By Tony Maluso
FOSTORIA - There's nothing wrong with running. It's good exercise, helps get you in shape. But you can forgive the Columbian players for not wanting to do any extra running in practice.
The Tornadoes took a six-point lead into the locker rooms Tuesday at Fostoria. That's when coach Bill Beaston laid down a challenge.
"Pretty much we went into the locker room at halftime and we had a solid lead. But he said if we didn't beat them by 20 or 30, we're running in practice," Josh Flint said. "We came out, worked our butts off and we got it."
Technically the win wasn't 20, but many at Columbian won't be complaining about a 75-56 victory over the Redmen.
The first two and a half minutes of the third quarter went a long way in deciding the game. Columbian forced Fostoria into six turnovers while scoring the second half's first 12 points. Donovan Walker was the catalyst, coming up with three steals and scoring all nine of his points in that spurt.
Walker also said the idea of extra running didn't appeal to him, but once his team got going, the Columbian Tornadoes turned into the Columbian Sharks.
"(Beaston) said if we didn't go hard we're running tomorrow and no one wanted to," he said. "After that timeout when I got the three steals he said, 'you guys smell that blood, we're like sharks. Keep going, keep going.' And we just kept going."
Fostoria got a basket from Tony Mauricio to halt the initial run, but Columbian smelled the blood in the water and the Sharks went after it.
When the third quarter finally ended, Columbian had hit on 9 of 12 shots and outscored the Redmen 24-8 in the period.
Beaston said the halftime talk was focuses more on the offensive end, but the increased defensive intensity was a pleasant surprise.
"We talked a lot of offense at halftime," he said. "We had some silly turnovers in the first half, just positioning. A little bit lazy on the passing, they weren't quite as crisp as we wanted. Our positioning was off. ... It turned out I challenged them a little bit to respond to the environment and they came out guns a blazin'. We didn't have to run a half-court offense. We did a good job in the press, really did a good job turning them over and did an awesome job converting. That's been a struggle for us this year, but we did a great job of taking their turnovers, converting them to points and making them pay."
For Fostoria coach Rick Renz, it's a scene he's seen repeated too many times.
"It's frustrating because we are repeating the same mistakes," he said. "We've had bad third quarters on a repeated basis. We talked about it at halftime. It came down to the fact that we just would not execute our press breaker at the start of the third quarter. We coughed up the ball several times and it went from a six-point deficit to 17 in about a minute and a half because we didn't execute what we did in the first half that was successful."
What was successful for Fostoria was shooting from beyond the 3-point arc, even though that's far from the team's forte. The Redmen knocked down four 3-pointers in the first quarter and went up 16-8, but Columbian quickly responded.
"We started in more of a zone. It was (Dominique Fuller) that killed us on the 3s," Flint said. "We switched it up to man and he wasn't that big of a problem, but he's a good shooter."
Beaston said he was confident Fostoria's hot shooting wouldn't last.
"We watched enough film on them, we haven't seen them shoot like that all year," he said. "We didn't press, we didn't scream and holler. It was just a matter of weathering the storm. We stayed the course on offense. We chipped away and chipped away. You can tell we were in a comfort zone. We felt good about things coming back our way."
Renz said the early hot shooting turned out to be to the detriment of the team.
"What it came down to is, we're not a good 3-point shooting team," he said. "We knocked down (four) 3s there early in the first quarter and we had the defense coming out at us. And instead of attacking the rim at that point, which is what you should do, we decided to keep on shooting 3s."
Fuller led Fostoria (2-15) with a game-high 19 points while Adonis Cousin chipped in 14.
Columbian meanwhile had a balanced attack. Four of the five Tornado starters scored in double figures with Walker finishing one point shy of being the fifth.
"Our team, we're all great athletes," Walker said. "We're tall, athletic, fast. We go all out, all around, never give up, fight hard."
Derek Dryfuse led Columbian (6-11) with 15, Bryce Lonsway had 13 while Flint and Cody Daniel each tallied 11. Connor Conley came off the bench to become the fifth Tornado scoring in double figures with all 13 of his points coming in the second half.
"You get that kind of balance, it's fun basketball," Beaston said. "That feeds everything else. It's fun to play defense then, it's fun to encourage your guys on the bench, it's fun to go rebound and do all the little things that maybe sometimes you don't want to do."
And for the players, the most fun part may be that extra running might not be necessary.