SHEFFIELD TWP. — No matter how big the lead, there’s no rest when Columbia is the opponent.
The Raiders, who entered Tuesday night’s road game against Brookside averaging 100.7 points per game through three games, recovered from a slow start to keep the pressure on. And though it looked iffy at times, the Cardinals held off Columbia in a thrilling early-season matchup, the teams’ only tilt this year as crossover Patriot Athletic Conference foes.
Brookside on four occasions took a double-digit lead - the largest being 13 in the second quarter, followed by a 12-point edge with two minutes left in the third quarter. And yet only after Cardinal junior Alex Robinson hit the front end of a one-and-one with six seconds left did Brookside seal its 69-65 victory.
“We knew they were averaging 100 points, so we were just trying to slow them down,” said Justin Lopez, who led all scorers with 20 points on 9-of-13 shooting. “We knew they wanted to get up and down, so we tried to slow it down and run our sets well.”
Columbia coach Matt Sheets said he erred early, focusing too much on Brookside standout Hunter Skolnicki instead of allowing his team to play its normal pressure defense. The Raiders (3-1, 1-1) seemed a bit unhinged, leading to some easy Cardinal baskets and that 13-point lead after baskets by Skolnicki and Lopez midway through the second. Brookside shot 44 percent in the opening 16 minutes.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals (3-0, 2-0) early on controlled the backboards, and thus limited the Raiders’ running game. Brookside outrebounded Columbia 23-13 in the first half, and the Raiders shot 29 percent from the field. Yet Columbia trailed only by three at the half, thanks to a three by Jay Banyasz and a three-point play by Joe Palmer as the clock ran out.
“On defense, you have to identify their shooters in transition,” Cardinals coach Brent Schremp said. “In the first half, we did a phenomenal job. We were physical, and set the tone for what happened.”
Brookside extended its edge back to 10 midway through the third, then to 12 minutes later after a three by Lopez and another bucket from Robinson. Later, Lopez’s bucket to open the fourth gave Brookside a 55-44 edge.
Yet the Raiders quickly bounced back, keyed by their work on the offensive glass: Jacob Simon, who with Palmer led Columbia with 18, hit a three, and after a Palmer free throw, Simon scored on three straight putbacks to once again cut Brookside’s lead to one. Yet Columbia never got over the hump, as Brookside’s Keyonte Francis and Kelvin Jones made key contributions down the stretch.
“I did think we did well on offense,” Schremp said. “Everyone asked, ‘What are you doing to do defensively?’ I thought the big key was what we did offensively. Getting quality shots on the basket was a big focus.”
Columbia forced 22 Brookside turnovers, but wasn’t able to turn many into easy baskets, a staple of the Raiders’ fast start. And any team wanting to beat Columbia has to be efficient on offense, as evidenced by Tuesday’s game: Brookside shot 31-of-56 from the field, a 55 percent clip.
“We told our players (Brookside would) be the most athletic team we’ve played,” Sheets said. “I thought if we sped them up some, they’d miss more jumpers than they did. They did a good job of knocking those shots down.”
Brookside 69, Columbia 65
COLUMBIA (65): Brandon Severo 1-1-4, Jay Banyasz 2-3-8, Jacob Kleinhenz 1-0-2, Jacob Simon 7-2-18, John Banyasz 2-0-5, Dallis Few 0-2-2, Joe Palmer 7-4-18, Zach Stopper 3-1-8. Totals 23-13-65.
BROOKSIDE (69): Hunter Skolnicki 2-0-4, Justin Lopez 9-1-20, Keyonte Francis 7-0-14, Josh Zenkert 1-0-2, Nathan Keith 3-0-6, Alex Robinson 5-2-12, Kelvin Jones 2-3-7, Mitto Agosto 2-0-4. Totals 31-6-69.
Columbia 9 15 20 21 — 65
Brookside 14 13 26 16 — 69
Three-point goals: Columbia 6-27 (Severo, Jay Banyasz, Simon 2, John Banyasz, Stopper); Brookside 1-6 (Lopez). Field goals: Columbia 23-66 (34.8 percent); Brookside 31-56 (55.3 percent). Free throws: Columbia 13-20 (65 percent); Brookside 6-13 (46.2 percent). Rebounds: Columbia 35, Brookside 36. Turnovers: Columbia 16, Brookside 22.
Junior varsity: Brookside 49-47 (2OT).
Contact Joel Hammond at 329-7135 or email@example.com.