Senior Kenney Gaines once again led the way, freshman Tra’ Tolliver caught fire and Columbia earned a running clock Saturday in a 77-49 victory over Hamilton County at home.
The Tigers have now won 11 straight and boast a 21-2 record, their first 20-win season under sixth-year coach Steve Faulkner. After a shaky start, his team built a 36-point lead against the Trojans in the third quarter.
“I’ll take it. I liked our intensity and effort. I thought we played really hard,” Faulkner said. “They had fun, which is the way we like to play. It’s exciting to run up and down, especially with the athletes we have.”
The Tigers found themselves trailing early after giving up 12 points in the game’s first two and a half minutes, but they held the Trojans to just one point the rest of the quarter and led 20-13 after the first period.
Gaines and Tolliver lit it up from downtown in the second, with both guards hitting a pair of 3-pointers to help Columbia build a 49-26 halftime advantage. Twenty four hours removed from his season-high 25 points against Santa Fe, Gaines led all scorers with 19 points.
Tolliver, who scored 13 points against Hamilton County on Jan. 24, matched that number Saturday and scored nine of his 13 in the second quarter. Tolliver started out the season on JV, but Faulkner quickly moved him up to varsity.
“It was clear he’s too good to play down there,” Faulkner said. “As you can see, he’s a heck of a player. When Tra’ stepped foot on this campus everyone knew how talented he was. What I’m proud of is how much he has matured.
“The last three or four games, he’s kind of been that spark plug for us. And if he can keep that up the rest of the year, it’s certainly going to help us.”
CHS outscored the Trojans 22-9 in the third quarter, with Charleston Ponds connecting on two 3-pointers and finishing with 14 points. Tolliver drained another trey at the end of the period to put the Tigers up by 36 points, 71-35, which started the running clock.
“It felt good,” Tolliver said of his performance. “I’m a Kobe fan, so I did it for him."
Tolliver had one more highlight on Columbia’s first field goal of the fourth quarter. He set up the play and threw a perfect alley-oop pass to D'Andre Jefferson, who slammed it home and sent the crowd into a frenzy.
“They kept asking me for it, so I drew it up for them,” Faulkner said of the dunk. “Tra’ asked me to throw it and he did a great job on the assist.”
Jhebari Martin had a team-high 18 points for Hamilton County (7-14) and Denandre Johnson scored 16, hitting a trio of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter with Columba’s starters out.
The Tigers host Madison County on Friday at 7:30 p.m. The Cowboys have a 16-4 record this season, but lost to CHS at home, 59-37, on Jan. 10.