Bellevue takes latest chapter in rivalry with Columbian

BELLEVUE – It certainly had a football feel to it.

A number of Columbian students actually dressed in football garb – complete with gold helmets- for TC’s basketball game at Bellevue.

When the football programs met Sept. 28, each was unbeaten, and each was headed to the playoffs.

But that game didn’t live up to expectations, at least from a competitive standpoint. The Tornadoes won handily.

On Friday night, the Tornadoes and Redmen renewed their rivalry, and the fact each team had one conference win between them coming in didn’t dampen it.

“Because both schools don’t like each other,” said Bellevue captain Jalen Santoro, who was the Redmen’s star quarterback in the fall. “Tiffin, Bellevue … football, basketball, whatever. Baseball … it’s always competitive between the two schools. It’s a friendly competition. You want to beat them. They want to beat us.”

Santoro and his team got their way Friday night.

Santoro’s floater with 1.2 seconds left in the second overtime – and his steal of Columbian’s ensuing inbound pass – secured Bellevue’s 64-62 victory.

Santoro had the ball at the end of the first overtime with the score tied, but attempted to kick it out to teammate Charles Dendinger for a would-be wide open 3 on the right side. But the pass went out of bounds.

“This time, I just had my mind on taking it to the basket,” said Santoro, who finished with 34 points.

Columbian’s best chance to win came at the end of regulation. With the game tied at 47 and the clock ticking down, Bryce Lonsway penetrated, drew defenders, then fed the ball inside to a wide open Cody Daniel for a layup. One-and-six-tenths of a second remained.

“It’s a set we’ve run before,” Columbian coach Bill Beaston said. “A lot of times (Lonsway) gets the pull-up, and we told him during the timeout, ‘if they come, your bigs are open.’ He made a great read; Cody made a great catch, and a great finish.”

But Beaston added one more, key point.

“I guess (Bellevue) just had too much time,” he said.

That’s because, after a timeout, Bellevue’s Josh McNeely threw a perfect baseball pass to teammate Trent Stamm, who had gotten behind the Columbian defenders at the elbow. Stamm ended up with an uncontested jumper, which he nailed as time expired to force OT.

“That’s a play that has to be executed perfect for it to work,” Bellevue coach Mike Raifsnider said. “But it’s a play that we practice in practice, and the kids have done before.

“Trent Stamm is basically a receiver, like he is in football,” Raifsnider said. “He made a great catch.”

Beaston said Columbian was trying to prevent something like that.

“We were trying to prevent the baseball pass and keep everything in front,” he said. “And unfortunately they got a guy behind, and they’re football players too, so they know how to throw and catch and execute home run (plays). We didn’t make a play and they did.”

Stamm finished with five points as the Redmen improved to 5-6, 1-4 in the Northern Ohio League.

Columbian was paced by Lonsway’s 17 points, while Daniel and Derek Dryfuse each scored 14. Dryfuse had a team-best eight rebounds.

Columbian (5-8, 1-4) trailed by as many as 11 points early, and was down 17-8 going to the second quarter. In that period, TC outscored the Redmen 13-5 to take a 24-22 lead into the break. From then on, the game was tight.

“I’m just so proud of my kids,” Beaston said. “There was many, many different kinds of adversities that were presented tonight, and for being as young and inexperienced as we are, we answered every single one of them. I know we came up short on the scoreboard, but we answered every one of those challenges.”