Cougars top Flagler in thriller - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Cougars top Flagler in thriller

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ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Senior guard Idell Bell took over a game that saw 16 lead changes for Columbus State scoring nine of the team's final 10 points as the Cougars defeated Flagler 80-74 on Monday afternoon in Peach Belt Conference play. The game took place in Flagler Gymnasium in St. Augustine, FL.

"I'm so glad that Idell Bell is a Columbus State Cougar," said head coach Robert Moore. "He is a leader on and off the court for us and he stepped up today when we needed him the most."

With the game tied at 70 with a little more than four minutes to go, Flagler's Matt Conway took a three-point shot but missed and CSU's Jahmad Saleem corralled the rebound. Running up the court, Saleem found Bell on the right side of the floor. Using a spin move, Bell got around the defender and finished the play off with a lay-up to give CSU the lead.

On the following possession, Jermaine Morgan stole a pass and Bell capped the momentum swinging play off with a three-point basket.

The Saints didn't go away quietly however cutting the deficit to 76-74 on an Ante Gospic hook shot with 50 seconds remaining in the game.

Needing a basket to put the game away, BJ Battle went up for a three but missed it and the rebound went long. Bell, fighting for the board, was fouled by FC's Jarrod Branco resulting in a pair of free throws for the senior. Bell calmly hit both and later iced the game with two more from the charity stripe.

Bell finished the night with 16 points, 13 of which game in the second half. The Lakeland, FL native was 4-of-5 from the field including going a perfect 3-for-3 from three-point range.

"When you are on a three-game losing streak its desperation time," said Moore. "We needed this win with three home games coming up."

Both teams came out hot shooting the ball scoring a combined 15 points with just two and a half minutes off the clock.

With FC holding a 8-7 lead, Conway and Clark hit back-to-back three's to give the Saints a 14-7 advantage with 16:23 left in the first. The seven-point lead was the largest of the game for the home team.

Like they did all game long, the Cougars fought back going on a 10-2 run to regain the lead at 17-16 on a Nick Turner trifecta with 14:01 showing on the clock. Saleem had a big hand in the spurt scoring seven points including completing a three-point play after being fouled on a lay-up attempt.

From that point on until the final minute of the half no team had a larger lead than four points as the two sides exchanged blows.

With CSU holding a five point lead in the final minute, Flagler scored the half's final six points to take a 40-39 lead into the break. Clark hit a three with 36 seconds left on the clock while Ryan Barnes drained a shot from beyond the arc as time was expiring.

The second half was much of the same as neither team ran away with the game.

After a Gospic free throw that tied the score at 44 with 18:31 showing on the clock, the Cougars used a 9-2 run to jump out in front 53-46 with 12:07 left to play. BJ Battle fueled the spurt with six points including a three-point basket.

However, the Saints came right back at Columbus State and eventually retook a four-point lead on a Clark lay-up with 9:04 to play.

On the following possession, Adam McLeod connected on a three and after a missed three by FC, McLeod hit another one from downtown to put the lead back into the Cougars' hands at 63-62 with 8:57 left in the game.

Neither team would get ahead by more than four until Bell's three at the 3:31 mark.

The win snapped CSU's three-game losing streak and also Flagler's four-game winning streak.

Jahmad Saleem scored 14 points while Jermaine Morgan and Rory Miller each chipped in with 11 to go with Bell's 16.  Nick Turner also scored a season high seven points while dishing out seven assists.

For the game, the Cougars shot 41.5 percent (27-for-65) from the floor while going 7-for-19 from three-point range.

Flagler was lead by Matt Conway who scored a game high 19 points. Conway was 7-for-12 from the field and made five three-point buckets. Matt Clark and Ante Gospic scored 16 and 11 points, respectively.

The Saints shot 46.9 percent (34-for-49) from the field and a sizzling 48.1 percent (13-for-27) from three. The 13 made three-point baskets were the most allowed by the Cougars this season. 

Columbus State will return home to begin a three-game homestand on Thursday, January 24 facing off against Montevallo. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. inside the Lumpkin Center.

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