Columbian offense goes cold in fourth quarter

One moment, they had it all. And then the next moment, a devastatingly long moment, they had virtually nothing.

And so an especially frustrating run continues for Columbian’s boys basketball team. The Tornadoes endured another disappointment Saturday night when they went the final 10:08 without a field goal. That allowed visiting Margaretta to go on a 20-1 run, rally from 10 points down and pull out a 49-40 win.

“We’ve got great young men and we’re just blessed to be able to keep battling, keep fighting,” Margaretta coach Steve Keller said after his team evened its record at 7-7. The Polar Bears recently ended a five-game losing streak and have now won four straight.

“We were on the ropes at one time and now we’re really coming together and really playing well,” Keller said. “I’m just really excited to have a good weekend on the road. We had a buzzer-beater Friday (54-51 over Willard) and then to come back like we did tonight shows a lot of character.”

Through the first half, neither team led by more than six as Columbian ultimately took a 26-24 edge into the break. It was still a two-point game, 31-29, midway through the third before a quick burst had the Tornado ranks rocking.

First LJ Reaves knocked down a 3-pointer off a Braden Brown pass. Then Brown worked in the lane for a short jumper before Riley Sendelbach’s pass found Reaves for another 3-pointer. Both long balls came on inbound lobs that were redirected to Reaves and Columbian suddenly had a 39-29 lead with 2:08 left in the third period.

But the Tornadoes didn’t get another field goal the rest of the night as their final eight shots bounced off the mark.

Meanwhile, the Polar Bears were suddenly rolling.

They only managed to put up five shots in the third period, but four were makes, including Brycetyn Hedden’s drive and Bailey Kimberlin’s transition layup to the trim the margin to 39-33 to start the fourth.

And what a fourth.

Dylan Morris, who led Margaretta with 16 points, canned a 3-pointer and Nick Leibaucher hit a short jumper in the lane. When Morris, who scored 10 in the stretch run, hit a shot from the right elbow with 4:38 left, it gave the Polar Bears their first lead since midway through the first period.

Collin Lane’s 3-pointer at the four-minute mark sealed the lead. Sendelbach split a pair of free throws with 3:20 left, but that was the last of the scoring for Columbian.

“We went a couple possessions without getting that basket that we needed,” Columbian coach Travis Kinn said after his club fell to 2-12. “Especially late in the game, each basket means so much and every possession is so important and we just couldn’t get one to go down.

“We had a couple almost go — Braden Brown had a 3-pointer that just rimmed out and we had another one roll around the rim and fall out,” Kinn said. “If those go, who knows? Maybe we feel little more confident and knock some others down.”

The tough finish spoiled an outstanding night for the freshman, Reaves, who hit six 3-pointers and led Columbian with 20 points. Brown added nine and Sendelbach had seven.

“Number one, Nick Leibaucher (14 points) did an excellent job on (Reaves) in the second half,” Keller said. “(Reaves) is going to be a nice player. I believe he is a freshman who just got moved up. He played very well for them.

“Secondly, I just thought we hit some really big shots,” he said. “Collin Lane hit a big 3 and Dylan Moore hit a big 3. We had guys step up and make plays.”

So, too, did the Tornadoes, especially Reaves. The 5-foot-9 guard had 11 of his team’s first 19 points and hit three 3-pointers when Columbian stretched its lead in the third period.

“He’s a very coachable kid, a very humble kid,” Kinn said. “He’s done a tremendous job for us.

“The older guys have really taken him under their wing and allowed him to grow,” he said. “Clayton Nominee especially has been tremendous, helping him learn offensive stuff and defensive stuff. That’s important for a freshman coming up and playing with older guys. That can be difficult, uncomfortable at times. The older guys have really taken him in.”

Meanwhile the Tornadoes press on in their attempt to get back on the winning side. Saturday night’s loss was their ninth straight since a 51-49 win over Bowling Green Dec. 16.

“We’re hoping to get one to fall our way,” Kinn said. “We’ll keep fighting until it does.”

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