Twenty minutes after Sunday’s game, Dip Metress wondered aloud in his office the same thing over and over.
How did Georgia Regents come back and defeat Columbus State?
In vintage fashion, the Jaguars rallied from a 15-point deficit, with K.J. Sherrill swishing the game-winning, six-foot hook shot with 12.3 seconds remaining, to shock Columbus State, 74-72, at Christenberry Fieldhouse.
Georgia Regents trailed most of the game and was down 49-34 with 17:44 remaining. The Jaguars trailed by 10 with 8:03 to go, but they held the Cougars to two field goals the rest of the way to survive.
“Championship teams have to win their home games and have to find a way to win when the other team outplays you,” Metress said. “That’s the magic of Christenberry.”
After starting the season at 4-2, the Jaguars have won 16 of their past 18 games, including 12 in a row at home. Georgia Regents (20-4, 13-2) reached the 20-win total for the sixth time in the past eight seasons and pulled within a half-game of USC Aiken for the Peach Belt Conference lead with four games left in the regular season.
The Jags travel Wednesday to Lander before playing Saturday at Francis Marion. Georgia Regents then returns home Feb. 26 to face USC Aiken again.
“If we want to stay in this mix, we have to keep winning,” Metress said. “We don’t want other people to help us.”
Columbus State nearly helped itself Sunday. After the Jaguars bested Georgia Southwestern on Saturday, they turned around and played back-to-back games for the first time this season. With the Cougars throwing out an aggressive trap at Georgia Regents early in the game, Columbus State jumped out front and led 41-31 at intermission. The Cougars then hit their first three shots of the second half to push the lead to 15.
“We’re going to get everybody’s best shot,” said Jaguars forward Roman Hill, who came off the bench for eight points. “To play back-to-back games is real difficult. But coach did a good job of preparing us, and we understood what we needed to do to get this ‘W.’”
Ryan Weems, who led Georgia Regents with 18 points, drained three 3-pointers in the second half to help fuel the comeback. DeAngelo Kirkland made one of two free throws to give Columbus State a 72-69 lead with two minutes to go, but Weems responded with a three-point play.
After Kenney Funderburk missed a 3-pointer for the Cougars, the Jaguars took possession with 38 seconds remaining. D’Angelo Boyce fed K.J. Sherrill on the right baseline, and the big man gave Georgia Regents its first lead since six minutes into the game.
“I felt like I had to put the team on my back,” Sherrill said. “He was confident enough to throw me the ball. I had to show I was confident enough to score and win the game.”
Sherrill wasn’t done. He blocked Funderburk’s layup attempt with 0.4 seconds remaining. On the inbounds play, Kirkland tipped the ball harmlessly off the backboard, and the Jaguars celebrated their latest win.
Columbus State shot 54 percent from the field, with Kirkland leading the way with 16 points.
Georgia Regents shot 48 percent from the field and won the rebounding battle, 33-22. Keshun Sherrill added 15 points, while K.J. had 13.