Slow starts are no sweat for the Columbia College women’s basketball team.
The Cougars, No. 19 in the NAIA, were outscored early in both halves against Park University on Thursday night, but defeated the Pirates 79-65 at the Arena of Southwell Complex after dominating the final part of each half.
Columbia College (9-4) had trouble finding its rhythm early. The Cougars committed five turnovers in the first six minutes and allowed Park (5-9) to jump out to a 12-6 lead.
Trailing 19-13, Cougars junior Laura Elliott, who averages four points, scored two consecutive baskets, the second on a fastbreak created by a steal. Elliot finished with eight points, four rebounds and three steals.
“It was the first game I felt like I really got in and played,” Elliott said. “I always try to contribute the best I can, but it seemed like I was kind of a sparkplug tonight.”
Elliott’s baskets started a 35-16 run.
“I got in defensively and helped create transition baskets,” she said. “Those steals really helped us get going.”
Forward Charliss Ridley was the star offensively. Her outside shots fell all night, but it was her inside play that tied the game for the Cougars.
With nine minutes left in the first half, Pirate Cheralle Ricks tried to protect her team’s 25-23 lead by playing tight defense, but Ridley made a quick move to the basket for two of her 15 first-half points.
“Charliss is a special player,” Columbia College coach Mike Davis said. “She has the ability to take a player off the dribble like that.”
Ridley finished with 23 points complementing her five steals.
Senior guard Tiffany Foote had eight points, two steals and two assists to add to the run.
The run put the Cougars up 50-35 at halftime, but Park wouldn’t go away.
Park opened the second half on a 13-4 run, shrinking Columbia College’s lead to six points. Katie Cummings, Park’s 6-foot-3 center who shot just 33 percent from the field in the first half, led the rally, scoring six quick points.
Elliott, a transfer from Southwest Illinois Community College, again provided a momentum shifting steal for the Cougars. Her steal started a 12-0 run that put Columbia College up for good.