Eagles set sights on exciting season

Members of the 2017-18 Columbia High School boys varsity basketball team are, from left, front row, Mitch Huebner, Nic Horner, Blake Holmes, Jared Germain, Sam Horner, Brennen van Breusegen and Jordan Holmes; and back row: Head Coach Mark Sandstrom, Manager Matt Madlinger, Drew Worley, Jon Peterson, Cole Khoury, Matt Muehlher, Riley Hubler, Jacob O’Connor and Manager Eric Williams. (Sean McGowan photo)

All the ingredients are in place for the Columbia High School boys basketball squad to have success this season. Now, all the Eagles need to do is play.

“We have the possibility of having a fun and exciting season,” said Columbia head coach Mark Sandstrom, who is in his 13th year with the Eagles and has 297 total wins in 16 years of coaching overall.

Columbia returns an all-state candidate in senior guard Jordan Holmes, as well as a solid supporting cast that includes 6-foot-6 junior forward Jon Peterson, 6-foot-8 junior center Cole Khoury, and senior guards Jared Germain and Brennen van Breusegen.

Holmes averaged 21 points and nearly eight rebounds per game last season and was selected as an honorable mention all-state.

“Holmes will be one of the top five players in the entire area regardless of class,” Sandstrom said. “He already has scored 1,000 points for his career and is attracting a lot of Division I and Division II recruiting interest. He is the best player I have coached in my 16 years on the sidelines.”

Peterson averaged 12.6 points and seven rebounds per game last season to earn all-conference honors. Khoury averaged four points per game last season.

“We have a lot of experience returning as well as a lot of versatility,” Sandstrom said. “That is perhaps the most exciting thing for me as a coach. We played all of our youth last year to prepare for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons.”

Sandstrom said the team will count on returning seniors Germain, van Breusegen and Drew Worley to knock down perimeter shots and cause havoc on the defensive end. Mitch Huebner should also provide some senior leadership as a role player inside, the coach said.

Sandstrom added he is excited about his underclassmen perimeter players, namely Riley Hubler, Sam Horner and Jacob O’Connor.

“Hubler is a great defender and one of our better perimeter shooters,” he said. “Sam Horner and Jacob O’Connor both improved immensely throughout their freshman year and the off-season playing with the varsity.  Both will add to our depth and improved perimeter shooting.”

The Eagles dropped their season opener last Monday to Mascoutah, 61-54, in the inaugural Mascoutah Tip-Off Classic despite a game-high 31 points and 10 rebounds from Holmes. Costly errors doomed Columbia in the loss.

“We have a great group of kids that pull for one another, work extremely hard, and love basketball,” Sandstrom said. “We hope to stay healthy, execute our roles, and improve every day.”

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