By Aaron Korte
There was one point in the third quarter where Clyde's Derek Gray had nearly scored as many points as Columbian had to that point.
With 2:51 to go in the third, Gray sank two free throws to give him 26 points on the night and the Fliers a 46-34 lead. He finished with game highs in points (31), assists (9), rebounds (7) and steals (5) in Clyde's 58-54 season-opening victory.
"He's a real nice ballplayer," Clyde coach Ryan Carter said. "He's got that kind of skill and he's tough to guard when he gets in the paint and makes good decisions. Especially when our wing players are making some 3s, it's difficult to keep him out of the paint."
He scored 13 of his 31 points in that third quarter.
"He was huge, especially in the third quarter," Columbian coach Bill Beaston said. "He hit a couple of 2s, a couple 3s and we put him on the line a couple of times and he knocked those down. A credit to him, he's a good player. When he's on, he can shoot it."
That 12-point margin with 2:51 to go was also the largest lead Clyde had in the game as the Tornadoes (0-1) made a furious comeback. A 9-2 run in the final three minutes of the quarter cut the margin to 48-43 heading into the fourth quarter. Donovan Walker, who finished with eight points, hit a big 3 with five seconds left in the third.
He started the fourth the same way he ended the third quarter. Clayton Farrer answered Walker's effort with a 3-pointer as well, before Clyde couldn't take advantage of four offensive boards. Instead, Columbian picked up buckets from Ryan Lynch and Walker to make it a 51-50 with five minutes to go in the game.
The game changed though almost two and a half minutes later. With the teams trading turnovers and missed shots, the game remained 51-50 until Walker was whistled for face guarding, which put Gray on the line. He sank them both and Columbian couldn't get any closer the rest of the game.
"We had a lead and they made a great run at us and we couldn't really slow it down," Carter said. "Fortunately our point guard played pretty well and took over late and made some free throws."
Columbian got into a bit of foul trouble in the first half as starter Ryan Lynch picked up his second foul less than four minutes into the game. He sat the rest of the first half.
But the spark plug made up for it in the second half, scoring 10 points and grabbing a team-high seven rebounds.
"There's no doubt that Ryan's energy that he brings to the court is just tremendous and beneficial to us," Beaston said. "It was huge to have him on the bench with first half foul trouble, but I thought he responded well. It's difficult to sit there for that long and come back and pick it back up. So credit to him for making that adjustment. He's was phenomenal in the second half."
Carter said they didn't have an answer for Lynch in the second half.
"He was on the offensive glass the whole second half. We couldn't keep him off it," Carter said. "And so was (Derek) Dryfuse. They have some nice athletic kids. They are athletic and long and can do some things. They're a good basketball team and I think they're going to make some noise in the NOL."
Dryfuse led Columbian with 14 points and Bryce Lonsway added 10. Dryfuse also had seven boards and Cody Daniel had six off the bench.
The Tornadoes won the turnover battle, swiping 15 Clyde balls to just 11 on their end.
Beaston was pleased with the defensive effort that held Clyde to 17 of 48 shooting. However, the aggressive defense also led to more trips to the line for Clyde (1-0), where it went 16 of 22. Conversely, Columbian went to the line just once and Dryfuse made both shots.
While the Tornadoes were solid inside the arc (23 of 45), they struggled outside it (2 of 16).
Carter said it was a great atmosphere for the season lid lifter.
"Opening night and what a great environment," Carter said. "Tiffin played very well and they're a good basketball team. They're very well coached. Their crowd was into it. It was a hostile environment. I thought it was nice for us to open up like that and still get a win."
Beaston said this is what he's come to expect in this matchup.
"Typical Clyde-Columbian game, that's for sure," Beaston said. "Every time we get together, it's physical and hard played and hard fought. It always comes down to the wire. To me no shocker to how the game went or how it developed. I like my kids. They work hard. They battle hard. For no longer than we've been working together, I'm really happy with the effort."