Tornadoes overcome slow start to sink Blue Jackets

PHOTO BY JONATHON BIRD Columbian’s Cole Zimmerman goes up for a layup in the first half against New Riegel Tuesday in New Riegel.

NEW RIEGEL — Columbian plays six games in December and five of them are on the road.

Through two of the six games, the Tornadoes have a pair of solid road wins away from home.

Columbian got 23 points from Bryce Burns and topped New Riegel 67-58 in non-league action Tuesday.

“I thought we got off to a slow start,” Columbian coach and New Riegel graduate Travis Kinn said. “That is a really good team over there and they are well-coached. They are really prepared to play hard and they are skilled when they are comfortable handling the ball.”

The Tornadoes (2-1) started slow, but used a tough defense to keep the Blue Jackets (0-4) at bay.

“It was not necessarily their size, but they are long,” New Riegel coach Dave Losey said. “They are athletic and they have seven guys that can guard every position.”

New Riegel was done in by 22 turnovers, which Losey said just can’t happen.

“It has been a bugaboo for us right now,” Losey said. “We know it and it is something that has been addressed. We are going to have to keep on it really.”

The Blue Jackets raced out to a 10-2 lead after 3s by Nick Reinhart and Jacob Theis. That prompted a timeout from Kinn and the Tornadoes responded. Consecutive buckets by LJ Reaves were followed by two free throws from Cyrus Burden.

“We called timeout and challenged our guys a little bit,” Kinn said. “We talked about effort and schematically what we needed to fix. The guys responded pretty well. I am pleased with that, but we have to find a way to get off to a better start without that 10-2 deficit.”

New Riegel pushed the lead back to 16-8 after a three-point play off an offensive rebound by Logan Schalk and a triple by Hayden Hohman. Columbian, however, scored the last seven points of the quarter over the final 1:15 to draw within 16-15 after eight minutes.

“We were not up defensively good enough,” Kinn said. “Our ball pressure was poor and our help side was poor. That allowed New Riegel to get into a flow right off the bat.”

The teams played evenly in the second quarter with three lead changes and three ties. A bucket by Cole Zimmerman off an assist from freshman Logan Beaston gave the Tornadoes a 28-26 lead at halftime.

Columbian continued its stiff defense to put up points in bunches and keep the Blue Jackets out of striking distance. Back-to-back scores by Burns increased the margin to 35-28 at the midpoint of the third quarter. The Tornadoes extended the lead to eight points on a three-point play by Burden, but New Riegel sliced it down to four points at one point and trailed 41-36 after three quarters.

“New Riegel shoots the ball very, very well,” Kinn said. “They have a lot of guys who shoot it well. Anyone on the floor can shoot it well from 3 if they are given space and time. That was something we tried to fix.”

Columbian made its strongest push over the first two-plus minutes of the fourth quarter. Reaves scored after a steal and layup before Carson Goble canned a 3-pointer for the Tornadoes’ first double-digit lead of the game.

New Riegel kept it close, but Columbian pushed the lead to 11 points at 53-42 after seven straight points by Burns. The Blue Jackets had one last surge in them, using a 9-2 run — capped on an offensive rebound and score by Brandon Gillig — to draw with 55-51 with 3:08 left.

Columbian had the answer, scoring twice in 11 seconds. First, Zimmerman’s bucket made it a two-score game, but another turnover by the Blue Jackets led to a score by Burns. Beaston made two free throws and the lead was back to 10 points with 1:56 left.

Reinhart paced New Riegel with 16 points, while Gillig scored 14 points and grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds. Acree added 10 points. Schalk added seven rebounds.

“We came out with great energy,” Losey said. “I thought we played really hard. The start was big and that is important for us. You want to get out of the gate well when you are not playing well lately.”

Reaves backed Burns’ big night with 13 points and four rebounds while Beaston contributed 10 points.

“We have a lot of guys we feel can play,” Kinn said. “We think we have more than five kids that are capable starters and good options to start. You saw that with the balance.”

The Tornadoes will get their first chance at their first three-game winning streak since Dec. 2-9, 2016 when they travel to Sandusky Friday. Columbian follows that up with its lone home game in December Saturday against Bowling Green.

“It is huge,” Kinn said. “Anytime we can get a win is huge for our guys and for us. We still have a lot of things to work out and a lot of things to improve. It is a lot better and a lot more fun learning a lesson with a win than with a loss.”