SHELBY - For a while, Josh Flint seemingly had a lot of unfamiliar faces on the court with him.
Columbian had four starters on the bench with two fouls apiece.
But no worries. Flint was kind of used to this.
"It was definitely interesting, but coach makes us practice (that way). We never start a drill with all our starters so we get good team chemistry with all nine guys," Flint said. "It's usually fine, regardless of who is on the floor."
As it turned out, all that practice paid dividends Friday as the Tornadoes bounced Shelby, 54-41, despite most of the starters spending nearly as much time on the bench than in the game.
"Just a total team win. There was a lot of adversity tonight. We were in foul trouble, lots of foul trouble," Columbian coach Bill Beaston said. "We were missing free throws and we ran through a stretch where we couldn't even get the ball across half court. But to come here, it's such a difficult trip and to get a win is huge for us. Everything these guys have been through this year with injuries and layoffs, I'm just so proud for us to grind out a win."
For Shelby, it didn't seem to matter who was in there for Columbian (7-7, 3-4 Northern Ohio League). The Whippets didn't have answer.
The Tornadoes shot nearly 50 percent from the field (19 for 42) which made up for an abysmal night at the line (16 for 32).
"I think the disappointing thing is I definitely feel like we regressed since the last time we played Tiffin," Shelby coach Troy Schwemley said. "We felt like it was a winnable game tonight and, wow, we got outplayed in every facet of the game. I can't think of a whole lot that we did well. We didn't execute what we're supposed to do. I give credit to Tiffin. They had something to do with it. I really question my team right now in terms of how we played Tiffin before at their place. I would have thought we would have had a better effort tonight at home. I think that was the disappointing part."
The Whippets (6-8, 2-6 NOL) had similar struggles at the line (8 for 16) but even more so from the field, gunning at a 14-for-41 clip.
"Especially defensively, I thought we played really well tonight," Beaston said.
Shelby also had no answer for Derek Dryfuse, despite his foul trouble. The junior post had 23 points, the only Tornado in double digits.
"I thought our guards showed really good patience about when to get it to him," Beaston said. "It wasn't an automatic thing. Sometimes we reversed the floor and hit him on a cut across the lane. Some other times, we penetrated, created and got him in dump situations. Other times, he just sealed and got in great position and just finished. He was real strong tonight and that's got to be big for us."
The Tornadoes also owned the glass, 39-32, and had one less turnover than Shelby.
Columbian led 11-5 after the first quarter and it wasn't long into the second when Donovan Walker and Isiah Moore had seats next to Beaston. Alec Demith and Dryfuse joined them later in the period.
But it didn't matter, as Shelby never got closer than six before halftime.
The Whippets cut it to four, 26-22, a minute into the third quarter but that was as close as Shelby got the rest of the game. Columbian held its NOL foe to four points for the rest of the quarter while scoring 11 to take a 37-26 lead into the final quarter.
"That (second quarter) was a huge stretch but what was a more important stretch was the third quarter," Beaston said. "I think we're up eight and we're in the same situation again: four starters on the bench and four bench guys in and they just kept grinding away. They were awesome tonight. Like I said, total team win."
Stone Simmons was one of the key scoring pieces of the bench for Columbian, scoring seven points, snaring six rebounds and swatting two blocks.
"One guy that helped us, especially in the second half was Stone Simmons," Flint said. "I think he ended up with seven points but I know we had Dryfuse and Isiah both in trouble and he stepped up big."
No Shelby players scored in double digits, with Davey Hipp finishing with nine points.
"I remember thinking, we're only down six at halftime and I thought we played pretty poor," Schwemley said. "But I guess we hadn't played as bad as we could because that was to come in the second half. I felt the opportunities were there."