Jasmine Jones was on fire in the second half, scoring all eight of Sandy Creek’s points in the third quarter and finishing
One rebound. That was the difference between the Sandy Creek Lady Patriots celebrating a state championship and tasting bitter defeat.
Sandy Creek's furious rally gave them a lead, but it would not quite hold out as the Columbia Eagles corralled a rebound and tipped it back at the buzzer for a 38-37 victory.
All game, the Patriots battled for their shot at a title. For three quarters they struggled to find a rhythm. With the game winding down, they went on a furious rally, finally getting close to victory. But one rebound snatched it all away.
Both teams struggled offensively for most of the game. The Lady Patriots had trouble solving the Columbia defense, struggling with a seven point deficit through most of the first three quarters.
Finally in the fourth quarter, Sandy Creek caught fire. They finally took the lead and held until late. Not quite late enough. The Patriots could not corral the rebound on a missed Columbia free throw and the putback provided the difference in the defeat.
"One rebound. Just one rebound. We get one rebound and we win the game," said Sandy Creek head coach Cedric King.
The Patriots had a tremendous season. They won 25 games, including the first over their rivals from Fayette County in years. They reached their first ever Final Four. Still, it's hard to remember all the good right now for the team.
"It was a tremendous season. We'll look back on it and it will be happy and everything, but all I can think about right now is one rebound," King said.
To say the game was a defensive battle would be an understatement. This was the first girls basketball championship since 1980 that saw neither team hit 40 points. Midway through the third quarter, only 27 total points had been scored.
The Patriots trailed 10-4 after one quarter. They made their first push early in the second frame on a Jasmine Jones steal and coast to coast layup and an easy bucket by Allie Warren off a full court pass. Columbia would stretch their lead to 16-9 at the half.
Sandy Creek was badly in need of an offensive spark in the second half and Jasmine Jones stepped up. Jones scored all eight of the Patriots’ third quarter points, one on a jumper, one on a three, and one on an and-one, as her team kept within 24-17 heading into the fourth.
Jones would finish with a team-high 17 points as the Patriots charged back from behind.
"She played good down the stretch," said King. "We're a team. The team played good down the stretch."
Jones stayed hot, sinking a three to trim the deficit to four points to start the fourth. Buckets from Recee Walker, Safiya Martin, and Courtney Street trimmed the lead to two and helped maintain the pressure.
Walker's floater would knot the game up at 30-30 midway through the fourth, the first tie of the game since way back at 4-4. A slick spin and score by Jones kept the pace. Two free throws from Chloe Branch kept it at 33-33 with three minutes remaining.
Finally, with 2:30 left, the Patriots took their first lead of the evening on a pull up jumper by Jones. One free throw a piece by Martin and Walker would make it 37-35 with 26 seconds remaining.
Unfortunately Columbia wasn't fazed. The Eagles got to the line with a chance to tie the game. They would do one better. Their shooter sank the first freebie to make it 37-36. She would miss her next shot and that's where the heartbreak set in. Columbia grabbed the first rebound and missed. The second try was the killer as the putback pulled them ahead 38-37. With no timeouts left, the remaining couple seconds ticked off before Sandy Creek could even inbound the ball.
The jubilant Eagles celebrated their third state championship in four years while the Patriots crumpled to the court. Most of the girls sobbed. It was a bitter end to the season. All because of one rebound.