Columbus State Downs Lander in OT Thriller

Columbus State Downs Lander in OT Thriller

COLUMBUS, Ga. – Columbus State outlasted Lander for a thrilling 84-81 overtime victory Friday night in the fourth and final quarterfinal of the Peach Belt Conference Championships at Frank G. Lumpkin Center.

With the win, the Cougars (17-10) move on to Saturday’s 8:00 p.m., semifinal contest against USC Aiken (21-6), the PBC East Division’s top seed and the league’s regular season champion.

CSU extended its winning streak in overtime to 12 in a row behind a career-high 25 points and 14 rebounds from Darius Mcknight, who notched his fifth double-double of the season. Steve Peterson registered 19 points, five steals, four rebounds and four assists, while Idell Bell tallied 16 points and Jarmarquis Steverson managed 12.

Lander’s Corey Wright booked 24 points and seven assists to pace the Bearcats (18-9). David Pruett canned five 3-pointers for 15 points, including a trey with two seconds left to force the extra session. Dwight Tolbert had 14 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Jermel Kennedy notched a double-double of his own with 11 points and 13 boards.

Mcknight hit 1-of-2 free throws on CSU’s first overtime possession for a 72-71 lead and Peterson rattled home a 3-pointer for a 75-71 Cougar advantage. After Wright went 1-of-2 at the free throw line, Peterson slashed to the basket for a layup to put CSU up 77-72 before a perfect pass from Bell to McKnight led to another uncontested layup and a 79-72 Columbus lead.

Pruett again connected from long range to pull Lander within 79-75. Kennedy made one of two free throws and Wright drilled a 3-pointer for an 81-79 Columbus lead. Steverson put the Cougars up four with a pair from the charity stripe before Kennedy got free underneath for a layup and the Bearcats fouled Ivey, who missed his first attempt and hit the second for the final margin. Lander rushed the ball up the floor but lost control as the clock expired.

The Cougars shot a blistering 54.8 percent in the first half en route to a 43-31 halftime lead. They drained seven 3-pointers and connected on 17-of-31 field-goal attempts. Mcknight nearly had a double-double in the opening 20 minutes alone, posting 11 points and nine rebounds. Peterson booked 10 points and hit a pair of treys, as did Steverson and Idell Bell.

The Cougars pushed their lead out to as much as 17 just 2:31 into the second half before a Corey Wright trey and layup pulled the Bearcats to within 50-38. Lander twice cut its deficit down to 10 on a pair of Cody Waterworth jumpers, only to have CSU answer with two driving layups from McKnight.

Tolbert, named the league’s Player of the Year on Tuesday, drilled consecutive 3-pointers -- one from the right wing and one from the left -- to cut the margin to 56-52 at the 10:59 mark. The Cougars responded with a trey from Peterson and a Mcknight layup to put CSU up 62-54 with 6:08 remaining.

Wright hit a pair of free throws but another Mcknight basket in the lane kept the Cougar advantage at eight (64-56). Wright answered with a banked-in 3-pointer that narrowly beat the shot clock and then hit a driving layup to get the Bearcats within four at 64-60 with 4:08 remaining.

Kennedy’s left-handed layup cut the deficit to 65-62 and Darion Canty put back Kennedy’s miss to pull within 66-64. Bell sank two from the charity stripe for a 67-64 CSU advantage and Steverson added a pair from the charity stripe for a five-point Cougar lead with 2:01 left.

But the Bearcats again had an answer. After a CSU turnover, Wright found Pruett in transition on the right wing for a 3-pointer to pull within 69-67. After Peterson missed a 3-point attempt from the left baseline, Wright was fouled and made the first of two free throws. CSU’s Winford Ivey rebounded the miss but stepped on the baseline to give the back to Lander.

The Bearcats gave the ball right back when Tolbert slipped while making a cut to the basket and was called for traveling. Forced to foul, Lander sent Ivey to the line and he made both attempts for a 71-68 CSU lead.

Wright raced the ball up the left side of the floor and found Pruett, who’s leaning 3-pointer – his fourth of the game -- forced overtime at 71-all.