Tag Archives: Columbia State

Bryant leaves Columbia State soccer after three years, two league titles

By Maurice Patton

COLUMBIA — Colton Bryant and Columbia State athletic officials mutually agreed to part ways recently, bringing an end to his three-year stint as the founding coach of the Lady Charger women’s soccer program.

“It became clear that maybe I didn’t need to be part of the project,” Bryant said when contacted Thursday – a week after he announced his departure via social media. “The way things occurred were surprising and unfortunate.”

Colton Bryant posted a message to his Twitter account on June 2 confirming that he would be leaving his women’s soccer coaching position at Columbia State.

According to C-State athletics director Johnny Littrell, Bryant’s departure was prompted by an overambitious recruiting approach.

“He did a really good job with the program – coaching the girls, recruiting, he did a really good job. His record shows that,” Littrell said. “But there’s more to it. Some things we didn’t agree with. He wanted to carry the program in a different direction than the college set it up for.

“We put the program together because of a supply of athletes in our service area. We’re in a hotbed for soccer. Any coach that wants to be a national champion probably has to reach out farther. Our college is limited as to how many (out-of-state waivers) we can allow. He just wasn’t going to be satisfied.”

After Columbia State went 4-4 in the fall of 2018 – its initial season – with a victory in its debut and one over TCCAA rival Motlow State, the Lady Chargers finished 12-6 and won the conference tournament the following year.

With the 2020 season postponed until the just-completed spring semester and then shortened because of the pandemic, Columbia State finished 7-1 and was ranked as high as No. 14 nationally. The Lady Chargers outscored their regular-season opponents 27-4.

“I do believe we could have won a national championship,” Bryant said. “With our recruiting, combined with a sheer belief in what we were building, we had everything we needed.”

The former coach said budgetary issues were a bigger concern than recruiting – but that had not always been the case.

“From Year 1 to Year 3, they improved tremendously,” he said. “I was really happy with it. I was happy with everything until there were things added that you couldn’t use your budget the way you wanted to use it.

“We were No. 14 nationally. I couldn’t come to grips with what was wrong with that direction.”

Both Bryant and Littrell stressed there was little animosity connected to the decision.

“He did a good job getting the program established,” Littrell said. “We won the conference the last two years. I don’t hold anything against him. We’ve just got to go by the policies of the (Tennessee Board of Regents), the TCCAA, the NJCAA. If that’s not enough, what else can we do?

“We want to stay as close to our local players as we can. We get eight out-of-state waivers for women’s soccer, softball and baseball; that’s based on a percentage of 24 scholarships allowed, set by the TCCAA. Basketball gets 15 scholarships and five waivers.”

“I would say we had more players on our roster from within an hour’s drive of campus than either of the other women’s programs combined,” Bryant said. “I’m not upset. We just had to go down different paths.”

Assistant Katie Willingham is filling the coaching position on an interim basis, with Littrell expressing hope of naming a permanent successor to Bryant by the end of June.

“It puts pressure on us; the season starts in August,” Littrell said. “There’s not a whole lot of time. But we’ve already had several apply. We just have to go through the process. Our intention is not to let the program fall at all.

“We wish (Bryant) the best.”

Nothing pretty about Post 19 season-opening victory

By Maurice Patton

COLUMBIA — For Scott Beasley and the Columbia Post 19 Seniors, Tuesday night’s first game of the season against visiting Huntsville (Ala.) Post 237 was just that – a first game.

The two teams combined for 28 walks, four hit batters and just 11 hits as the hosts won 17-5 in six innings.

Originally scheduled as a doubleheader, rain delayed the start and rust prompted both coaching staffs to cut the night short.

“It served a purpose,” Beasley said regarding the contest. “We saw a couple of things. I liked the effort. It’s always a positive when they play hard.”

Weather aside, the night got off to a rough start as Post 19 starter Dawson Hargrove walked four in two-thirds of an inning before he was stunningly ejected by the field umpire, presumably for expressing his displeasure over a questionable strike zone.

Taking advantage of six hits and 16 free passes, Post 19 scored multiple runs in four of its five at-bats – including seven in the fifth inning, when they sent 12 to the plate, drew six walks and recorded just two outs before going back on defense.

Brett Bell had two of Post 19’s six hits, with Nathaniel Huntzinger and Brandon O’Brien each adding singles. Drake Blackwood doubled, as did Brantly Whitwell; the Spring Hill graduate and Columbia State signee added one of those ‘effort’ plays as he ranged into the left-center field alley to flag down a deep drive by the visitors and save a fourth-inning run.

Hargrove was the first of six pitchers to see work for the hosts. He, Ben Farrell, Shelton Blackwell, Hudson Adams, Huntzinger and Caden Czajka combined to allow five hits and strike out 12.

For the most part, though, the game was an opportunity for Post 19 to get on the field before traveling to Murray, Ky., this weekend for the Mayfield Post 26 Invitational tournament.

“The Summertown kids had a little quicker turnaround,” Beasley said, referring to Blackwood and Grant and Gavin Burleson, who played in the Class A state tournament a couple of weeks ago. “For most of these guys, it was their first time (to play competitively) in a month.

“We’re just knocking the rust off. Pretty much everybody got three at-bats, their first against live pitching in a while. We’ll build on it this weekend. There’s a lot to build on and a long way to go.”

Photos by Chris Yow / SM-Tn Sports

Chargers stunned after stunning tourney win; season ends

By Maurice Patton

As impressive as Columbia State’s opening-round TCCAA/Region VII baseball tournament performance was Monday, the following day was as inspiring, if not more so.

The Chargers’ last win of the season, an 8-6 victory over nationally No. 2-ranked Walters State, will officially be recorded as a 1-0 loss.

C-State had to forfeit the contest once veteran coach Mike Corn became aware that one of his players was academically ineligible after dropping a class earlier in the spring semester, a move that left him short of the 12 credit hours required for full-time enrollment status.

“That’s something he does, something all our coaches do,” Columbia State athletics director Johnny Littrell said Wednesday. “We graduated Saturday. It’s nothing unusual that the grades get posted the following Monday or Tuesday. Even when I coached, I did the same thing: I’d always check my grades to see who’s eligible, who you’re going to bring back – thinking ahead. That’s what he was doing. He’s checking his grades and ran into that, and it caught him off guard.

“It was just a math thing. The kid had five classes, a total of 14 hours. For some reason, he thought when he dropped one, he still had four classes. Most classes are three (credit) hours. He just did the math in his head that he still had 12 hours. The math just didn’t work. It was an accident.”

Columbia State advanced into the postseason after finishing third in the TCCAA West Division – the 10-team conference competed in divisions this year because of the coronavirus pandemic – and defeated No. 2 division finisher Volunteer State in a best-of-3 series to earn a spot in the four-team state tourney.

The Chargers finished the regular season with a flourish, winning seven straight to close, then dropped their opener to the host Pioneers before winning the final two games to set up Monday’s matchup with perennial power Walters State.

“A whole lot of credit (for) integrity and strong ethics goes to Coach Corn,” TCCAA Commissioner Foster Chason said. “ … it was just something he caught and self-reported. All the other coaches in the tournament were disappointed. Columbia State had earned the right to be there, played a great game in beating Walters to be able to be in the winners bracket.

“I and Bobby (Hudson, Vol State AD and tournament director) and the other coaches involved, it was a time period of sadness and regret for the team that had done so well and accomplished all they had so far.”

Chason said that, had the development not been immediately reported, an academic audit as teams progress in the postseason to the district and national level would have eventually revealed the issue. However, because it was reported in a timely fashion, the conference was able to modify and minimize the impact.

“The remainder of the tournament became more fair,” he said. “We were able to make the adjustments to the tournament appropriately.”

After Tuesday’s tourney schedule was delayed, Walters was reinstated to the winners bracket and lost 20-9 to Dyersburg State, which had defeated Motlow State 8-7 on Monday. The Senators and Bucks were scheduled to play an elimination game Wednesday, with the winner to face Dyersburg in the championship with a berth in the NJCAA East Central District Tournament at stake.

C-State officially completed the season with a 25-22 record.

Both Chason and Littrell attributed the eligibility situation, in part, to the pandemic.

“It didn’t help that we’re off campus for classes,” Littrell said. “An instructor might have come up and said ‘so and so just dropped his class’. We’ve had that before; they’ve come up and said something. You run into each other. In this past year, we’ve not had that. The athletes were here, but nobody else was. We’re doing it all online.”

Littrell also said safeguards will be put into place to make a similar situation less likely going forward.

“We’re going to take it out of the kids’ hands and put it into coaches’ hands, to where a kid cannot drop a class without permission from the coaches, being there and doing it,” he said. “A kid has to do it because they have to go into their account, but they won’t have the access code (to alter their class schedule) without the coach’s being there. We’re just trying to look ahead and keep this from happening.

“It’s never happened, that I’m aware of, since I’ve been here and I’m in my 21st year. But I’ve heard of it happening across the state.”

For obvious reasons, Littrell declined to identify the team member.

“We’d never do that,” he said. “He’s got it pretty hard right now. Some players are looking down (at him), that are hurt.

“I know rules are rules and you’ve gotta have ‘em, but it’s just sad that one mistake from one person can hurt so many. But I don’t know what the answer would be.”

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