OXFORD — The duo of Aniya Saddler and D.J. Jackson has worked for Columbus all season.
It was no different on Friday night as the two would help lead the Lady Falcons over Brookhaven 55-51 to claim the MHSAA Girls Class 5A State Championship at The Pavilion at Ole Miss.
It is Columbus’ (26-4) first state title in school history.
“We wanted to stay in our zone, but we went to man, and the girls just stepped up and did what they had to do,” said Columbus coach Yvonne Hairston. “D.J. and Aniya did a good job of getting to the basket and finishing. This championship is for everyone in the Lady Falcon program past and present. This feeling is so surreal.”
Columbus held a 30-20 lead at halftime, but Brookhaven would open the third quarter on a 12-2 run to tie the game at 32 with four minutes left.
The Lady Falcons would end the third quarter up 39-38 and would then open the fourth quarter on an 8-2 run to extend their lead to 47-40.
With Columbus hanging on to 52-51 lead Shania Givens would make three of six free throws in the final 15 seconds to seal the win for the Lady Falcons.
“I knew coming into the game that free throws were going to help us win,” Hairston said. “Aniya didn’t try to do too much and got the ball to the open man.”
Saddler finished with 19 points, nine rebounds and three assists to lead Columbus and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
“One of my things is I attack the basket really well,” Saddler said. “I’m not just a shooter. My best thing is to go to the basket and get fouled and make my free throws. It feels so good to end my senior with a championship.”
Jackson added 17 points for Columbus, while Givens chipped in 13 points.
“We just kept on believing and the girls did a good job of staying calm,” Hairston said. “We did what we needed to do to win the game.”
Ole Miss signee Silentianna Collins had a game-high 22 points to lead Brookhaven, while Ayanna McNairy added 15 points for the Lady Panthers (28-4).