Columbian gets in too deep

Basketball is a four-quarter game, but one bad one can be enough to lead to a loss.

Shelby outscored Columbian 16-6 in the second period, taking a 16-point halftime lead. Columbian spent most of the second half battling back, but the hole was just too deep to climb out of. The Whippets held of a late Tornado rally to claim a 59-49 victory.

Shelby’s lead swelled to 20 in the third quarter before Columbian began to rally. The Tornadoes trimmed the deficit to 13 entering the fourth quarter where they got as close as eight, but couldn’t get over the hump.

“Our kids battled in the second half and played real hard. That’s what our kids do. They’re gutty, they’re going to go hard ’til the end,” Columbian coach Bill Beaston said. “You base the game plan off stats and what you see on film. We were content to let those guys shoot in the first half, and credit to them, they knocked them down. We adjusted at halftime, did something different. I thought our kids responded and played better in the second half.”

Grant Fenner was primarily responsible for staking Shelby to its early advantage, scoring 15 of his 19 points in the first half. But he wasn’t alone as the Whippets hit six 3-pointers in the opening half to pull ahead.

Lucas Bihl came off the bench to knock down a pair of 3-pointers late in the second quarter as the Whippets scored the half’s final 10 points to pull away.

“We talked about, before the game, embracing whatever your role is,” Shelby coach Troy Schwemley said. “Lucas Bihl is a good 3-point shooter and those two 3s were big. That’s six points and it also gives us another perimeter threat. Tristan (Kehres) even hit one tonight. We got balanced scoring. We had two guys in double figures, but we got balanced scoring from a lot of different guys. Those are critical baskets.”

As good as some of his players were shooting, Schwemley pointed out his team’s defensive effort in the second quarter as the main reason the Whippets were able to build up the lead.

“I thought the key was our first half defense, to hold a team to 19 points,” he said. “We were being aggressive offensively. They did a nice job triangle-and-twoing us to start the game, matching up on Austin Rhode and Grant Fenner. I thought we made a lot of hustle plays that made that become an issue. … I thought the first half, and those hustle plays were critical for us.”

“Second quarter was big, we only scored six points. That hurt,” Beastson said. “We weren’t as aggressive, we weren’t as precise on our cuts, we weren’t as strong with our screens as we were in the first quarter. So opposed to open looks, they were maybe a little bit contested.”

Columbian’s adjustments kept Fenner off the scorebook in the third quarter, and kept anyone from Shelby from sinking an outside shot.

The Whippets were able to work the lead to 20 at 45-25 before Columbian began its comeback with Connor Conley coming off the bench to lead the charge. Columbian ended the period on a 9-2 run. Conley scored seven in the quarter including a late basket that trimmed to lead to 47-34.

Conley finished the game with a team-high 14 points and shared the team-high in rebounds with Cody Daniel with seven.

“Conner had his best game of the year,” Beaston said. “He was phenomenal on offense. The big thing was though, he had to play in the post. He was matched up against guys that were bigger and stronger than him, and he was out-rebounding them. I thought he played excellent tonight.”

Columbian (5-9, 1-5 Northern Ohio League) spent the fourth quarter chipping away at Shelby’s advantage. Josh Flint knocked down a 3-pointer and Conley scored off an Alec Demith assist to get within 10 at 52-42 with 1:50 left.

Donovan Walker hit a 3-pointer with 40.5 seconds left that got Columbian within eight, but Shelby’s foul shooting down the stretch sealed the win. The Whippets (9-5, 5-2) went 8 for 10 from the foul line in the quarter.

“Good thing was we had a comfortable enough lead that it seemed like we at least answered their run and we we were still up about eight points,” Schwemley said. “That’s hard when you have a little run then you look at the score and you’re still down eight. I thought that was critical that we at least held them and not let the game get too close.”