GREENWOOD – In a game which featured five players scoring 20 points or more, the Lander Bearcats outscored Columbus State 18-7 over the final five minutes for an 87-76 Peach Belt Conference victory Saturday afternoon in front of 1,091 fans at Horne Arena for Homecoming. Chelsea Mitchell led Lander with a double-double, scoring 25 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.
Lander improved to 18-5 overall and 13-4 in the Peach Belt.
The Cougars fell to 13-8, 11-6.
The game was tied seven times from late in the third quarter through the middle of the fourth.
"We knew that we had a very good opponent coming in here today," said head coach Kevin Pederson. "So many people stepped up for us today and made big shots. Chelsea Mitchell is making a huge push for player of the year in our conference. I think she's winning over a lot of coaches."
Mitchell scored 18 of her 25 points in the first half but had a big three-point play that stretched Lander's lead to seven points with just over two minutes left in the game.
Breshay Johnson added 20 points for the Bearcats on eight of 10 shooting from the floor. The senior scored nine points in the third quarter and only needs four points now to surpass Shannon McKever as Lander's all-time leading scorer. That could happen Monday night when the Bearcats hosts Georgia Southwestern.
Jessica Harris also scored 20 points for Lander while leading the team with seven assists. Harris made 12 of 16 free throws.
Christal Williams added 10 points for the Bearcats, including a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter. They were Lander's only made 3s of the game as the team was two for 19 from behind the arc (11 percent).
The Bearcats made 27 of 34 free throws (79 percent) and forced 24 Columbus turnovers.
Machala Raymonville and Tatiana Wayne had huge games for the Cougars, scoring 56 of the team's 76 points.
Raymonville scored 29 points while also leading Columbus State with nine rebounds.
Wayne added 27 points, including 15 points in a big third quarter when she was 5-for-5 from the floor and four of four from the line.
The Bearcats snapped a four-game losing skid against Columbus State and beat the Cougars at Horne Arena for the first time since Jan. 21, 2012.
Jasmine Herndon's basket gave Columbus State a 13-8 lead with three minutes left in the opening period. But Mitchell went on a tear, closing the first quarter with 10 unanswered points at the start of a 14-0 team run.
Mitchell scored three baskets off assists from Harris, with one of those leading to a three-point play. She also had a steal and layup as her run gave the Bearcats an 18-13 lead after one quarter. Mitchell had 14 of Lander's 18 points.
Mitchell opened the second quarter by stretching her personal run of points to 12 with a pair of free throws, and Harris completed the 14-0 Bearcats streak with a layup and a 22-13 lead.
Columbus State went on a 6-0 run to close the gap and eventually climbed within a point, 26-25, with four minutes left in the half on Raymonville's put-back after Wayne's steal and missed layup.
Johnson caught a high pass in the paint, converted a difficult layup as she was falling down and completed a three-point play to give Lander a 33-27 lead with 2:16 to go.
The Bearcats built their lead back to nine before settling for a 38-31 halftime advantage.
Raymonville's second 3-pointer of the third quarter and Wayne's layup off a turnover pulled the Cougars within 46-45 with 5:37 to go. Columbus State took its first lead since the opening quarter on Wayne's steal and contested layup, making it 52-51 at the 3:16 mark.
The teams battled evenly over the rest of the third quarter and it was tied at 63 going into the fourth.
The back-and-forth trend continued into the final period with Johnson's reverse layup knotting the game at 67-all at the seven-minute mark and another Johnson basket off the glass tying it at 69 with 5:46 left. The game was tied at 56, 59, 61, 63, 65, 67 and 69.
Lander finally broke the tie on Harris' two free throws with 4:52 left and Destinee Langford's driving basket, giving the hosts a 73-69 advantage with 4:30 to go.
After a Cougars turnover, Mitchell drove to the basket and scored, was fouled and converted the three-point play for a 79-72 lead with 2:19 left.
After five consecutive Columbus State missed shots, Harris got a defensive rebound, was immediately fouled and made one of two free throws making it 80-72 with 1:02 to go.
Down 86-76 with 5.7 seconds left, the Cougars called a timeout. They had no timeouts left so Lander was awarded two technical free throws. Mitchell made one of two to end the scoring.