Right out of the gate Columbian's leading scorer Derek Dryfuse went to work, although it didn't take Marion Harding long to know its job: shut down Dryfuse.
It didn't work. Dryfuse had 20 points, leading Columbian to a 55-44 win.
"They were obviously trying to take him away from the game," said Columbian coach Bill Beaston "There were a lot of times when he had a permanent double team on him."
PHOTO BY JILL GOSCHE
Columbian's Alec Demith guards Marion Harding's Tieran Mason in Tiffin Saturday.
With Marion Harding executing its game plan, Beaston was most impressed with the composure of his young star.
"He did a good job of staying patient and not getting frustrated, said Beaston. "He didn't force the issue. Sometimes younger players do that and I'm really happy with the maturity he's showing."
Marion-Harding knew the challenge that lay before it in facing Columbian.
"We knew they were a good team and when you're facing that intensity level against a big, seasoned, physical team if my kids don't come out and play hard they are capable of beating us by 20 or 30 points," said Marion Harding coach Roger Jury.
Columbian had their work cut out for them with a Marion Harding team that showed up to play.
"We're on the road against a very good team," Jury said. "They're huge; we worried about that but we battled, it was a pretty even game most of the time, just a couple indecisions."
Columbian led 29-25 going into halftime but the third quarter brought an offensive flurry for Marion Harding as the Presidents outscored the Tornadoes 12-3.
With the start of the fourth quarter and it being a close game slipping away, Columbian did what most would do on a frigid January night: It turned up the heat.
"Coming out of the third quarter (Marion-Harding) extended the lead, we were playing lethargic and couldn't get anything going offensively," Beaston said. "We decided to press them for about three or four possessions in a row."
Applying the pressure was just what the Tornadoes needed.
"We were able to get some turnovers, grab some quick shots, we could run some transition and get some easy baskets," Beaston said. "I think once we tied it back up these kids relaxed and played very efficient offense."
With the heat on, a young Marion-Harding team began to sweat.
"We went through one period where they (Columbian) really turned up the pressure, and we played like a young team, they got separation and fouls at the end," Jury said. "When they turned up the defensive pressure we started making mistakes and that's what we need to get over, facing that intensity level against a big, seasoned, physical team, when they turn that on ... you cant make those mistakes."
Defensively Columbian had stepped it's game up.
"We got our free throws and made defensive stops," Beaston said. "That's all you can ask for in the fourth quarter."
Now it was up to the offense to make something happen. Being down a man and knowing Dryfuse was neutralized, Columbian looked elsewhere to make something happen.
"We were down a guy tonight (Cody Daniel) and I thought Matt Zirger, Jake Adams and Spencer Pauly all played really really well off the bench for us," Beaston said "They did a good job of finding other ways, knowing he was double teamed."
Columbian surged in the fourth quarter, outscoring Marion-Harding 23-7. "As an experienced team they made the free throws," Jury said.
Marion Harding headed home with another tough loss on its season.
"Our record doesn't show it but these kids have worked hard all year and they've gotten better," Jury said. "It's the middle of the year we have to get over that hump, we cant just keep saying well we're young."
The Presidents are no strangers to close losses.
"We've lost five games by 17 total points, they play hard, we play a couple sophomores, two juniors that show a lot of potential, only one senior has a varsity letter," Jury said. We just need to get over that hump one time so they can see what it is, we're getting closer every single day."
Coach Beaston was very pleased with his team's win and the way they achieved it.
"I'm really happy with these kids effort, it was a full team effort for them to come in and to keep things working smoothly with the starters," he said. "I'm just really proud of those guys."