PAINESVILLE — Zach Stopper kept Columbia afloat in the second quarter and the Simon brothers took charge to kick off the third as the Raiders downed Kirtland 60-49 Saturday in the Division III sectional final at Harvey High School.
Columbia (23-1) plays Gilmour Academy — a 61-43 winner over Lutheran West — in the district semifinals Tuesday at 8 p.m.
Stopper scored 12 of Columbia’s 15 points in the second quarter, the only other points coming on a Jay Banyasz 3-pointer.
“Threes were falling in the first half and in the second I was getting lanes to the basket,” said Stopper, who had a game-high 25 points. “I was just being aggressive with the ball. We weren’t really getting many open shots (in the second quarter) so I had to go and create my own there.”
Columbia jumped on Kirtland (17-5) early, forcing the Hornets to take a timeout with 3:13 to play in the first quarter. It must have helped because Kirtland finished the period on a 12-0 run and opened the second with an easy layup to push its lead to 21-13.
That’s when Stopper drained the first of his two 3-pointers in the second and kept the Raiders within one going into halftime.
“We actually went from a zone to a man more,” Kirtland coach Matt Ridgeway said. “We settled the kids down and told them to get their hands up in their face. I thought we really contested their threes. They might have made a few at the beginning, but we did a good job contesting.”
The Raiders hit eight threes in all, but attempted 29.
Columbia’s defense — and the Simon brothers — turned it up a notch in the third quarter. Kevin Simon converted an easy layup, then 13 seconds later his brother Jacob scored in transition off a turnover. Kevin got a bucket in transition off another turnover and Jacob capped the brotherly 8-0 run with another easy bucket.
“Coach told us to explode out of the half after getting to that one-point deficit,” Kevin Simon said. “He told us to keep it going.”
The Raiders ultimately outscored Kirtland 15-2 over a 6:57 span with Jacob Simon accounting for seven points.
“We just focused on defense,” Jacob Simon said. “We gave up 29 points which we shouldn’t have. We weren’t playing good defense. We put more ball pressure, and kept going and going and going.”
Banyasz followed Stopper with 16 points and tied for a game high with eight rebounds.
“Jay is phenomenal,” Columbia coach Larry Babics said. “Jay’s the best point guard around.”
Contact Chris Sweeney at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Columbia 60, Kirtland 49
KIRTLAND (49): Scott Eilerman 7-0-17, Matthew Finkler 6-0-12, Zach Kusar 1-1-3, Sam Smith 2-3-7, Mitch Seelinger 3-0-8, Aaron Madden 0-0-0, Sam Skiljan 0-2-2, P.J. Miller 0-0-0. Totals: 19-6-49.
COLUMBIA (60): Zach Stopper 9-4-25, Kevin Simon 2-0-4, Jacob Simon 5-1-11, Jay Banyasz 5-2-16, Brandon Severo 0-1-1, Michael Boey 0-0-0, David Delahunty 1-0-3, Joe Palmer 0-0-0. Totals: 22-8-60.
Kirtland 19 10 7 13 — 49
Columbia 13 15 17 15 — 60
Three-point goals: Kirtland 5-13 (Eilerman 3, Seelinger 2), Columbia 8-29 (Banyasz 4, Stopper 3, Boey); Field goals: Kirtland 19-38 (50 percent), Columbia 22-46 (48 percent); Free throws: Kirtland 6-11 (54 percent), Columbia 8-12 (67 percent); Rebounds: Kirtland 22 (Finkler 8), Columbia 21 (Banyasz 8); Total fouls: Kirtland 10, Columbia 11; Turnovers: Kirtland 19, Columbia 12.