Shelby's Lucas Bihl had a hot hand Friday night. Bihl had already hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer before halftime when he sank another trifecta in the closing seconds of the third quarter. Bihl had stretched out the Whippets' lead over Columbian and gave his team some momentum heading into the fourth.
The only problem was, that basket would be the last one he, or any Shelby player would hit for seven and a half minutes.
Meanwhile, Columbian was fighting back.
With each Shelby turnover or missed shot, momentum began switching sides and it was only a matter of time before the scoreboard followed.
The Tornado defense shut Shelby down while the offense got enough good looks inside to rally past the Whippets for a 55-50 win.
"I love this group because they're so competitive," Columbian coach Bill Beaston said. "Regardless of score, regardless of the game, they're going to compete. In the second half, they were so fundamental and so solid offensively. We got good shots and kept chipping away, and chipping away, and building off that. Just an unbelievable team victory."
"The whole game we were kind of struggling on defense. That's what we really focused on," Columbian's Derek Dryfuse added. "We played our hardest and tried to contain our own guy with man-to-man defense. We knew we had to do it. We didn't do it the whole game, but when we needed to we stepped it up in the fourth quarter."
Down 48-41, Cody Daniel got the first basket to get Columbian going in the fourth. Layups from Josh Flint and Donovan Walker followed, then Dryfuse got one to fall to give Columbian its first lead since early in the first quarter.
"The fourth quarter, it, I think, really became a grind, which favored Tiffin," Shelby coach Troy Schwemley said. "They started to get the ball inside. I think Dryfuse and Daniel, they seemed like they finally got some point-blank shots in the paint."
Shelby had success from behind the 3-point arc for the first three quarters, hitting 7 of 18 shots, but Schwemley said his team was settling too much for outside shots
"Even though we were hitting some 3s, we still got to attack the basket," he said. "We started settling and standing on the perimeter rather than being strong and attacking the basket. Granted, those are great momentum plays, but you still got to then get to the paint. How many free throws did we shoot? We shot four free throws. So that tells you we weren't being aggressive in terms of taking the ball to the hoop."
The outside shot did stake Shelby to its lead. Davey Hipp knocked down a pair of trifectas in the first quarter as the Whippets held a 19-15 lead.
Bihl took over starting in the second. He scored seven in the second and eight in the third to lead Shelby with 15 on the night. But, the more the game wore on, the tougher Columbian's defense got culminating it Shelby's two-point fourth quarter.
"We got of to a little bit of a slow start," Beaston said. "Credit to Shelby, they came out shot really well in the first quarter. I didn't think we defended the 3-point line very well in the first half, and like I said, credit to them, they made us pay for that. Last three quarters we were very solid defensively. As each quarter went on, we gambled less and said 'we're just going to stay solid. We're going to trust the team defense.' To put up a two-point fourth quarter defensively, that's awesome."
"You give credit to Tiffin's defense. They really wore us out," Schwemley said. "As the game wore on, I think the grind of it favored them for that fourth quarter. I think their defense, as the game became a grind it kind of that favored them. Credit them for sticking to their game plan, they didn't panic. They took off the press and I think that might've been a difference too. That allowed us to get some open looks and they didn't go back to it. They stuck with 'let's just grind it out and turn the game into a grind' and I think that was a nice job by Tiffin and coach Beaston. In the fourth quarter, they did what they had to do to win.
While Dryfuse led Columbian's offense with 19, Beaston said his point total may have overshadowed his junior's defensive effort shutting down Shelby's Tristan Kehres. Kehres had eight points by halftime, but only two the rest of the night.
"What gets lost in the hole thing, he manned up on the Kehres kid the whole game, held him to 10 points and he came in averaging 19."
Dryfuse said the difference from the first quarter to the fourth was simply not trying to do too much.
"We were a little slow, we were gambling," he said of his team's defense early in the night. "We just knew we needed to be solid, not try to hard to be the hero and guard our man the best we could."