In the semifinals of the 2008-2009 state tournament, Columbia lost to South Atlanta 62-53.
Since then, the Eagles have been untouchable at state.
They’ve won 16 consecutive state-tournament games, and they’ve won the past three state championships.
The latest team that’ll try to slow down the Columbia juggernaut is LaGrange High.
The two teams will square off at 5 p.m. on Saturday in LaGrange High’s gym.
It’ll be the first meeting between the two programs since 2010 when Columbia beat LaGrange 54-46 in the Class AAA state-championship game.
It is a huge opportunity for the Grangers, who beat Madison County on Wednesday in a first-round game.
“This is a fun deal. I want to tell the kids, thank you for putting us in position for all of us to get to do this,” said LaGrange head coach Mike Pauley, who guided the Grangers to the championship game in 2010. “Now let’s do it. Don’t let it go by you.”
Columbia isn’t the same team that won a state championship last season.
The Eagles have a new coach, Kerry Sandifer, and they’ve also had to replace a number of seniors from last year’s team.
The Eagles have still done enough to post a sterling 24-3 record, though.
It helps to have a player like Tahj Shamsid-Deen, a 5-foot-9 guard who is averaging nearly 26 points per game.
During the 2010 championship game, Shamsid-Deen was a freshman starter.
“Their offensive quickness is phenomenal,” Pauley said. “Their guard play and quickness is just out of sight.”
Pauley also said the Eagles have a stifling defense, as evidenced by the second half of a first-round playoff victory against Gilmer County.
It was a close game at the half, but Columbia gave up just seven points in the second half.
“I don’t care who you are, you hold a team that’s in the state tournament to seven points in 16 minutes, that’s kind of amazing,” Pauley said.
It’s a daunting challenge, but the Grangers come in riding high.
LaGrange (22-6) has won eight straight games, including a 66-45 victory over Madison County in the first round of the state tournament.
“We’ve started to formulate a game plan that we think is a good game plan for them,” Pauley said. “Part of that is what we’ve been doing the past eight games. They need to know they can do it. We’re fired up.”