Lady Bulldogs edge out Columbus in play-in of region tourney

Feb. 13—THOMASVILLE — It was a tough battle on Monday night as the Thomasville Lady Bulldogs hosted Columbus in the first round of the region tournament. Thomasville's defense looked good early, executing a full court press to perfection, leading to a steal by Jabria Richardson.

Despite four early points from Dallas Hill, Thomasville struggled to score, as did Columbus. Columbus would take a one point lead late in the first quarter, but Kennedy Hayes knocked down a three to put the Lady Bulldogs back on top. Columbus tied it up on free throws and, after the first, the score was tied at seven.

The second quarter was neck and neck as the teams traded buckets. Richardson would splash home a three to extend the lead to four, but Columbus's Sanaa Hicks responded with a three of her own to cut it to one. Thomasville would later tie it up at 17, but the crafty Columbus point guard Alina Gilbert drove down the lane for two. As the horn sounded on the first half, Columbus held tightly to a one point lead, 20-19.

"Just maintain your composure," said Thomasville head coach Jeray Randall on his message to the team at the half. "Just keep doing what we practiced and, eventually, things will start going our way. Just making sure the girls stayed focused on the task that was at hand."

Thomasville came out of the break quickly as baskets by Rhaniya Wilson and Hill put the Lady Bulldogs on top 23-20. The Columbus defense was very aggressive in the second half, though not executed well. The aggression led to plenty of fouls, allowing Thomasville to build a ten point lead off the back of Wilson and Hill's unstoppable connection in the paint.

However, Columbus began to pick up the pace and stormed back into the game. A corner three by Cartier Ollervidez brought Columbus within one and headed into the final frame, it was Thomasville that now clung to a one point lead.

JaLeah Brown ended the Lady Bulldogs scoring drought in the fourth quarter with a corner three, followed by a break away score by Hill. A couple more baskets by Wilson and Richardson and Thomasville had built their lead back up to nine. Columbus would not go away however, as good defense led to quick offense and they cut the lead to four with just 39 second left in the game. Alexus Hammond was able to cut it to two, but clutch free throws from Hayes and Richardson iced the game and the Lady Bulldogs moved on to the first round of the region tournament.

"They didn't give up," Randall said about his team overcoming the Columbus come back. "They finally understand that teams are going to make runs. Just stay focused and make sure that they do what they need to do."

Thomasville will now travel to Columbus to take on Carver on Wednesday in the first round of the region tournament.