TC takes fourth straight

It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t artistic. But it was a win.

Good teams find a way to win, and for the fourth time in a row, Columbian found a way.

After starting out the season 1-5, Columbian has clawed back to the .500 mark after a 45-38 victory over Oak Harbor.

“That’s our kids; they’re gritty,” said Columbian coach Bill Beaston. “They’re going come out, they’re going to work hard, they’re going to play hard and they’re going to find a way. They’ve worked their tails off to get to .500. They’re excited and they’re looking forward to extending it.”

Evening up its record wasn’t easy for Columbian on a night where the defenses reigned supreme. Both teams struggled with their shooting, especially in the first half. Columbian led 5-3 after the first quarter, and 15-12 at halftime despite shooting 27 percent (6 for 22) and missing all eight of its 3-point attempts.

The Tornado defense, however, was causing even more problems for Oak Harbor, as the Rockets went to the locker room shooing 17 percent (4 for 23) and 2 of 14 from behind the 3-point arc.

“We stopped their shooters,” said Columbian’s Cody Daniel. “We always closed out and stayed on our feet most of the game, didn’t jump on their ball fakes.”

“We kept them on the perimeter which is one thing we want to do,” Beaston said. “We watched them on film, they seemed to be a lot better in the paint, so we wanted to keep them out of there. But the big thing was with their 3’s. They got kids that can shoot, but they were all contested. I don’t remember a lot of wide open 3’s tonight. That was important.”

Beaston also pointed to his team’s rebounding edge as a key to the game. Columbian out-rebounded Oak Harbor 42-32, led by Daniel, who hauled in a game-high 12 boards.

“And lastly, we boxed,” Beaston said. “We rebounded the snot out of the ball tonight. They were one-and-done a majority of the time, and when you can do that in high school basketball, you’re going to win a lot of games.”

Beaston said one of the key stretches to the game was coming out of halftime when the Tornadoes posted the half’s first nine points. Included in that run were a pair of field goals from Daniel and two Bryce Lonsway foul shots after a technical foul was called on Oak Harbor coach Eric Sweet.

Columbian extended its lead to 28-18 heading into the fourth.

“Both teams struggled offensively in the first half,” Beaston said. “The big thing we stressed at halftime was that we had to continue to play solid defense, which we did throughout the second half. And then we just talked about getting the ball inside a little bit more. Try to be a little more patient, move the ball a little quicker, find some gaps to get into and get the ball inside. We did that the first four minutes, scored the first nine points and that was the difference in the game.”

However, despite carrying a 17 percent shooting percentage into the final quarter, Oak Harbor was able to give itself a chance to win. In the final quarter alone Oak Harbor exceeded its scoring output from the first three quarters combined, and hit more field goals – 8- than it had so far in the game – 6.

“I’ve been around this game my entire life and that’s the one thing I’ve had instilled in me from day 1, ‘it doesn’t matter the score, you play defense,'” Sweet said. “Because at some point, you’re defense is going to create some offense for you. And we got some offense off our defense tonight. I don’t allow my kids ever to take defense off, because when we struggle offensively, look what happened tonight. We got in the game because we started battling.”

Sweet, though, pointed out two turning points in the final quarter. The first came with Columbian up five and Daniel at the free throw line. He hit his first shot and missed his second, but he was able to grab his own offensive rebound and put it back for two more points.

“Their mistake was not boxing out,” Daniel said. “We actually worked hard and worked for our offensive rebounds. It’s something coach helps us with.”

Soon after, with Columbian still up eight, an intentional foul was called on the Tornadoes. However, Oak Harbor missed both foul shots, then couldn’t convert on its ensuing offensive possession.

Sweet said after a rough first half, he was proud of the way his team responded, but too many plays went against them.

“Horrible first half for us. We played sloppy; we played soft,” he said. “Second half we gave ourselves a chance. I couldn’t ask much more from my guys. Couple big swings, one was the offensive rebound off the free throw putback, and then the intentional foul we got called for us, we go 0 for 2, then we miss an open 3. When you’re shooting 24 percent, and you’re in the game, you’re doing something right, but at some point a shot’s got to go down. Someone has to step up and hit a big shot and nobody stepped up tonight to hit the big shot for us.”

The Rockets (4-5) rallied and get within four on a couple of occasions in the final minutes, but Columbian came up with big stops when it needed to, and hit on 11 of 16 foul shots in the fourth quarter to seal the win.

“We had to fight a little bit on defense,” Daniel said. “We got a lot of stops so that helped us. And then we slowed down their offense towards the end and got our shots up, got our makes in.

“The mindset was that we got to play harder, we got to stop them. Then we got to score before they score on us.”

Daniel recorded a double-double, adding 15 points to his 12 rebounds. Lonsway backed him with 14 points while Josh Flint added 10. A.J. Cecil led Oak Harbor with 13 points, eight coming in the fourth quarter.