Eagles' edge Carlyle
O'Conner hits last second shot, Columbia takes home 47-44 road win

CARLYLE – The Columbia Eagles have, according to their head coach Mark Sandstrom, struggled mightily on the offensive end of the floor this season.

On Tuesday night, after a pretty good first half against host Carlyle, the Eagles' struggles continued.

Leading by 12-points at halftime and by as many as 15-points during the third quarter, Columbia looked to have righted the offensive rudder and were on their way to an easy road win in Cahokia Conference play.

But head coach Andy Palmer's Indians rallied by defensively adding to the Eagles' woes.

Carlyle outscored Columbia 13-5 in the first 7:46 of the final quarter to even the score at 44-all.

As it turned out the Eagles, who had just a single made field goal and three free throws in the entire quarter up to that point, had one more shot left in them.

After the Indians tied the game on a drive in the lane by junior guard Hunter Boatright, Coach Sandstrom didn't use a timeout to set up a play.

As the clock ticked down, his team knew what to do.

They worked the ball against Carlyle, who had basically shut down the Eagles' offense in the final quarter.

Looking for a final shot, Columbia sophomore Jacob O'Conner found himself open in the left corner.

When the ball got to the 6-foot guard as the clock ticket down, O'Conner launched a shot from beyond the 3-point arc.

His shot found the bottom of the net as the buzzer sounded, giving the visitors a 47-44 win.

“I don't like calling timeout in that situation. I want my guys to trust their teammates. He's a sophomore but he hit a big shot for us,” said Coach Sandstrom. “We haven't executed our offense very well this year but we have kids that have experience. We got a good look at the basket and it went in.”

Having lost all of its momentum, the Eagles were out gunned 22-7 in a 12:35 span before the final shot sent them home winners.

None of that was any consolation for Coach Palmer as his team fell to 3-6 on the season, 1-2 in the division.

Playing without three key players, the Indians head into the Mater Dei Holiday Tournament on a four-game losing skid.

Carlyle was led by Boatright and also senior Tyler Siever, both of whom scored 14-points in the defeat.

Nick Becker netted eight-points in the game, all in the second half as the Indians rallied to nearly pull out the come-from-behind win.

After beginning the season 1-4, Columbia now sits at 4-4 overall and 3-1 in the Mississippi Division.

The Eagles got 13-points on the inside from 6-foot-6 junior Jon Peterson and 10-points from senior guard Jordan Holmes.

That was nine-points below Holmes' average for the season.

“We did a good job on Holmes, but we don't have the size to match up with their big kids,” said Coach Palmer. “We battled tonight, especially in the second half.”

Riley Hubler, also a junior, added nine-points in the win.

All three of these players helped get Columbia on track early as they built a double-digit lead by halftime.

Holmes scored three times in the first quarter as the Eagles took a 14-6 lead with :58 left.

Columbia capitalized on four early Indians' turnovers in the run netting two transition baskets.

In the second quarter, 6-foot-8 junior Cole Khoury got inside for an early basket and then pesky 5-foot-7 senior guard Jared Germain made a steal and scored his only two points of the game in transition.

O'Conner nailed his first shot of the game, a 3-pointer from the top of the arc, to give Columbia a 23-11 spread at 1:45 before halftime.

Carlyle got a pair of free throws from junior forward Dawson Reinacher and a basket by Sievers on an assist from Reinacher to close the half as the Indians went to the break down 25-15.

A 7-2 run to begin the second half had the Eagles looking good.

Hubler, Holmes and Khoury combined for baskets and a free throw in the run.

Columbia's Drew Worley tossed in a 3-point bomb later in the frame.

His shot from the right wing pushed the margin to 37-22 with 3:11 to go.

From that point on, Coach Palmer's club flipped a switch and the defensive game-plan that they had worked on for the Eagles started paying off.

They began to get the stops that they needed and the shots began to fall.

A 9-2 scoring run, with scores from Boatright, Siever and Reinacher, breathed some life into the Carlyle crowd.

Junior guard Caleb Darr scored on a drive in the lane in the final minute, getting the Indians to within 39-31 heading to the fourth quarter.

Seven-consecutive points by the hosts to open the fourth quarter forced a Columbia timeout.

Darr scored again as did 6-foot-3 senior Nick Becker.

Becker's basket was on a fast break off of one of four Eagles' turnovers in the final frame.

A drive by Siever made it 39-38 Columbia with 4:01 left.

Columbia got a big score on the inside by Peterson, as he converted a conventional three-point play to push the lead to 42-38.

A pair of free throws by Holmes were very important a little over one minute later.

This gave Columbia a 44-39 advantage with just :44.8 left.

As it turned out, they needed every point they could get.

The Indians mounted their final comeback of the night as they even things on a 3-pointer from Becker and a drive in the lane by Boatright.

Boatright's score with :14 left set the stage for the final heroics that the Eagles needed for the road triumph.

Holmes got the ball to Hubler who saw O'Conner open in the left corner.

The sophomore stroked home his second shot of the game (2-of-2) for the game winner as time expired.

Columbia didn't shoot the ball well on the night, hitting just 18-of-41 overall and only 3-of-17 from the 3-point line.

But they managed to make 8-of-12 from the foul line and they held a 23-18 rebounding edge.

“It is tough to win in this conference and even tougher to win on the road. We won at Salem, which is a tough place to play and tonight was a big win for us,” said Coach Sandstrom. “We are looking for more consistency from our offense. We got the ball inside in the first half but in the second half you have to give Carlyle credit. They did a great job guarding us.”

The Indians were 17-of-34 from the floor and 3-of-11 from the arc.

However they didn't do themselves any favors from the foul line, as they missed five free throws in the first half and ended up 7-of-15 from the stripe for the contest.

Coach Palmer is hoping to have the services of 6-foot senior Alex Huels next week at the Mater Dei tournament.

Huels hasn't played this season due to mononucleosis.

Coach Palmer is also hoping to have back on the floor the next time the Indians suit up two other players; Isaac Smith (scratched eye) and Chase Taylor (ankle).

“We got down ten at the half. We had some missed opportunities but we missed too many free throws. We started getting the stops we needed in the second half. We had a game plan coming in from out scouting report. We knew what they were going to do but we didn't do a good job in the first half,” said Coach Palmer. “We did much better in the second half. We've got to do that for all four quarters.”

The Indians tackle a tough field at Mater Dei, as they are in a pool with Highland, Mascoutah, Okawville and Breese Central.

Coach Sandstrom will head into their own holiday tournament next week, taking on rival Freeburg on the first day of the event, December 27.

“The kid (O'Conner) made a good shot to beat us tonight,” said Coach Palmer. “We've just got to get healthy.”

Columbia (47) – Peterson 5 0 3-3 13, Germain 1 0 0-0 2, Hubler 4 0 1-3 9, Worley 0 1 0-0 3, Holmes 4 0 2-2 10, Van Breusegen 0 0 0-0 0, Horner 0 0 0-0 0, O'Conner 0 2 0-0 6, Khoury 1 0 2-4 4.
2FG-15, 3FG-3, FT-8-12, PF-18.

Carlyle (44)
– Reinacher 1 0 2-4 4, Boatright 3 2 2-6 14, Becker 0 0 0-0 0, Siever 7 0 0-1 14, Heinzmann 0 0 0-0 0, Becker 1 1 3-4 8, Darr 2 0 0-0 4..
2FG-14, 3FG-3, FT-7-15, PF-13.

Fouled Out
– None.
Technical Fouls
– None.