Having won the last seven meetings against CHS, Columbia Academy (6-1, 2-0 District) built a 24-18 lead in the first half, prior to opening up a 39-26 advantage early in the fourth quarter.
CA then had to withstand a late rally attempt by the Bulldogs (0-7, 0-1 District) that saw Cornersville slice the deficit to three points in the final minute of play before escaping with the seven-point victory.
"I think we're getting better each time we go out on the floor and we're playing hard, but I told them that we need to maintain our intensity for all four quarters," said CHS coach Gerard Randolph. "I'm proud of them for fighting back, but I just wish that we would have started the game with that type of intensity."
Although they committed only 14 turnovers and held a 11-8 edge on the offensive boards, the Bulldogs had trouble finishing in the paint with hulking 6'8" center Andrew Golden anchoring the middle of Columbia Academy's defense and shot just 31 percent (17-of-54) from the floor overall, which included a 4-of-15 effort from three-point range.
"Their center made a big difference. He deflected a lot of shots and forced us to shoot some bad shots. He was definitely a presence," said Randolph.
CA finished with only 15 field goals on 38 percent shooting and made just 3-of-10 attempts from beyond the arc, but knocked down 18-of-25 free throws, which included a 14-of-19 effort in the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs, conversely, attempted only seven foul shots, hitting six.
Golden paced Columbia Academy with 16 points and four blocked shots, while Jackson Cary and Hunter Cary added 11 points apiece.
The Bulldogs inched out to a 9-7 lead late in the first quarter on the strength of seven points from McMahon and a Tate Lowery layup, before CA outscored Cornersville 7-2 over the next 3:46 to pull ahead 14-11 early in the second period.
After McMahon was fouled on a three-point shot and made all three free throws to knot the score at 14-14, Columbia Academy closed the half with a 10-4 spurt to take a 24-18 lead into the break.
The Bulldogs opened the second half with an 8-2 run behind four points from McMahon and a Crowell three to tie the game at 26-26 midway through the third quarter, but CA promptly rattled off 13 straight points with the help of three treys from Hunter Cary to open up a 39-26 advantage early in the fourth period.
Cornersville eventually stemmed Columbia Academy's momentum and outscored CA 11-5 over the next 5:07 thanks to a Crowell trey and four points apiece from Tyler Lowery and McMahon to narrow the gap to 44-37.
Following two foul shots by Jackson Cary, which stretched CA's lead to 46-37, the Bulldogs tallied seven of the next eight points thanks to a Smith three and a pair of McMahon baskets to whittle the deficit to 47-44 with :40 left.
Cornersville, though, was unable to pull any closer, as they came up empty on their final three possessions while Jackson Cary and Jeff Logsdon combined to hit four-of-six free throws down the stretch to seal Columbia Academy's 51-44 win.