inside hoop to put Lander up 83-81, but she missed on the opportunity for a three-point play when her free throw was off the mark. At the other end, Gibson grabbed an offensive rebound and did convert on her own three-point play to give the Cougars an 84-83 lead with 30.6 ticks remaining.
Lander had two opportunities on the ensuing possession and came up empty. With Lander now forced to foul, CSU's Kaihla Carter made two free throws with 10.5 seconds left to make the margin 86-83 and Recarte missed a potential game-tying three-pointer at the horn. Carter also led all players with eight assists.
The underdog Cougars scored the game's opening seven points, and led 9-2 following a Wayne jumper. Lander quickly responded with eight straight points to erase the early deficit and take a 10-9 lead. A three-pointer by Starks gave Lander a 15-13 advantage, but a three-point bucket by Williamson and a stick-back by Gibson produced an 18-15 CSU advantage. Neither team scored over the next 2:22 until Harris hit two free throws to trim the margin to 18-17 as the period ended.
With 6:30 left in the second quarter, a lay-in by Gibson gave Columbus State a 27-23 lead, but Lander ran off 10 straight points while holding the Cougars scoreless for nearly three minutes to assume a 33-27 advantage. The Cougars countered with their own 10-2 spurt that put CSU back on top 37-35 in the final minute of the half. A driving reverse lay-up by Harris beat the halftime horn and knotted the score at 37-37 as the teams left the floor at intermission.
After a couple of ties early in the third, Lander put together an 11-2 spurt – highlighted by consecutive three-pointers by Recarte and McKenith – that gave the Bearcats a 52-43 advantage with 5:33 left in the period. Following a CSU bucket, McKenith drained a three-pointer from the left elbow that gave Lander its largest lead to that point at 55-45.
Five straight points from Recarte swelled the margin to 60-47 with 3:46 on the clock. Minutes later a three-pointer by Harris put the Bearcats up 67-51 with 2:45 left in the quarter. However, Columbus State reeled off four buckets in the paint and three free throws over that final 2:45 to draw within 67-62 as the horn sounded to end the period.
The comeback continued as a pair of threes by Wayne help trim the deficit to 72-71. Gibson tied the game at 73-73 on a lay-in and a minute later Tatum put the Cougars up 76-73 with a fast-break three-pointer with 5:58 remaining. That basket completed a 25-6 run by Columbus State that wiped out the 16-point Bearcat lead.
Columbus State shot 42.9 percent from the floor, including 7-of-21 from behind the three-point arc, and hit 13-of-18 free throws, while Lander also shot 42.9 percent, was 10-of-28 on three-point attempts, and made 19-of-24 shots at the free throw stripe.
Despite both team having 43 rebounds, CSU took advantage of 21 offensive boards to hold a 24-6 lead in second-chance points.