Friday was Senior Night at Columbian. The four senior members of Columbian's boys basketball team and two cheerleaders each had their moment prior to the game against Sandusky.
There is no Freshmen Night to honor the younger members of a team, so if Sandusky's Jayrease Williams wanted his moment, he had to wait until the ball was tipped.
All eyes were on the seniors before the game. During the game all eyes were on the freshman.
Columbian’s Josh?Flint puts up a shot against?Sandusky’s Bryan?Williams during Friday’s game in Tiffin.
Williams scorched the nets for five 3-pointers with 17 of his game-high 22 points in the first half as Sandusky built up a lead.
It held until the 4:39 mark of the fourth quarter when Columbian finally drew even. Then it was time for a senior to take over.
Unfortunately for the host Tornadoes, that senior wore visiting blue.
Michael Delk made the big plays needed down the stretch as Sandusky held off Columbian for a 61-58 win.
"I thought it was a great team win," Sandusky coach Dustin Sharp said as his team improved to 4-16, 3-9 Northern Ohio League. "Jayrease started us off good, then they face-guarded him in the fourth quarter. That was a good defensive move for them. Other guys stepped up, made some plays. I always tell them coaches coach and players got to make plays, and I had a lot of different guys step up and make plays the second half."
The teams just saw each other three days prior in Sandusky where Columbian scored a one-point overtime victory.
In a game that close, any play that goes one way or another can decide the fate of the contest - a clutch shot, a steal, a key rebound. Tuesday, Columbian made those plays. Friday, all those plays were made by Delk.
"He's full of energy," Sharp said. "He's a senior, goes in there and busts his butt all the time. I'm very happy for him and the way he played."
Sandusky had a 51-44 lead early in the fourth before Columbian mounted a comeback. Alec Demith started it off hitting a 3-pointer. Josh Flint followed up with a layup and then Demith fed Derek Dryfuse for a basket to even things up.
Delk, though, countered on Sandusky's ensuing possession with a bucket, then came up with two big steals. One turned into a layup for Davion Fisher and Delk took the second to the basket himself.
"We had a really bad turnover that led to a layup, then another one where there's an and-1. We go from 51-51 to 57-51 in a snap of a finger," Columbian coach Bill Beaston said. "You can't have that lapse happen when you're trying to make that run. You spend so much energy to get it tied, you got to get one more stop, one more score to push it over the top. That puts all the pressure on the other team a little bit."
Columbian's Donovan Walker answered with a 3-pointer, then traded baskets with George Brown to keep it a three-point Sandusky lead with a minute to play.
The Tornado defense tried to force a turnover and nearly got it, but a mad scramble for the ball saw it end up in Delk's hands for baseline-jumper.
Flint hit a basket to bring it back to three with 22.6 seconds to play, and Sandusky missed the front-end of a 1-and-1 to give Columbian one last chance. But a missed shot ended in Delk's hands and Columbian couldn't get a foul to stop the clock.
Beaston said after two tight games with the Blue Streaks, his team's execution Friday was the difference in the loss, compared to Tuesday's win.
"We were just kind of sloppy against their pressure, sloppy against their traps," he said. "We weren't as strong, as efficient as we needed to be. When we did break their pressure I thought we had great looks. For whatever reason we were a little intimidated by (Sandusky 6-6 post Demond Hopkins). That wasn't the case before either. I thought we missed some easy baskets. At the end of the day it's a three-point loss."
Columbian (12-10, 6-6) was paced by its seniors playing their final home game. Flint finished with 17 points and Walker added 11. Isiah Moore tallied nine points while pulling in eight boards.
Columbian now turns its focus to the sectional tournament. The Tornadoes take on Kenton in a sectional final next Friday at Riverdale.
"With Kenton, they're very physical defensively, especially on the basketball," Beaston said. "If we can be strong with the ball and we can hit our cuts and hit our people where they're supposed to be, there's rewards to be had. But, if you're not strong with the basketball and they're able to turn you over, that feeds what they're best at and that's transition basketball. We'll have our guys ready. We're moving past this and working towards Kenton and the focus is going to be on them."