COLUMBIA — The Columbia College women’s basketball team followed a familiar game plan Friday en route to a 83-66 win over Lyon College: find forward Janairrika Bland in the post and throw her the ball.
The 6-foot-4 sophomore, relying on a deft touch around the rim, scored a game-high 24 points on 10-14 shooting to propel the Cougars (26-6) past third-seeded Lyon (24-8) in the semifinals of the American Midwest Conference tournament.
Time and time again Friday, Bland caught a lob pass from a Cougars guard and converted a basket near the rim, a helpless Scots defender hugging her hip.
“She’s pretty unstoppable most of the time,” Columbia guard Tierney Seifert said. “Every day she amazes me what she can do.”
Bland, along with junior guard Ashley Fisher, who poured in 18 points, helped Columbia convert 29 of the 56 field goals they attempted.
“We shot 52 percent and they shot 39 percent,” coach Mike Davis said after the game. “The looks were different we got, compared to them. If you’re getting better looks, you’re getting a better chance.”
Aqua Corpening, one of three Cougars in double figures, also helped Columbia record 80-plus points for the eighth consecutive game. The junior guard scored 11 points and dished out six assists.
Defensively, Columbia stifled the Scots. By the end of the first half, the Cougars led 41-29, limiting Lyon to 11-33 shooting.
With the win, Columbia advanced to the championship game of the AMC tournament. For the third time this year, Columbia will face Freed-Hardeman (31-1), which defeated William Woods on Friday in the other AMC semifinal game. Columbia will put its four-game winning streak on the line Monday against the top-seeded Lions, who handed Columbia its only two losses in conference play.
“I think we can get a good shot at them,” Seifert said. “We’re really not looking toward the national tournament; we’re looking toward Freed. We need to get that win there really bad.”
The win also guaranteed Columbia one of the AMC's two automatic bids to the NAIA National Tournament from March 15-19 in Frankfort, Ky.
Supervising editor is Wade Livingston.