The Columbia High School boys basketball team started regional play on a high note, snapping an eight-game losing streak by topping regular season nemesis Freeburg last Tuesday night to advance to the semifinal.
The Eagles (8-20), 1-3 against the Midgets during the season, jumped on Freeburg early by hitting some big three-point shots and playing stellar defense to open up a 29-17 lead at halftime.
Freeburg got hot in the third period, putting up 25 points to cut the Eagles’ lead to three heading into the final period. Columbia responded with 20 points in the fourth and the defense tightened up, propelling the Eagles to a 65-56 win and a date with Cahokia.
“I thought our kids executed our defensive game plan very well,” Columbia head coach Mark Sandstrom said. “I thought we made it extremely difficult for him. We rebounded well also, which has been one of our deficiencies. It was a great team effort.”
Ryan Gudeman led the way with 25 points, 5 assists, 5 steals and 5 rebounds.
“He has played really well since about the middle of January,” Sandstrom said.
The Eagles had a tough chore ahead, facing Cahokia (20-8) in the semifinal game last Wednesday night at Althoff.
Columbia had its best period of the game coming out of the locker room to put up 18, but it was not enough to overcome Cahokia, who went on to take the game 84-56.
Cole Foster ended his CHS hoops career with 17 points. Gudeman added 16.
“Cahokia is by far and away the best team we have played all year long,” Sandstrom said.
Despite a down season for the Eagles, Sandstrom is looking forward to the future.
“Our kids are pretty resilient and came to practice every day trying to get better,” Sandstrom said. “I’m happy our season ended on a positive note. We have a high number of young kids returning. I’m really looking forward to our future. We have a lot of pieces of the puzzle returning.”
Columbia held the lead most of the first quarter before Cahokia pulled away late to take a 15-10 lead. The Comanches kept the pressure on Columbia in the second, forcing several turnovers to open up their lead to 37-24 at halftime.