KRISTIN BAUER / CHRONICLE Clearview High School's Josiah Hitchens puts up a shot as Columbia High School's Brandon Coleman (23) guards him on Friday night, January 25.
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COLUMBIA STATION — The big-time Patriot Athletic Conference showdown lived up to the hype.
Clearview and Columbia put forth an impressive battle Friday that saw the Clippers make just enough plays in the end to come away with a 65-58 victory.
An 11-1 run late in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference for Clearview, which improved to 12-2 overall and 10-1 in the conference. The Clippers share the PAC Stripes lead with Fairview.
Columbia, which twice came back from double-digit deficits, fell to 10-4, 7-4.
“We had a lot of players step up down the stretch and we played with a good balance,” Clearview coach John Szalay said. “I hope we can use this game to continue to get better.”
The teams went back-and-forth to open the fourth quarter and were tied on three occasions.
Columbia took a 53-52 lead on a free throw from Jared Bycznski, but the Clippers responded right away with a layup from Chase Christensen.
Clearview’s defense took over from there, holding Columbia scoreless the next two minutes.
Josiah Hitchens had a steal and a layup during that time, and Jordan Reed put the game out of reach with back-to-back layups for a 60-53 lead.
The Clippers iced the game from the free throw line.
“We just came out ready to play our game and this was a big win,” Hitchens said. “I tried to come out super energetic and make things happen.”
Columbia didn’t take its first lead until the final moments of the third quarter. After trailing by as many as 12 points, the Raiders used a 10-0 run to get within 40-39 with just over a minute remaining. Moments later, Bycznski converted a layup plus the foul to finally put Columbia on top, 42-40.
After Clearview regained the lead, Brandon Fisher gave the Raiders a 46-45 advantage by going coast-to-coast for a buzzer-beating layup. The Raiders outscored Clearview 23-12 in the third.
“We did a much better job in the second half, it’s just unfortunate it took so long,” Columbia coach Larry Babics said. “We still need to find the guy who wants the ball to make a play down the stretch.”
Clearview controlled much of the first half, racing out to a 7-0 advantage and leading by at least six points the entire way.
Hitchens was key to the early success, scoring the game’s first five points while chipping in three rebounds and two blocks in the first quarter.
Jamar Billings came up with two of his game-high five steals in the first quarter and his layup in transition gave the Clippers an 11-3 lead.
“Jamar was all over the place and was a force for us defensively,” Szalay said. “I thought our defense did a good job of setting the tone early in the game.”
Free throws became a huge factor in the second half as both teams were in the double bonus the entire fourth quarter. The Clippers did a good job of taking advantage, shooting 8-of-11. The teams combined to shoot 44 free throws.
Hitchens led a balanced Clearview attack with 13 points, while Christensen and Javon Todd had 10 each.
“We know that we all have to be ready to step up at any time,” Hitchens said. “This game was a good one to get us ready for some tough opponents.”
Brandon Coleman was key to the Raiders’ third-quarter comeback. He dominated the offensive boards, grabbing five offensive rebounds in the third quarter alone. He scored 10 of his game-high 14 points in the second half.
“We had a bad start so we wanted to come out a lot more aggressive in the second half,” Coleman said. “It took a lot of energy for us to come back and I think that hurt us late in the game.”
The Clippers have no time to celebrate, as they travel tonight to take on Lorain, one of the best teams in the state.
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