Columbia made better than two-thirds of its shot attempts Tuesday — including 80 percent in the first half — and beat River Ridge handily, 68-27, in the Class AAAA state quarterfinals.
Trailing by double digits 3 minutes into the game, River Ridge (22-9) was already facing an uphill chase. And it couldn’t make up ground against a team that made 16 of its 20 shot attempts in the first half.
Coach Jason Taylor felt he had devised a plan defensively to stop Columbia, winner of two Class AAA state championships in the last three years. After watching film, Taylor said the Lady Eagles were successful in transition and seemed to struggle in their halfcourt offense, which made strategizing simple.
“We wanted to make them play a half-court offense,” Taylor said. “It didn’t work out so well.”
Instead, Columbia moved on to face Jonesboro for a semifinal-round game Saturday in Fort Valley.
Many possessions of Tuesday’s game resulted in Columbia finding open lanes after patiently moving the ball around.
The Lady Eagles led
22-4 at one point late in the first quarter, and the lead grew to 45-15 at the half.
Yactavia Hickson led Columbia with 25 points for the game, including 20 by intermission. She made six of seven layups in the first half, tacked on a 3-pointer and was 5-for-6 from the free-throw line.
If Hickson’s efforts weren’t tough enough for River Ridge to defend, Miah Spencer scored 12 of her 17 total points in the first half, going 5-for-6 inside the paint. Starr Nowell scored seven of her nine points in the first half.
“We wanted to come out fast, take high-percentage shots and play defense,” Columbia coach Chantay Frost said. “We didn’t miss a lot of layups.”
With Columbia running the score up early in the first half, River Ridge was forced to shoot 3-pointers to catch up. It took 15 3-point shots in the first half, making just three of them.
The only time the Lady Knights really came to life was early in the second quarter, after trailing 24-7 in the first.
Jordan Livesay, who was River Ridge’s only double-digit scorer with 10 points, hit a 3 from the top of the key. River Ridge then made a defensive stop, and Maggie Sigler sank a 3 to cut it to 26-13.
That was as close as River Ridge could get.
Columbia responded with a 9-0 run, with seven points coming from Hickson, and once Columbia’s lead stretched to 25 points late in the first half, the game seemed to be out of reach.
The lead grew from there once the second half started, and River Ridge couldn’t get within 30 points.
After making the state tournament each of the last three seasons, the Lady Knights will graduate the first senior class — Livesay, Sigler, Parker Nayman, Rachel Psomas and Tayla Pepin — that helped launch the program.
This season was River Ridge’s first trip to the state quarterfinals after falling in the first round the last two seasons.
“We’ve been (to the postseason) every year, and not many schools can say that,” Taylor said. “We set the bar high every year, and we’re looking to get back here next year.”