Columbia waltzed into history Saturday night at the Macon Coliseum, claiming the program's third consecutive GHSA Class AAA title and fifth overall in the past seven years with a 65-46 victory over Drew.
Earning the title itself, however, required a gritty fourth-quarter effort as the Eagles withstood a relentless fullcourt press from the Titans to withstand a furious comeback before sealing the title at the free-throw line during the final two minutes, draining five-of-eight from the charity stripe.
Perhaps fittingly, Tahj Shamsid-Deen was the most reliable when it came to free throws, converting 5-of-6 in the final four minutes to help him score a game-high 17 points which included a three-pointer. He had some help on a night in which the Eagles seemed to evenly carry the offensive load. Jhaustin Thomas had 11 on a night in which his frontcourt counterpart Jarmal Reid was held to five points.
Derrick Frye ended up being the only Titans player scoring in double-figures as Drew (28-5) never got its perimeter game on track, failing to convert a three-pointer.
For most of the way, Columbia (31-1) handled matters in a game that lacked offensive flair on both sides. A 3-pointer by Nate Mason with 6:17 left before halftime was Columbia's first lead of the game at 16-14. The Eagles never trailed again, swelling their lead to as many as 17 points late in the third quarter.
Drew, a school in just its third year of existence, didn't go away easily. The Titans showed that they were not content to just be glad to be in the Final Four, giving the Eagles to firm test to start the fourth quarter. Fueled by fullcourt defensive pressure, Drew quickly cut into a 47-29 Columbia lead. A quick score by Eloka Olisa started things, and a pair of free throws and a layup off of a turnover by Frye kick-started 13-2 run to start the third quarter, one in which the Eagles turned the ball over enough to let Drew back in it. The Titans trailed 49-43 with 4:41 to go and hung close, being down 53-46 with 2:19 to play.
That, however, was as close to Drew pulled. Unable to climb closer, the Titans had to foul and hope the Eagles would miss enough free-throw shots for the Titans to hang close. That didn't happen, as the Eagles made enough to put the game away. Drew ran out of gas on the offensive end, failed to convert a shot over the final 2:19 after pulling within seven points of the lead.