For Valesha Province, it was a great way to start off her holiday break, having what her and her coach called the best game of her high school career.
The Columbian sophomore scored a career-high 24 points, but it was three key assists in the fourth quarter that has the Tornadoes heading into holidays happy after rallying to beat Sandusky 59-57.
Province said Saturday's win, coupled with one Thursday against Eastwood, will give her team a boost once the team gets back on the court.
"I was really excited. It just topped off our break," she said. "We were on a little losing streak. These two wins are a really big confidence booster and it's going to get us going."
"I think we definitely earned it," Michaela Miller added. "We worked really hard. I think everyone stepped up tonight."
Columbian fell behind early, then spent the rest of the afternoon chipping away at Sandusky's lead, before powering ahead in the final minutes.
"It was a definite gut-check tonight," said Columbian coach Katie Fazekas. "Defensively we were giving away too many shots and then the fourth quarter we really cranked up the defense and got some big stops. Some kids came up, Michaela Miller came up with some huge points. Valesha was huge from the line."
After seizing the lead in the first quarter, Sandusky held it until 4:39 remained in the game when Province delivered a pass to Miller in the post for a game-tying basket.
Forty-five seconds later, Province fed Jocelyn Cole for a 3-point shot that lifted Columbian to a 50-47 lead, the Tornadoes' first since the score stood 11-9.
Sandusky rallied to tie the game at 54, but once again, Province passed to Cole for another trifecta with 1:34 to play, giving Columbian the lead for good.
"When they over play one person, you got to make sure your teams there behind you," Province said. "The team was really there behind me today. Jocelyn had some key shots, Michaela made shots. Everyone did. It was a total team effort."
Province then sealed the win with two late foul shots.
"The more they play together, (Province) and Jocelyn are really starting to complement each other. That's good to see," Fazekas said. "I wish we had more time with the two of them together, but for this year at least it will be fun to watch them play together."
"It was very disappointing," Sandusky coach Troy Wisehart said. "I felt like we had a real good chance to win this game. We were leading a lot of the game. We just have to learn how to finish. Our girls are very young. I had two freshman and three sophomores out there, and they have to learn how to finish a game off.
"We were up by 11 at one point, and just couldn't finish them off, to their credit. They hit a bunch of 3-pointers. That kept them in the game early. Then we got tight and couldn't score there at the end."
Sandusky grabbed its lead by scoring the final 15 points of the first quarter. Icelene Smith came off the bench to score eight in the frame as the Blue Streaks led 22-11 at the first stop.
Province and Cole keyed the Columbian comeback in the second quarter. Cole knocked down a pair of 3-pointers and Province scored nine in the quarter as the Tornadoes trimmed the lead to 32-28 at the break.
"She has the ability to score," Fazekas said of Province. "She's a good scorer. She puts a lot of work in and it paid off tonight. She picked us up big time."
Province scored five more in the third, Miller added a pair of baskets and Megan Moore converted a steal and fast break layup as Columbian cut the lead to three heading into the fourth.
Columbian also picked up its game on the glass in the second half. Sandusky held a 17-16 rebounding edge at halftime, but Columbian out-rebounded the Blue Streaks 23-12 in the second half.
Province led TC with nine rebounds, Payge Smith grabbed seven and Miller pulled down six.
"We knew we had to box out," Miller said. "They were getting all their shots second time, third time. So boxing out was big tonight."
For Miller, the difference in the game came down to one simple thing.
"Passion," she said. "We want to win and I think we found a way to."
Cole added 14 points for Columbian (4-5, 1-2 Northern Ohio League), Miller chipped in 10 and Smith eight.
Azyah Smith-Crager led Sandusky (0-9, 0-4) with 12 points.