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  • Veronica Minervino

Coach Andrew, Coach Jorge and the Entire Columbus Team Making 3-PEAT HISTORY!!

"Columbus caps 7A three-peat with overtime thriller over Oak Ridge"

LAKELAND, FLORIDA- Trailing Oak Ridge 57-55 with less than 30 seconds remaining in the game, someone for Columbus needed to make a play. 

To secure an overtime session and keep the Explorers' three-peat state title hopes alive, there's one player Columbus looks to make a clutch play. That someone was junior star forward Cameron Boozer. 

The 6-foot-10 forward slammed home the tying basket to send the game into overtime, where Columbus outlasted Oak Ridge 72-67 in the Class 7A state championship Saturday night at the RP Funding Center.  

"We talked about getting to the rim. I made a play, got to the rim, lane opened up and dunked it," Boozer said about the tying basket to send the game to overtime. "We fought in overtime to get that win."

What ended up transpiring after Boozer's dunk was a near make on a deep 3-point attempt by Oak Ridge's Jalen Reece. 

The junior point guard chucked up a 3-point shot that rimmed in and out, leaving the game tied at 57 and headed to extra time. "I was nervous," Cayden Boozer said about Reece's missed shot. "It looked really good. (Jalen Reece) is a really good player. I was just really nervous. I thought it was going to go in."

From building a seemingly insurmountable 16-point lead to nearly losing the game was the roller coaster ride Columbus (27-4) went on. The Explorers throughout the first half seemed to be in control and only trailed once in the early minutes. 

After having a 14-8 lead through one quarter, the Explorers continued adding to their advantage throughout the second. By the latter half of the quarter, Columbus was up double digits and momentum was on its side. Columbus looked to be running away with things in the third quarter, leading by as many as 16 with a 39-23 lead at one point. Oak Ridge (27-4) slowly began chipping away at the deficit. 

The spark plug in the third quarter would be 6-foot-6 junior guard Jamier Jones (16 points, four rebounds), who knocked down three 3-pointers during the period. Multiple times the Pioneers climbed to within three points of the Explorers, but couldn't regain the lead. They would get one last crack at it in the fourth quarter. 

Oak Ridge traded basket for basket throughout the final period, getting to within one point several times. In the final minute, though, the Pioneers would take a 56-55 lead.

Jordan Tillery (16 points, 13 rebounds, five assists) had an opportunity to make it a three point game going to the line with 16.7 seconds to go. Tillery would go 1-of-2 from the line, giving Oak Ridge a 57-55 lead. That paved the way for Boozer's tying basket.

In the overtime session, it became a flurry of free throw attempts on each side as foul problems started arising on each side. Columbus finished 19-of-22 from the charity stripe compared to Oak Ridge ending 14-of-24. It ended up becoming the difference in the last four minutes of the Florida high school basketball season. 

Cameron Boozer led all scorers with 24 points, 11 rebounds and brother Cayden finished with 16, nine boards and five assists. 

"We just talked about attitude," Cayden Boozer said about heading into the overtime session. "Staying focused on the game. (Oak Ridge) had a great run at the end, but we just had to stay focused on ourselves and not getting too worried about what just happened. We just ended up playing harder than (Oak Ridge) at the end."

-- Andy Villamarzo | | @sblivefl 

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