For the second straight game, Columbian put a scare into one of the Northern Ohio League's top teams. But shooting struggles proved too much to overcome as Shelby pulled away from the Tornadoes in the fourth quarter for a 46-27 win.
"Again, I'm so proud that our kids keep fighting," Columbian coach Katie Fazekas said. "They fight every game. From a coaching standpoint, that's all I can ask for."
One team came in 12-3, 5-1 in the league. The other, 6-10, 1-5. Yet it was the underdog Tornadoes who raced out to an early lead.
An opening basket by Michaela Miller and 3-point shots from Valesha Province and Jocelyn Cole staked Columbian to an 8-1 lead.
Province added another basket off a Megan Moore assist and Columbian held an 11-9 lead after one quarter.
"I just don't think we came to play," Shelby coach Natalie Lantz said. "Four of my top guards were a little sick, and we came off a little rusty. We didn't step up like we needed to. I told them in the locker room after, that we need to come no matter who, what day it is, we need to come play Shelby basketball."
Shelby began to step it up in the second quarter, finally overtaking the Tornadoes with 5:12 left in the half on a Taylor Fulton basket. Going back into the first quarter, Shelby scored 13 unanswered points.
Meanwhile, shooting woes were catching up with Columbian. The Tornadoes hit just 9 of 46 shots in the game.
"Yeah 19 percent. Some nights you can't hit sand if you fell off a camel, and that was us tonight," Fazekas said. "I thought we got some good shots. Kids played hard. (Shelby) did a good job of taking Jocelyn out of the offense. We made some adjustments. I thought Valesha Province stepped up and had a good game. When you don't shoot well, you're not going to win many games that way."
Province finished with a team-high 13 points.
Shelby grabbed an eight-point lead at halftime and worked the lead to as much as 15 in the third quarter.
"It wasn't one of our better games, but I thought we stepped up second half and played better defense," Lantz said. "We did a better job of communicating, talking on screens, switched when we needed to. I just thought we stepped up a lot better defensively."
Columbian's defense though was playing pretty well itself and kept the Tornadoes in the game into the fourth quarter.
"Defensively I thought we really clamped down on them," Fazekas said. "I thought we took their penetration away which is what we talked about all week. I was pleased defensively, we got some big rebounds. I thought the physicality of the game in the second half really hurt us."
After falling behind 33-18, Province hit a 3-pointer to close out the third quarter and Marissa Ward knocked down a pair of free throws early in the fourth to cut the score to 10. But from there, Shelby embarked on a 13-4 run to finish the game.
The biggest advantage Shelby may have had, literally and figuratively, was Devon Murray. At 6-1, Murray was the tallest girl on the floor and was able to use her size advantage to record game-highs in points (14) and rebounds (11).
"Devon's done a nice job, game by game, stepping up, and when we have a chance to have a size advantage we take it," Lantz said. "She's also not afraid to go up against 6-2, 6-3 girls. She's very athletic and as you can see she's able to play outside defense as well, which is an advantage to us."
"Devon Murray, she's a great player, third leading scorer in the league," Fazekas said. "She does a nice job and (Emma) Hostetler sets her up well; great passer. They got comfortable in that zone. I knew we couldn't match them man-to-man so we had to stay in that zone, but eventually they just whittled the zone."
Murray's primary job on defense was to shadow Cole. Her lanky frame made it hard for TC's sharpshooter to get many good looks at outside shots. The tone was set early in the first quarter when Murray swatted away one of Cole's 3-point attempts.
"We know that Cole's one of the best shooters in the league, she's got a great shooting percentage out there," Lantz said. "We wanted to be able to shut her down and I think Devon did a great job. I think she got in her head right away when she blocked that second 3 that she put up. You could tell she was hesitant the rest of the game with Devon right there on her."