UPPER SANDUSKY - During the first quarter, when Columbian was in total control, the student section broke out with a rendition of "Silent Night" directed at the speechless Upper Sandusky students.
They simply didn't have anything to cheer about.
By the end of the game, there was plenty for them to cheer about.
They sang their own song, a rendition of the school's alma mater locked arm-in-arm with the team, after Upper Sandusky rallied for a 38-32 win.
You couldn't blame the Columbian students for their confidence. The Tornadoes scored the game's first 12 points while out-rebounding Upper Sandusky 10-1. Columbian led 14-2 at the end of the first.
"I'm just like 'OK, I wonder when we're going to wake up,'" Upper Sandusky coach Shane Adams said. "I brought them back in, it's a Thursday night, we're out of rhythm. ... We had nothing. It was like looking into a bunch of zombies in the huddle. I was looking for people to bring any energy in there. We had two points, the crowd goes crazy when we scored with like a minute left.
"They just had to wake up. I don't how to else say it, they were dead. They weren't executing; they weren't focused. That's my fault, I guess. You try everything as coaches to get them woken up, but at some point they got to want to play and they got to come out and do it."
And they did it.
It started with Joe Reile knocking down a pair of 3-pointers in the second quarter to breath some life into the Rams, although it didn't do much damage to the scoreboard as his team still trailed 21-10 at halftime.
Coming out in the second half, the teams switched rolls. Upper Sandusky got hot and Columbian, after shooting 10 of 19 in the first 16 minutes, went cold.
"Offensively, we got away from the game plan," said Tornado coach Bill Beaston. "We wanted to get the ball inside. I thought we did a great job of feeding our posts in the first half. I thought we did a good job of moving the ball on the perimeter and freeing up some lanes for our guards to get to the rim. And we went away from that in the second half for whatever reason. We're going to watch some film; we're going to fix that."
Maybe it shouldn't have been a surprise that 50-percent 3-point shooter Trent Howard sparked Upper Sandusky in the third quarter. However, with that 50 percent mark consisting of one make in two attempts, he likely wasn't going to be the top choice to lead a resurgence.
Then one 3-pointer fell.
Then a third.
With three long range shots, Howard brought the life into the team his coach was looking for.
Reile added a trifecta at the end of the period as the Rams clawed within 25-22 going into the fourth.
"We started off slow, but in the second half, one hit and we just got some confidence rolling," Reile said. "And then we pride ourselves on our defense. We set in, kept getting stops, then our shots just kept falling."
"Some of that was our defensive rotation," Beaston said of his team's problems stopping the outside shot. "Coming out on the third quarter, we were a little more flatfooted, hands at the sides instead of rotating quickly and rushing their shots. I thought we did a good job of that in the first half. I thought all their 3's were rushed and contested. I think that's why their shooting percentage was what it was in the first half."
After hitting just 2 of 7 3-point shots in the first half, Upper Sandusky connected on 7 of 12 in the second. Adams said it was in response to Columbian's zone defense denying his team what it wanted to do.
"We really were trying to work to get shots inside that zone, but it was so packed in," he said. "Joe was so tentative because we were looking to get inside and I finally just looked at him and I said 'you can't think about it. You got to pull the trigger when it's open and knock it down'. Trent kind of took that upon himself and then hit some, and then the confidence started then our defense stepped up."
Upper Sandusky's offense was starting to heat up. The defense was starting to shut down Columbian. And in the fourth quarter, the final aspect of the game started going Upper Sandusky's way.
Despite being out-rebounded 23-13 through three quarters, the Rams started crashing the offensive glass and it was paying off.
Carson Mittermaier hauled in a teammate's missed shot and put it back it to get the Rams within one. Later in the period, Howard grabbed an offensive rebound and dished it to Stuart Young who knocked down a 3-pointer to give Upper Sandusky its first lead at 27-25 with 5:13 to play.
After the game, Reile praised the play of the Ram post players.
"Carson, our freshman, he did a great job, he's really starting to grow. I'm so proud of him," he said. "Stu coming back, that's a huge help. They just did their job; they boxed out. I don't know that they gave up more than one or two offensive rebounds."
Columbian tied the game back up on a basket by Derek Dryfuse, but the next time down the floor, Cody Clifford knocked down a 3-pointer in the corner to put the Rams up 30-27.
Reile followed with another trifecta and went 4 for 4 from the foul line down the stretch to seal the win.
Nine of Upper Sandusky's 12 made field goals came from behind the 3-point arc. Reile's 16 points led all scorers as his team improved to 6-4.
Bryce Lonsway led Columbian (5-6) with 11.