Despite big second-half rally, Rams down Tornadoes 75-72

PHOTO BY ZACH BAKER Columbian’s LJ Reaves drives past Upper Sandusky’s Evan Young Saturday in Tiffin.

Evan Young wasn’t having his best game Saturday. Neither, for that matter, was Upper Sandusky teammate Cameron McCreary.

So during one of the timeouts during the team’s game at Columbian, Rams’ coach Jeff Winslow said he gave the pair a message.

“‘Hey, good players have bad games and then make plays at the end,'” Winslow said. “That’s what they did.”

And the Rams needed every one of them to get out of Tiffin with a 75-72 win.

Upper Sandusky controlled the first three quarters of the contest, building a 43-30 halftime lead, and then extending that advantage to 16 points in the third quarter.

But the Tornadoes, behind the play of LJ Reaves and freshman Logan Beaston, stormed back.

Trailing 60-50 after three quarters, the Tornadoes got within 61-55 after a Reaves layup. Then Beaston — son of former Columbian head coach and current assistant Bill Beaston and TC Hall of Famer Anjee Beard-Beaston — drilled back-to-back 3s to bring the Tornadoes even at 61 with five minutes remaining.

Beaston finished with five 3s — the Tornadoes made 11 — and 18 points.

“He’s proved throughout the summer and in practice that he’s ready for this,” Columbian coach Travis Kinn said. “As a freshman, sometimes it can be overwhelming, but he’s very excited about it, we’re very excited about it. The guys have taken him under their wing, just like one of the other guys, and it’s gonna be good.”

But it wasn’t good for the Rams, who turned the ball over four times in the first three minutes of the fourth.

“We just turned the dang ball over too much on some careless turnovers, and I’m sure we’re tired because we played last night,” Winslow said, referencing the Rams’ home game with Willard Friday, “but, man, you’ve got to be able to play tired and not turn the ball over. We limit those turnovers, it doesn’t have to come down to that.”

Instead, what it came down to was Young, who answered Beaston’s burst with a point-blank basket to give USHS a 63-61 edge with 4:36 left.

“He slowed down there, used a two-feet jump-stop and made a play,” Winslow said of Young.

It was the beginning of a crucial 10-6 run for the Rams, who went up 73-67 after two Mason Vent free throws with 41.3 seconds left.

But Columbian made one last push. Beaston made two free throws, then with 12 seconds on the clock, Reaves buried a 3 from the right corner to get within a point.

Young was fouled with with nine seconds left. Moments earlier, he’d missed the front end of a 1-and-1. But this time, he buried both foul shots.

It put the Rams up 75-72, and allowed Columbian a chance at overtime. Beaston got a look at a deep 3 from the right side, but missed just before the buzzer sounded.

The Rams survived.

“I thought we defended that pretty well,” Winslow said. “It was pretty much a desperation thing. The scary part is, they hit some deep 3s to get back in it.”

Kinn said the Tornadoes got what they hoped for.

“We got a look from one of our best shooters,” Kinn said. “It was a little bit deep, but these guys practice those shots, they work on those shots. We drew something up to try to get an open look, and I thought we got a decent look at it, it just didn’t go in.”

The Rams moved to 1-1 on the season. Vent finished with 14 points and six rebounds.

“Maybe the best game he’s ever played,” Winslow said. “He did a lot of nice things. Very happy with the way Mason Vent played.”

Upper Sandusky finished with four players in double figures. Gavin Carey had 14 points and a game-high 10 rebounds, while Jaidyn Thiel had 12 points and Young had 10. McCreary finished with eight.

“We weathered the storm, and just made enough plays down the stretch to finish it off,” Winslow said.

For Columbian, Reaves had a career game with 25 points, going 8 of 10 at the stripe.

Kinn said Reaves’ strong game extended beyond his scoring.

“He is just so quick getting to the basket with his first step,” Kinn said. “And he’s another guy who’s just really instinctive. I think his passing is an underrated asset of his game that people don’t always recognize, just because he’s so good at getting to the rim and getting to the free throw line and getting easy buckets.”

The Tornadoes’ Cole Zimmerman scored 10, while Burns put up eight and newcomer Cyrus Burden scored seven.

Kinn said he was pleased with TC’s defensive effort. After allowing 29 points in the first quarter, it yielded 29 in the entire second half.

“I thought, the way our guys played tonight, I am just so proud of them. They should be proud of themselves,” Kinn said. “We were on the floor for more loose balls tonight than we have been in a long time. That’s their desire to win.

“I think they just made a couple more plays than we did.”

The plays Winslow told Young and McCreary about.