COLUMBIA STATION — Saturday’s Division IV sectional final between Lake Ridge Academy and Columbia had everything fans could hope for in a postseason basketball game — lead changes, close calls and an outcome undecided until the final seconds.
However, it was only Lake Ridge fans celebrating at the end, as the No. 3 seed Royals scored the final five points of the game to upset No. 2 seed Columbia, 39-36.
The Royals (12-10) advance to the Creston district semifinals, where they will face top-seeded Mogadore — 57-32 winners Saturday over Lake Center Christian — on Wednesday at 6:15 p.m. at Norwayne High School.
The game wasn’t a thing of beauty for Lake Ridge, which turned the ball over 30 times and was just 5-of-14 from the free throw line, but when the game was on the line, the Royals defense held Columbia scoreless for the final 4:15 of the game, and Selena Benz made a pair of foul shots with 29.4 seconds to play to put her team up by three.
“It was a really close game. We just had to calm down to keep focused at the end,” said Benz, who led the Royals with nine points. “When I get to the free throw line, I just block everything out, act like I am in practice, and just let it be.”
Columbia (16-7) took a 32-29 lead into the fourth quarter only to see Benz hit a 3-point to tie the game at 32. The Raiders answered back and reclaimed the lead, 36-34, on a pair of free throws by Alison Schafer. Schafer led all scorers in the game with 17 points.
“We were fortunate to make Schafer work for her points tonight,” Lake Ridge coach Lisa Medvetz said. “We stopped her from getting a clear look at a 3-pointer and we all know if she gets a good look at the basket she’s going to hit it. That was key for us to make her earn every point. We knew we weren’t going to shut her down.”
The Raiders defense held Lake Ridge to only a field goal over the first seven minutes of the game but Columbia was unable to capitalize on the offensive end, missing six of its first eight free throws.
Taylor Napoli, who scored six points in the third quarter as Columbia built a five-point lead, was also in double figures with 10 points.
“This was just a hard fought, physical basketball game between two quality teams,” Columbia coach Tom Thompson said. “We had opportunities to score and we kept attacking the basket. Lake Ridge made some key play down the stretch and that was the difference.”
There were eight lead changes in the game, the second meeting of the year between the teams. Columbia won the regular-season affair 46-32 back in December.
“Our team has had a big growth spurt over the course of the season,” Medvetz said. “We are more mentally prepared to play close games and face quality opponents then we were earlier in the year. Earlier in the year if things started to go south, we would go south with it. Tonight we showed composure down the stretch.”
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
Lake Ridge 39, Columbia 36
LAKE RIDGE (39): Selena Benz 3-2-9, Megan Williams 2-1-5, Abbey Fossen 1-1-3, Rachael Willams 2-0-5, Jaden Carey 1-0-2, Pella Baker 2-1-5, Brianna Kirk 2-0-4, Maria Janasko 3-0-6. Totals 16-5-39.
COLUMBIA (36): Becca Tacchite 1-3-5, Emily Viccarone 0-1-1, Taylor Napoli 5-0-10, Amy Mirecki 0-1-1, Alison Schaefer 6-5-17, Shelby Friedel 1-0-2. Totals 13-10-36.
Lake Ridge 7 12 10 10 — 39
Columbia 4 15 13 4 — 36
Three-point goals: Lake Ridge (R. Willams, Benz). Field goals: Lake Ridge 16-49 (33 percent), Columbia 13-49 (27 percent). Free throws: Lake Ridge 5-14 (36 percent), Columbia 10-19 (53 percent). Rebounds: Lake Ridge 35, Columbia 35. Turnovers: Lake Ridge 30, Columbia 17. Total fouls: Lake Ridge 17, Columbia 16.