Eagles edge Marquette in OT for regional crown

The Columbia High School boys basketball team poses with its Class 3A Waterloo Regional championship plaque following Friday’s thrilling 55-53 overtime win over Marquette. (Corey Saathoff photo)

March Madness, indeed.

In a thrilling high school hoops game for the ages, Columbia stunned undefeated Marquette in overtime, 55-53, Friday night to win the Class 3A Waterloo Regional championship.

“That was a heavyweight battle right there,” an exuberant Columbia head coach Mark Sandstrom said afterward.

Leading the way for the Eagles once again was senior point guard Jordan Holmes, who may just sway the University of Illinois to offer him a spot on their basketball team after recently committing to play football there. He scored several clutch baskets on the night and led all scorers with 31 points.

“I don’t think Jordan wants to go to Champaign quite yet,” Sandstrom said.

The two teams traded punches in the way of scoring bursts early on in a constant swinging back and forth of momentum.

Marquette opened the game with a 7-2 lead, only to see the Eagles go up 9-7 at 3:13 of the opening quarter. A Holmes three-pointer at the first quarter buzzer gave Columbia a 14-12 edge.

Jon Peterson nailed a clutch three-pointer to give the Eagles a 22-18 lead at 3:18 of the second quarter, but the Explorers battled back to tie it at 22-22 with less than two minutes remaining in the half. Holmes hit another three to take back the lead, and then drilled a running three-pointer at the halftime buzzer to send Columbia to the locker room with a 29-24 advantage.

“Man, he carried the load and got us the lead,” Sandstrom said of his scoring leader.

Holmes drilled yet another three-pointer to open the third quarter and extend Columbia’s lead to 32-24. It was the first of three eight-point leads for the Eagles in the second half, which put Marquette on its heels and forced them to play catch-up.

“I told my kids, I said ‘I want Marquette to have to play from behind,’ because they haven’t had to do it,” Sandstrom told reporters after the game.

Following an acrobatic layup by Holmes to put the Eagles up 40-32 at 2:21 of the third quarter, Marquette called a timeout. The Explorers rattled off six straight points to make it a one-score game entering the fourth quarter.

Marquette seized on that late momentum and took a 43-40 lead early in the fourth quarter.

The teams traded buckets until Peterson scored underneath while fouled and made the ensuing free throw to put Columbia up 52-48 late in regulation.

Clinging to a 52-51 edge and trying to run out the clock, Columbia turned the ball over on Marquette’s end of the court, leading to a quick basket that gave the Explorers a one-point lead in the frantic final seconds. Columbia’s Riley Hubler snatched an offensive rebound under the hoop and was fouled with 5.4 seconds left, forcing him to the free throw line.

Hubler made one of two at the charity stripe to tie the game at 53-53. A half-court heave by Marquette fell short, so the game went into overtime.

Columbia’s Cole Khoury made the only two points of OT by calmly sinking both free throws for a 55-53 advantage.

Marquette called a final play and narrowly missed a three-point attempt at the overtime buzzer, sending Eagles fans onto the court in celebration. To view a video of the game’s final possession, click here.

Despite the fact Marquette had zero losses to Columbia’s 11 entering the contest, Sandstrom dispelled the David versus Goliath narrative following the game.

“We didn’t have any pressure. We’ve played really well the past 10 games,” Sandstrom said. “And we got hot at the right time. You know, we were 10-10. Now we’re 20-11. Because the kids bought in. They kept workin’ and kept workin’.

“I think our schedule that we play… all the close games that we’ve played paid dividends tonight. Late, with our execution. We didn’t panic out. Our schedule got us this win tonight.”

Columbia moves on to face Marion in the Centralia Sectional on Tuesday night. Marion edged Carbondale to win the Class 3A Carbondale Regional on Friday.

Columbia toppled Civic Memorial on Wednesday night to reach the regional final. For a recap of that game, click here.


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