COLUMBIA 57, WESTOVER 55 (BOYS)

Columbia took its final possession with 51 seconds remaining after No. 5 Westover tied the score 55-55 on a three-point play by Mike Green. The Eagles called a timeout with 43 seconds left and then put the ball in the hands of guard Anthony Rice.

He dribbled into the lane with less than 5 seconds remaining, but his layup was blocked by MJ Vangure.

Puckett, who finished with a game-high 17 points, was there to grab the deflection on the right side of the basket and put it in as the horn sounded.

“The main thing I wanted to do was to make sure we got the last shot, to make sure that at the very least we go overtime,” Columbia coach Kerry Sandifer said.

“I looked at them to see if they looked like they’re sure what to do, and I thought they looked a little shaky, so I called a timeout. I wanted to make sure that we took care of the ball and at least got the last shot, and it turned out right.”

Columbia (28-4), which is making its fifth consecutive trip to the state championship game, will try to win its sixth state title when it plays at 8:45 p.m. Thursday in Macon.

Columbia lost to Eagle’s Landing in last year’s final, ending a streak of three consecutive titles.

The buzzer-beating finish was fitting for a game that was close throughout. Columbia took the biggest lead of the game when Nick Singleton’s jumper put the Eagles ahead 29-21 with 2:08 to play in the second quarter.

Westover scored the final four points of the half and the first four of the third quarter to tie the score at 29. Westover never led by more than two points, and the Patriots’ final lead was 49-48 on a jumper by Robinson with 2:47 to play.

Rice scored 11 points, and Maurice Rivers added 10 for the Eagles.

Westover (23-6), which was trying to reach the state final for the first time since 2009, was led in scoring by Jordan Flyod with 12 and Dunavon Robinson with 10.

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