The Columbia High School boys basketball team seems to be peaking at the right time with the postseason set to begin next week.
Following an overtime victory at rival Waterloo last Tuesday, the Eagles (17-11) posted key Cahokia Conference home wins over Carlyle and Breese Central this past weekend.
Columbia downed Carlyle, 58-45, on Friday. Jackson Holmes scored 18 points and Nic Horner added 11 points and six assists.
On Saturday, the Eagles won 62-54 over Breese Central in OT. Holmes poured in 27 points and Jacob O’Connor added 15 points.
Columbia played at Wesclin on Tuesday, falling 45-43. O’Connor led the Eagles with 13 points, six rebounds and four steals. Holmes was held to 11 points.
The Eagles conclude their regular season at Freeburg on Friday before battling Wesclin again to open Class 2A Red Bud Regional play 6 p.m. Monday.
“Although we have been getting better results of late, I feel our best all-around basketball game is still to come,” Columbia first-year head coach Brooks Demijan said. “We will certainly have a tough task in the regional but we are confident in what we do and our personnel, so we will continue to improve each day.”
With a win Monday, Columbia would face Nashville in the regional semifinals this coming Tuesday. Other teams in the regional are Althoff, Freeburg and Red Bud.
In a hotly contested game between Monroe County rivals, Columbia overcame a seven-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win 56-54 in overtime at Waterloo last Tuesday night.
Waterloo was looking to win its second straight over its neighbor to the north after having downed the Eagles, 57-45, at the Sparta tournament on Jan. 22. That victory snapped Columbia’s 13-game winning streak over the Bulldogs.
The game was tied 17-17 after one quarter and Waterloo held a slim 28-26 advantage at halftime.
It looked like the Bulldogs were on their way to victory, leading 39-32 after three quarters.
But the Eagles clawed back into the game, keyed by two three-pointers each from Jonah James and Bryce Pautler in the fourth quarter.
The game went into OT with a score of 50-50 at the end of regulation.
Columbia mustered just enough to pull out the narrow road win in the end.
Holmes scored 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead Columbia. James added 16 points, including four three-pointers.
Waterloo was led by Ty Lenhardt with 25 points and Ian Schrader with 13 points.
“One thing that sticks out is the production we have been getting from our bench,” Demijan said. “They have come in in crucial moments of tight games to provide a boost on both ends of the floor.”
Demijan added that his team seems to be on the same page offensively.
“As a whole, we are starting to feel more comfortable on offense, which has allowed us to execute better as of late,” he said. “The energy and focus in practice and games has been increased as well. We have a big group of seniors who we rely on to be leaders and they have stepped up to the challenge and everyone else has followed their lead.”
Holmes, a 6-foot-4 junior, is averaging 17.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game to lead the Eagles. He also averaged two blocks per game.
Waterloo picked up a Mississippi Valley Conference win at Highland on Friday, 73-57, as both teams and their fans raised money for the family of fallen Illinois State Police Trooper Nick Hopkins.
Lenhardt led Waterloo with 20 points and Austin Balabas added 10 points.
Lenhardt, a sophomore, leads Waterloo in scoring this season at 12.5 points per game, including 80 percent shooting from the free-throw line.
The Bulldogs host Mascoutah this Friday. Prior to the varsity game, legendary Waterloo hoops coach Larry Henson will be recognized for his recent induction into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Henson won a school record 168 games as coach of the Bulldogs from 1968 to 1980, including a regional title in 1975.
Former players are encouraged to show up in support of Henson.
Valmeyer (12-14) lost at Dupo on Friday, 58-50, and dropped a 61-54 contest at home to Gibault on Saturday. Saturday’s game was tied 25-25 at halftime after Gibault’s Ryan Bollinger putback at the second quarter buzzer.
The difference in Friday’s game was free throws. Dupo went 18-for-21 from the charity stripe and Valmeyer went just 10-for-21.
Jacob Rowold scored 19 points to lead Valmeyer against Dupo. The Tigers were led by Chase Mantz, who had 23 points.
Rowold also led the Pirates in Saturday’s loss to Gibault, scoring 20 points. He leads Valmeyer in scoring this season at 14.3 points per game.
Valmeyer won Monday night against Father McGivney, 62-45. Harrison Miller scored 17 points to lead the Pirates, including five three-pointers.
The Pirates lost 59-48 at Steeleville on Tuesday. Valmeyer was outscored 15-2 in the third quarter. Rowold scored 23 points to lead the Pirates, who close the regular season Friday at Marissa before hosting a Class 1A regional.
Valmeyer opens regional play against Gibault at 7:30 p.m. Monday.
Gibault (6-20) lost 81-47 to Madison on Friday night. Freshman Kameron Hanvey leads the Hawks in scoring this season at nearly 10 points per game.
Gibault played at Highland on Tuesday and concludes its regular season at home Friday against Marquette.
Also playing in the Class 1A Valmeyer Regional is Dupo (9-17), which has won three in a row.
Prior to Friday’s win over Valmeyer, Dupo downed Wood River on Thursday, 52-47. Tyler Touchette scored 15 points, Mantz added 10 points and Keonte Scarbrough contributed 10 points and nine rebounds for the Tigers.
Last Tuesday, Dupo downed Sandoval, 51-46. Touchette again led the Tigers with 14 points and the team made 13 of its 16 free-throw attempts.
Dupo, which hosts Red Bud on Friday to close the regular season, opens regional play this coming Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. against Metro-East Lutheran.