By Tony Maluso
With both teams having so little practice time the past week due to weather, Columbian coach Bill Beaston said he felt Friday's game against Bellevue would come down to mental toughness.
For Isiah Moore, it came down to breakfast.
"We ate our Wheaties this morning," Moore said.
Beaston might want to stop by the grocery store to stock up on his 6-foot-5 forward's cereal of choice after his 14-point, 12-rebound performance in a 55-33 win over the Redmen.
Moore was especially dominant early in the game. He had five rebounds in the first four minutes, out-boarding Bellevue himself in the first quarter, and had 11 boards by halftime.
"We were focused," Moore said. "We got one day to practice and we had a really good one day of practice."
"I told the kids, this is as good a win as we've had in a long time," Beaston said. "It was a complete basketball game. They were very efficient on offense. We did an outstanding job defensively to hold them to 33 points, and six of them were on 3s in the last 30 seconds."
It's unclear what was on Bellevue's plate Friday morning, but Redmen coach Brad Scheiber might want to think about changing the menu.
Bellevue's Thomas Pressler hit two 3-point shots in the game's final 30 seconds. However, up to that point the Redmen had only gone 1 for 24 shots from beyond the 3-point arc.
Included in that number was an 0-for-9 outside shooting effort in the first quarter. The Redmen were just 1 for 15 total from the field as they fell into a hole they couldn't climb out of, down 13-2 at the first stop.
Scheiber, a 1990 Columbian graduate, said the poor shooting was a result of a mix of Columbian's defensive effort, and his team not looking to get the ball inside.
"Obviously they're big and we got to shoot over top of those guys. They're quick. Obviously it was good game plan for us," he said. "We didn't look inside. The times we did we got easy baskets like we talked about. But we didn't catch, we didn't square up, we didn't look inside. And we struggled with that."
Moore's partner in the post Derek Dryfuse had another big game for the Tornadoes, pouring in a game-high 18 points while grabbing eight rebounds of his own. Donovan Walker added nine points for the Tornadoes. Columbian shot 52.1 percent (24 of 46) from the field.
"I think we were just patient," Beaston said. "We talked a lot about not forcing the issue. If things aren't there, live to fight another day. Reverse the basketball, wait for it to come back and maybe things open up. And we did that. And credit to Derek and Isiah, they finished. The guards deserve the credit for getting them the ball, but those guys squared up and finished."
Bellevue started to get some offense going into the second quarter, cutting the lead down to 10 at halftime. Coming out of the break, the Redmen got another pair of baskets to cut the lead to six early in the third.
Dryfuse, though, keyed another TC run to stretch things back out, and Moore finished the quarter strong, making a nice move in the lane before ending with a layup in the final seconds to give Columbian a 37-24 advantage heading to the fourth.
"Just get that W," Moore said of the team's mindset entering the final quarter. "Get that win on our scheduled. Get another step closer in the NOL."
"We just bounced back," Beaston said. "That's what our kids do. They're fighters, they bounce back and we just went on a really nice run in the fourth quarter."
Using the momentum they picked up at the end of the third, Dryfuse, Moore and Walker opened up the fourth with baskets as the Tornadoes embarked on a 14-3 run to ice the game.
"I think it was a lot of energy," Beaston said. "I think our guys smelled blood, so to speak. They were realizing things were there to close, to finish the job and they wanted to do it and get some other kids into the game. I was proud of their effort."
Scheiber said the fourth quarter's opening moments fit well with the way the rest of the night played out.
"They get two or three baskets right off; we even got the ball coming out," he said. "We got a nice look, another layup, bounced out. Back of the rim, another bounce out for us. We struggled shooting, even on our close bunnies.
"We got to play better defense, bottom line. It don't matter how bad we shoot it from the outside. If we box out and we play better defense, they don't score (55) and they go to their 40-, 42-, 44-point game," Scheiber said. "We make some shots and it's a ballgame. "
Columbian climbed above .500 with the win, improving to 5-4 on the year, 2-3 in the Northern Ohio League. Bellevue dropped to 2-7, 1-3.