Columbian rallies to win thriller

SANDUSKY – With 4:45 left in regulation, Columbian was looking at another Northern Ohio League loss.

Mike Belk converted a layup, and Sandusky extended its lead to 56-45. Making sound passes and continually finding the open man for a basket, it looked all but certain that the Streaks – who, like the Tornadoes came in with a 1-7 NOL mark – would take home a comfortable victory.

But that’s not the way Columbian’s players saw it.

“We’ll never put our heads down; we’re fighters,” senior guard Bryce Lonsway said. “We’ll always be ready to fight back.”

Columbian did, on both sides of the ball. They went on an 11-0 run over the final 4:41 to tie the game at 56 and force overtime, then fought off the Streaks in the second extra session for a stunning 71-67 victory.

Columbian has played five conference road games this season. Three have gone to overtime.

“It was a strange game; just the way those kids battled the last four minutes [of regulation]… we continued to get stops, started getting breaks to go our way on the offensive end,” said TC coach Bill Beaston. “We got guys to the rim, got steals, got a couple easy baskets.”

It started innocently enough, with Josh Flint splitting a pair of free throws with 4:41 left to cut the Sandusky advantage to 56-46. But Flint – who scored nine of his 13 points in the fourth quarter – spearheaded a change in momentum that TC never relinquished.

“All year we’ve been having kind of disappointing games,” Flint said after Columbian improved to 7-13 overall. “We know we can do better, so we just keep fighting and never give up.”

Flint followed his free throw with a layup, then hit another pair of foul shots to make it 56-50 with 3:58 left. Another Flint layup made it 56-52, the Donovan Walker brought the Tornadoes within two with his only basket, at the 2:20 mark.

Sandusky turned the ball over five times in the final quarter to aid the Columbian comeback, which Cody Daniel capped with a layup with 56 seconds left to tie things at 56.

While each team had chances to win in the final minute, neither team scored and the game continued.

In the first overtime, with the game tied at 58, Ryan Lynch stole a Sandusky pass and converted a transition basket to put TC up by two with 1:34 remaining.

But Sandusky scored four straight points in free throws, and held a 62-60 edge with 25 seconds left.

Daniel – who scored five points to go with nine rebounds – was then able to break through the Sandusky defense with 11 seconds left and convert tie the game again.

On the ensuing Sandusky possession, Davion Fisher was fouled with three seconds showing. He went to the line, but only for a 1-and-1 opportunity.

Fisher missed the front end, and the teams went to a second OT.

“We’ve been in this situation before a couple of times this year, and we knew what we needed to do,” said Columbian’s Derek Dryfuse, who punished the Streaks with 22 points and 11 rebounds.

Dryfuse broke the tie with a free throw, and his layup at the 2:11 mark put Columbian up, 65-64.

The teams then took turns splitting a pair of free throws, and Columbian held a 66-65 edge. Sandusky’s Dominic Kirkwood gave Sandusky the lead again with a driving basket at 1:17, but Flint answered right back with a nifty move for a layup and a 68-67 TC edge.

After a Columbian stop, Lonsway was fouled with 41 seconds left. The senior, who has been on a roll of late, kept it going by making both free throws and putting his team up three, 70-67.

On Sandusky’s possession, Kirkwood worked his way to the left wing and got a good look at tying the game. His shot appeared halfway down before rattling out with 18 ticks left.

“It’s been a lot of times in those situations the ball hasn’t bounced our way,” Beaston said. “We’ve played well and we’ve executed, and teams have just made one more play. Tonight it was us.”

Lonsway, who finished with 19, split a pair of free throws to put the Tornadoes up four.

It ended up being the game’s final point.

Delk had 14 points and nine rebounds for Sandusky (3-17). D’Maja Jordan and Kirkwood had 15 points each.

The game’s biggest basket may have belonged to Flint, whose layup gave TC the edge for good.

“Rewind before that,” Beaston said. “We were making a run. We ran a back-door play for (Flint); he missed the layup. We got a timeout after that, and he was not happy.

“The last thing I said to him was, ‘Smile,'” Beaston said. “And he knows what that means. It means the next play. He gave me a smile, and he was really determined after that.

As it turned out, Flint and his teammates had plenty to be happy about Friday night.