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Cannon leads contingent of C-State all-TCCAA honorees

SM-Tn Sports

Columbia State’s Diamond Cannon, Mya Byrd, Nya Caruthers, Jamari Bostic, Chris Nix and Amirion Joyce were each honored as all-TCCAA/Region 7 selections this week.

On the women’s side, Cannon was named the West Division Most Valuable Player. A sophomore, Cannon was the nation’s ninth-leading scorer, averaging 19.7 points per game for the Lady Chargers along with 9.3 rebounds per game.

Columbia State sophomore Diamond Cannon was named TCCAA West Division Most Valuable Player after averaging a league-leading 19.7 points per game this season for the Lady Chargers. (Courtesy photo)

She and Byrd were named first-team all-conference, with Caruthers receiving second-team recognition. Bostic was named to the men’s first team for the second straight season, with Nix – for the second year – and Joyce earning second-team honors.

The full list of honorees:

Women

Most Valuable Player – Blayre Shultz, Walters State (East); Diamond Cannon, Columbia State (West); Freshman of the Year – Madison McCoy, Walters State (East); Ciara Taylor, Dyersburg State (West); Coach of the Year – Jasmin Coleman, Walters State; Evelyn Thompson, Cleveland State (East); Kelvin Lester, Jackson State (West)

First team – Shaquala Walton (Chattanooga State); Michaela Bennefield, Asjah Harrell (Cleveland State); Mya Byrd (Columbia State); Eva Singleton, Ciara Taylor (Dyersburg State); Makayla Transou (Jackson State); Daisha Seltzer (Southwest Tennessee); Madison McCoy, Quentarra Mitchell (Walters State)

Second team – Melisa Carter, Michelle Smith (Chattanooga State); Emma Harig (Cleveland State); Nya Caruthers (Columbia State); Kamille Clark (Jackson State); Stephanie Nwankwo (Motlow State); Kirby Brown, Brooke Christian (Roane State); Taliyah Brown (Southwest Tennessee); Olivia Delk, Anaya Martin (Volunteer State)

Men

Most Valuable Player – De’Marius Boyd, Walters State (East); Brandon Mason, Southwest Tennessee (West); Freshman of the Year – Cameron Welch, Motlow State (East); Peyton West, Volunteer State (West); Coach of the Year – Lee Cigliano, Cleveland State (East); Amory Sanders, Southwest Tennessee (West)

First team – Maurice Dickson, Damien Forrest (Cleveland State); Jamari Bostic (Columbia State); Mark Edmond, Jean Iciano (Dyersburg State); Jarius Key, Jace Wallace (Motlow State); Jacob Naylor (Roane State); Jamey Sanders (Southwest Tennessee); Zach Morris (Volunteer State)

Second team – David Ware (Chattanooga State); Amirion Joyce, Chris Nix (Columbia State); Anterrious Rhyan (Motlow State); Elijah Cobb (Roane State); Nik Merriweather (Southwest Tennessee); Brennon Marsh, Peyton West (Volunteer State); Kajuan Hale, Tylar Haynes (Walters State)

Chargers struggle down the stretch, fall to visiting Southwest

By Maurice Patton

COLUMBIA – Shooting less than 33 percent from the free throw line in a postseason contest isn’t conducive to surviving or advancing.

But following his team’s 44-43 loss to visiting Southwest Tennessee in Thursday’s semifinals of the TCCAA tournament, Columbia State coach Winston Neal wasn’t ready to boil the outcome down to that singular factor.

“That would be very easy to point to. That’s a major issue,” Neal said after the Chargers converted just 6 of 19 attempts from the foul line – including a pair of missees by sophomore forward Chris Nix with 3.5 seconds remaining and the hosts trailing by a point. “We’ve been working on free throws. We’ve been getting up 100 a day for the last month and a half.

“It’s simple to point to that. But in the broader context, we didn’t execute what we do.”

Defensively, the Chargers (14-3) performed admirably – limiting Southwest to fewer field goals (four) than made free throws (six) in the opening half en route to a 27-17 cushion at the break.

But, as in the Saluqis’ last trip to the Webster Athletic Center two weeks ago, a second-half surge made it a 34-34 game midway through the period.

Back-to-back low-post baskets by Tarre’q Williams helped C-State retake a 40-34 lead, but the hosts went 3-for-7 from the line and scoreless from the floor over the final eight minutes.

“If you do what you’ve done and you get beat, you can live with that,” Neal said. “We didn’t do that. That’s why you see the tears, the hurt. We didn’t give them our best punch.

“Southwest sped us up, got us out of our game, took us out of our rhythm. I thought our defensive performance was fantastic, holding a team to 44 points. I think we’ve been one of the best defensive teams in the country.

“But we weren’t efficient offensively. We turned the ball over. That’ll get you beat.”

With sophomore guard R.J. Abernathy struggling when he was on the floor, Columbia State played most of the way with a backcourt comprised of freshmen Amirion Joyce, Janias Parham and/or Tre Carlton. The Charger posts controlled the game through the early going, and Williams finished with a team-high 13 points. Down the stretch, though, the hosts played smaller inside than they were at key moments.

“I knew they were going to take me away,” said sophomore wing Jamari Bostic, who was held to five points – missing a front end of a one-and-one with 3:06 to play in a three-point game, then missing a 3-point try from the top of the key inside the two-minute mark.

“Our defense was excellent. We win as a team, we lose as a team.”

With that, the defending state champions are left to watch Southwest Tennessee and Cleveland State – a 60-58 semifinal winner Thursday over Roane State – clash Saturday at Volunteer State with an automatic berth to the national tournament on the line, and hope to make the 24-team field as an at-large selection.

The TCCAA has not seen a member team receive an at-large since the current format of 16 region qualifiers and eight at-larges was adapted, according to commissioner Foster Chason.

“We lost two games by one, on the last possession, to a good team,” Neal said. “We lost to Roane State (in the season opener). We’ve been in the Top 25 all year. We’ll fill out the at-large form and see what happens.

“I’ve got to credit our guys. We fought to the end. We had opportunities; we just didn’t take advantage. But I’m so proud of their fight, their toughness. We could have wilted. We didn’t.”

And a season that began under the mantra of “unfinished business”, as the pandemic prevented the 2019-20 team from going to Hutchinson, Kans., for the nationals, ends in the same manner.

“If we don’t get the bid, we’re going next year,” Bostic said. “The business is unfinished, for sure.”

Southwest Tennessee 44, Columbia State 43

Southwest Tennessee (44) – Brandon Mason 17, Eric Johnson 2, Jamie Sanders 10, Juan Cojelli 4, Decorio Smith 7, Kaemon Purdue 4
Columbia State (43) – Chris McKnight 3, Amirion Joyce 6, Tarre’q Williams 13, Chris Nix 2, Trevon Harris 1, Tre Carlton 5, Xavier Griffith 6, Jamari Bostic 5, Malique Oates 2
3-pointers – Southwest Tennessee 8 (Mason 4, Sanders 2, Smith 2), Columbia State 3 (McKnight, Carlton, Bostic)
Half – Columbia State 27, Southwest Tennessee 17

Chargers wear down Vol State in TCCAA tourney opener

By Chris Yow

COLUMBIA — A pair of double-doubles from Tarre’q Williams and Xavier Griffith, and a physical defensive effort from Columbia State propelled the Chargers to an 87-66 win over visiting Volunteer State on Tuesday night in the first round of the TCCAA tournament.

Holding a narrow 32-29 lead with a little under two minutes to play in the first half, Columbia State (14-2, 11-1) got a pair of second-chance buckets from Jamari Bostic and another layup from Williams to push that lead to a 38-29 advantage at the break.

Bostic led a very balanced scoring attack with 12 points in the game.

“(Bostic) is the guy who holds that team together,” veteran Pioneers coach Rusty Melvin said. “When you have a player like him, he can make any team really good, but (Columbia State coach) Winston (Neal) has built that team to go to the national tournament.”

Before COVID-19 shut down the NJCAA national tournament last season, the Chargers were set to make the trip following their TCCAA tournament championship. This season, Neal and his team are focused on making the trip and having a chance to play for a national title.

To get there, however, it must win every game and the Chargers needed a strong start against the Pioneers.

“I thought it was important to get off to a good start, and they made some shots, got going. That’s what we didn’t want,” Neal said. “But credit our team for buckling down and getting stops.”

Vol State averages close to 80 points per game, but C-State is also ranked third in the country in defensive field goal percentage (36.8%), and also second in the nation in rebounds per game (48.5/g). The Chargers pulled down 68 rebounds — 30 on offense — in the contest, limiting the Pioneers to one shot per offensive trip nearly every time down the floor and allowing themselves a second chance on several occasions.

Vol State has just eight players on their roster, and 6-8 freshman center Brennon Marsh went down with an ankle injury late in the first half before the C-State surge on offense.

“When (Marsh) went down it killed our zone defense,” Melvin said. “Our entire defensive strategy was predicated on him taking up space in the middle.”

The Chargers took full advantage of the situation, going on a 16-2 run to extend their lead to 56-38 just before the 10-minute mark of the second half. Neal’s ability to work in as many as 12 players, while Vol State’s top five were forced to play virtually the entire game, was a huge advantage for the Chargers.

“You could just tell Vol got tired,” Neal said. “When you have that luxury, it makes you a much better team.”

“We didn’t have the physical size to match up and play a 40-minute game with them,” Melvin said. “I wanted the game in the 70s because if we get hot, we can score. Tonight we missed a lot of shots, and it was because we were tired.”

This season, the TCCAA was broken into two separate divisions, with Columbia State holding the top seed in the West. The only team in the East to defeat Columbia State was Southwest Tennessee, the No. 2 seed. The Saluqis were a 90-87 winner over Dyersburg State in the quarterfinals, setting up a fifth game between the two schools.

In their previous game at Columbia State on March 24 — a 77-64 win for the Chargers — there was an obvious tension both during the contest and following the game. Poise will be paramount come Thursday.

“Any time in the tournament, it’s important to keep your emotion in check,” he said, noting top-five program Tallahassee CC was disqualified from their tournament due to their part in an in-game fight recently. “Everything is heated, and you have to keep your head. The team that does that usually ends up winning.”

Photos by Buffy Holt for SM-TN Sports

C-State surges early and late to overcome visiting Saluqis

By Maurice Patton

Chris Nix had no trouble acknowledging Wednesday night that he and his Columbia State men’s basketball teammates aren’t best buddies with their Southwest Tennessee counterparts.

“We wanted to come in and beat ‘em by 30 (points),” said the 6-foot-10 sophomore, and the Chargers were well on their way to doing that very thing before settling for a 77-64 victory at the Webster Athletic Center.

The win came in C-State’s first outing since dropping a 72-71 decision in Memphis on March 15 – a loss that snapped the Chargers’ 10-game winning streak.

“That built up,” said sophomore wing Jamari Bostic, who matched Nix’s 20 points as the two sparked their team to a 36-12 lead 3:40 before halftime.

With an 80-53 win over the Saluqis on Jan. 30 and a 69-64 victory on March 5 in Memphis, the one-point contest in the third meeting resulted in some overexuberance on the part of the hosts.

“The first game was OK,” Nix said. “The second game was kinda hostile – people getting (technical fouls). The third game was just crazy. They won on a layup and started clowning.

“We took our foot off the pedal (Wednesday).”

That 24-point lead became a two-point deficit by the eight-minute mark of the second half, before C-State ran off 12 straight points and regained control of the contest.

“We had a horrible second half, but I’m proud of our guys,” Chargers coach Winston Neal said. “They fought back. They could have hung their heads.

“Credit (Southwest Tennessee) for taking us out of what we were doing. But we have to be better at doing what we do. We got selfish a little, trying to make up for our mistakes. We forced things. That’s when we quit doing what makes us good.”

Getting a series of defensive stops and converting at the other end, the hosts regrouped and improved to 11-2 (9-1) with the win.

“When (Neal) called time out, we decided to execute,” Bostic said. “That’s how we got the lead, and that’s (not executing) how we lost the lead. When we executed, we got back in it.

“The best thing was, everybody contributed. Everybody played a part – scoring, taking a charge, getting a jumpball, being in ‘helpside’ (defense). Everybody contributed.”

Tarre’q Williams added 18 points for Columbia State, which plays Saturday at Volunteer State and March 31 at Dyersburg State to close out the regular season.

Columbia State men 77, Southwest Tennessee 64

Southwest Tennessee (64) – Mason 7, Johnson 8, Miller 16, Holland 4, Sanders 8, Merriweather 6, Smith 11, Prude 4
Columbia State (77) – Amirion Joyce 5, Tarre’q Williams 18, Chris Nix 20, Trevon Harris 3, Tre Carlton 2, Xavier Griffith 4, Janias Parram 4, Jamari Bostic 20, Malique Oates 1
3-pointers – Southwest Tennessee 10 (Mason, Johnson, Miller 2, Merriweather 2, Smith 3, Prude), Columbia State 6 (Nix, Harris, Bostic 4)
Half – Columbia State 39, Southwest Tennessee 19

Photos by Chris Yow / SM-Tn Sports

Lady Chargers send soph out with a final win at ‘The Web’

By Maurice Patton

Diamond Cannon made sure her Sophomore Night festivities were festive, scoring 17 points Wednesday to help Columbia State past Southwest Tennessee 66-61.

Mya Byrd scored a game-high 18 points and Nya Caruthers added 11 for the Lady Chargers as they won their final regular-season contest at the Webster Athletic Center.

“It was my last game. I wanted to leave it all on the court, give all my effort,” Cannon said. “We’ve been through a lot. It was important to get this win to get ready for the (TCCAA) tournament, but also to start getting some Ws on our record. We’ve got to dig deep and leave it all out there.”

Diamond Cannon, flanked by Columbia State women’s coach Gwen Burton (left) and C-State athletics director Johnny Littrell, was recognized during ‘Sophomore Night’ Wednesday. The Lady Chargers defeated visiting Southwest Tennessee 66-61. (Courtesy photo)

Cannon scored seven of her points in the opening period as C-State built a 20-10 lead. From there, the Saluqis managed to cut the margin to 46-44 at the end of the third quarter and 59-58 with just under three minutes to play.

Byrd connected on one of her three 3-pointers, then converted a layup in transition to make it a six-point game, and she and Cannon each went 1-for-2 from the foul line in the final 1:40 – just enough to hold off the Memphis contingent.

“We have so much potential as a team,” Cannon said. “I can’t wait to see what ‘Coach Gwen’ (Burton) has in store for this team for next year.”

In the second year of the Lady Chargers’ reboot after a one-year hiatus, the team has been significantly more competitive.

“We only had five players on the floor for a lot of last year,” Cannon said. “We had so many players ineligible. Coach Gwen brings girls in to be student-athletes. … The ‘student’ is so important.

“When we play together and work hard, we win games. When we use the tools she gives us, we win games.”

Kenya Freeman scored 16 points to lead Southwest Tennessee offensively, with Trinity Taylor scoring 13.

The Lady Chargers finish the regular season with games Saturday at Volunteer State and March 31 at Dyersburg State.

Columbia State women 66, Southwest Tennessee 61

ST 10 16 18 17 — 61
CS 20 9 17 20 – 66

Southwest Tennessee (61) – Daisha Seltzer 8, Keyanna Logan 7, Trinity Taylor 13, Tayliyah Brown 2, Caitlyn Knoxx 2, Cortasia Hollins 9, Kenya Freeman 16, Ariyani Robinson 4
Columbia State (66) – Mya Byrd 18, Nya Caruthers 11, Diamond Cannon 17, Brittany Lawless-Sherrill 2, Brianna Brown 9, Denaj’za Jackson 5, Jaletha Clark 4
3-pointers – Southwest Tennessee 4 (Seltzer, Taylor 3), Columbia State 7 (Byrd 3, Caruthers 3, Cannon)

The Rundown: March 24, 2021

Tuesday Results

Baseball
Tullahoma 6, Coffee County 1
Columbia Central 8, Franklin County 2
Lawrence County 11, Shelbyville 7
Giles County 3, Lincoln County 2
Brentwood 4, Centennial 1
Dickson County 9, Page 6
Independence 9, Spring Hill 1
Creek Wood 3, Fairview 0
Forrest 5, PJPII 2
Huntland 8, Cascade 5
Moore County 15, Cornersville 0
Mt. Pleasant 13, McEwen 3
Summertown 16, Wayne County 6
Santa Fe 2, Houston County 1
Columbia Acad. 4, Grace Chr. 1
CPA 20, Zion Chr. 4

Softball
Lincoln County 19, Franklin County 1
Richland 5, Culleoka 2
Mt. Pleasant 18, Santa Fe 2
Dickson County 3, Summit 1
Page 8, Independence 0
Summertown 10, Collinwood 0
Forrest 10, Community 0
Marshall County 15, Giles County 2
Columbia Acad. 4, MTCS 3

Soccer
Columbia Central 5, Franklin County 0
Marshall County 2, Giles County 1
Lawrence County 4, Loretto 1
Spring Hill 1, Tullahoma 0

Wednesday schedule
Baseball
Summit vs. Clarksville%, 4 p.m. at Independence
Moore Co. at Culleoka, 5 p.m.
Riverdale at Columbia Central%, 5 p.m.
Clarksville at Independence%, 6:30 p.m.
Siegel at Spring Hill%, 6:30 p.m.

Softball
Zion Chr. at Columbia Acad.*, 3:30 p.m.
Community at Santa Fe, 5 p.m.
Loretto at Lawrence Co., 5:30 p.m.

Boys soccer
Culleoka at Wayne Co., 6 p.m.

Junior college basketball
Southwest Tennessee at Columbia State, 5:30 p.m. (DH)

Junior college softball
Columbia State at Motlow State, 1 p.m. (DH)