Talking to Columbian players after their game against Sandusky, it was a unanimous opinion. The difference between them and the Streaks came down to two words - "Playing hard."
Columbian trailed the Blue Streaks the entire second and third quarters, and Sandusky's D'Maja Jordan was controlling the game, but when the Tornadoes took the floor for the fourth, it seemed as if they brought a newfound intensity with them.
The first 14 points of the quarter were scored by the Tornadoes, as they went on to a 67-58 Northern Ohio League win.
"We played hard," Columbian's Derek Dryfuse said. "When we came out we weren't playing as hard as we could. That's happened a lot of these games. We started trapping the ball and getting steals. We shut (Jordan) down and the rest of the team."
According to Columbian coach Bill Beaston, the team changed to a trapping style of defense that paid off at the beginning of the fourth quarter with numerous turnovers and fast break layups that shifted control of the game to Columbian's bench.
"We were having a problem with their ball screens," Beaston said. "We tried to force them to the baseline, to force them into our help. For whatever reason, our guys didn't make that adjustment. They were still getting over the top, hitting jumpers. We said heck with it. 'Let's get aggressive; let's go trap them.' I think we got four or five straight steals and scored off of just about every one of them, and really put together a nice run. So credit to the coaching staff for making a good adjustment and credit to our kids for executing it."
Columbian closed within two, 48-46, in the closing seconds of the third quarter when Cody Daniel scored off an offensive rebound.
The Tornadoes turned things up a notch in the fourth quarter with the whole lineup getting involved. A layup by Josh Flint tied up the game and two Bryce Lonsway free throws put Columbian ahead since the scored was 13-11 in the first quarter.
Meanwhile, the Blue Streaks had a problem holding on to the ball, and when they did, they couldn't put it in the basket.
Columbian kept its run going as Ryan Lynch, Donovan Walker, Daniel and Dryfuse all scored baskets as the lead ballooned to 60-48. It was 17-0 run going back to the third quarter.
Jordan was primarily responsible for building Sandusky's lead, as the senior scored 21 of the team's 35 first half points. However, he was held to just two up to that point in the second half.
"We just played help side (defense)," Lonsway said. "When he got ball screens, we just trapped him. That shut him down. We got our hands up, get our hands in his face."
Beaston credited the personnel guarding Jordan as a big reason for his drop in production.
"Josh Flint and Donovon Walker both guarded him primarily in the second half," Beaston said. "They have a little better length. That was key in contesting his jumpers. The big thing is, we were a little more aggressive with him. Instead of giving him a step, they were a little more aggressive making sure shots were contested, backing him up a step off that pull-up (jumper). I thought that really aided us in slowing him down."
Jordan, who scored a game-high 29 points, tried to bring his team back with a pair of baskets, but Dryfuse scored off an assist by Lonsway, and Lonsway went 6 for 6 from the foul line in the fourth quarter to preserve the win.
"Bryce played well tonight," Beaston said. "The way Sandusky plays, they're really physical on him, really pressuring him up and down. I'm really happy with the way he played."
Lonsway had an all-around solid night, scoring 15 points, sharing the game-high with nine rebounds, and dishing out eight assists.
Dryfuse was the recipient of several of those assists as the sophomore post led Columbian with 22 points.
"He's just always right there under the basket," Lonsway said. "I know I can take my man every time, almost. He's always the one right there under the basket waiting for me, so of course he's going to get the rock."
"Bryce can dribble and he can beat his man almost every time," Dryfuse said. "I'm down there when my guy goes to help and it just works out every time usually."
Beaston said he's enjoying watching the the chemistry the two are developing.
"They play very well together," he said. "Bryce does a great job getting into the paint. When he starts to do that, he's got a great pull up so people have to adjust, they have to take that away. That opens up Derek underneath. Credit to Derek, he does a great job having his hands ready, going up and finishing."
Flint was the third Tornado reaching double figures with 11 points. Daniel finished with nine points and eight rebounds.
Columbian (3-5, 1-2 NOL) picked up its second-straight win, and returns to the court tonight at Marion Harding. Beaston hopes his team can bring the energy it had in the fourth quarter for a full 32 minutes.
"For whatever reason, early in games, we don't have that energy we need," he said. "Our kids are really good at sucking it up and finding out ways to win. Two games in a row they've done that. I'm really happy for the kids, really happy that they figured that out and we get to do it again tomorrow."