Columbia Lady Eagles head coach Chantay Frost wasn’t sure what to expect from a new region this season after making the move from AAA to AAAA.
Based on Friday night’s performance at home against Redan, she and her team are finding their comfort zone in a hurry.
In a matchup of the state’s top-ranked AAAA teams, the Lady Eagles blew open a close game early in the third quarter and cruised to a 65-33 win over the second-ranked Lady Raiders.
The early moments reflected both teams’ defensive intensity, with no one scoring until Redan’s Destini McClary hit a foul shot nearly three minutes after the opening tip. Yartavia Hickson scored twice inside the paint on the next two Columbia possession to make it 4-1, and the home team never trailed after that.
The Lady Eagles opened up a 12-5 lead when Miah Spencer got a steal and layup justes.t before the first-quarter buzzer. Spencer led all scorers with 30 points despite sitting out the game’s final six minutes. She tallied 10 of her team’s 12 second-quarter points and scored inside and out the entire night, draining three three-pointers from the baseline and pulling down several offensive rebounds in the paint.
“She was our all-around girl,” said Frost. “She did a good job tonight from a defensive standpoint and rebounding the basketball.”
A McClary three-pointer cut the lead to 20-16 with less than a minute to go before halftime, but Spencer scored inside and then hit a fast-break layup after a steal by Hickson.
Columbia opened the second half with an 11-2 run to go up by 17, utilizing a relentless half-court defense to pick up key turnovers and rebounds to start the fast break. In a matter of minutes Columbia increased its lead to 46-22 thanks to three straight baskets – a Shaundricka Mann turnaround jumper, a Shamyiah Smith layup off a steal, and a three-ball from the corner by Spencer.
There was no major halftime adjustment that turned the game around, according to Frost, who said it boiled down to her team’s consistent effort throughout the night.
“It was just about being disciplined on defense, being efficient on offense and looking to throw the ball inside – being very specific in what we want to do,” she said.
That focus continued into the final period. Holding Redan without a field goal for three minutes, Columbia rang up seven points in a row (six by Spencer) to push the lead to 54-26, after which both teams’ benches saw a fair amount of playing time.
The defending AAA state champion Lady Eagles improved to 9-2, and coming off a tournament in Washington, D.C. against some of the top teams in the country, Frost expressed positive sentiments about her squad’s debut in Region 3-AAAA competition.
“It feels pretty good to come out and establish ourselves, because this is our first time in the region, so we don’t really know what to anticipate or what to expect.”
Columbia (65) – Spencer 30, Hickson 14, Felton 4, Smith 4, Nowell 4, Mann 4, Pate 2, N. Williams 2, Harris 1.
Redan (33) – McClary 13, Byrd 7, Abney 5, Elmore 5, Jones 2, Griffin 1.
Halftime: Columbia 24, Redan 16.