Granite City forces Eagle mistakes
Warriors take 60-50 road win at Columbia; Watson, Moore combine for 40-points

COLUMBIA – Head coach Mark Sandstrom set up some severe tests for his team going into the 2018-19 season as he has in recent campaigns.

He ratcheted up the degree of difficulty of the Columbia Eagles' varsity schedule to help better prepare his club for potential 3A postseason matchups.

Coach Sandstrom wanted to add teams with more quickness and athletic ability to the non-conference slate of contests.

But like the old saying goes, “be careful what you wish for.”

On Thursday night at home they tackled a very good 4A squad; the Granite City Warriors.

Coach Sandstrom's team struggled with the visitor's quickness and athletic ability.

The Warriors forced Columbia into 22-turnovers, including a 13 minute stretch in the second and third quarters where the Eagles committed a slew of miscues that averaged out to one turnover per minute.

Granite City built a double-digit lead and held off a slight Eagles' rally (mostly from the foul line) for a 60-50 non-conference win.

Coach Gerald Moore saw his mostly senior club improve to 4-2 on the young season with the road win.

Five-foot-eleven senior Jerry Watson led GC with 21-points while 6-foot-2 senior guard Zidane Moore added 19-points, all in the first half.

“We have six seniors on this team and they are ready. This is their second year with me and they are listening and working their butts off,” said Coach Moore. “I am so proud of them.”

Columbia (3-3) got 19-points from 6-foot-7 senior forward Jon Peterson but no other Eagles' player managed double-figures.

Six-foot-eight senior Cole Khoury and 5-foot-11 junior Sam Horner added eight-points each.

Horner nailed a pair of 3-pointers to begin the second quarter to even the score for one final time.

The Warriors then used their quickness to produce a game-changing run in the remainder of the half that broke the 19-19 deadlock.

The scoring burst was 16-2, fueled from defensive pressure which got Granite City a 35-21 halftime lead.

During the stretch, Columbia committed nine of its turnovers.

The Eagles would never get closer than nine-points the rest of the way.

“We talked before the game about not letting one mistake snowball into two or three or four in a row. But it did, and that was the deciding factor,” said Coach Sandstrom about the second quarter Granite City outburst. “They picked up the pressure and we didn't do a good job initiating our offense. When we initiated our offense, we were fine. But we stood around and tried to do 20-foot passes in the center part of the court and that is a turnover every time.”

One of the few low spots for the Warriors came from them being overly aggressive.

Coach Moore's squad committed too many fouls (21), sending the Eagles to the line too often (15-of-20).

That factored into a final score that wasn't indicative of how Granite City controlled the matchup.

“We did a good job of scouting them (Columbia) and they have two bigs; 6-7 and 6-8, those are two pretty big boys,” said Coach Moore. “We gambled tonight. We were going to go small (lineup) and speed it up a little bit to neutralize them. Double zero (Peterson) is a player and number 40 (Khoury) if he gets you on his back he is going to score on you. So we couldn't allow it to be a half-court game. We wanted to stay up tempo and use a lot of guys. When they went big (lineup) we went small. Those big guys can play.”

Granite City led early as Moore got off to the best start of the night by any player.

The shooting guard got hot and scored 12-points in the opening frame.

His first made shot, a 3-point bomb from the top of the arc, gave the Warriors an 8-4 cushion.

Moore converted a pair of fast breaks; one off of a defensive rebound as he sprinted to the other end of the floor for a driving score to break an 8-8 tie.

The next possession came to an end when Moore dialed up his second trifecta from the left wing.

Moore produced two more buckets just a few seconds apart when he made a steal and scored in transition later in the first quarter.

His next points came on another fast break off of a steal from Watson, which pushed the lead to 19-10.

Columbia, who struggled early, got a 3-pointer from sophomore guard Jonah James to close the first quarter with the Eagles down by six.

The Horner pair of 3-pointers gave the Eagles some life (9-0 run from the three 3's) in the early going in the second quarter.

But a suffocating defensive effort the remainder of the game by the quick Warriors' club proved the point that Coach Sandstrom was trying to make when he added this opponent to the calendar.

In just over six minutes of action, Columbia coughed up nine turnovers.

When they weren't tossing the ball away, it was taken from them.

Moore added to his resume with another 3-pointer and a nice driving lay in where he went to his right and scooped the ball up and in for two points and a 30-21 spread with 1:49 remaining in the half.

Watson added a pair of free throws which he followed with another fast break basket.

A single free throw by junior Keyon White closed the half with Granite City up by 14.

The Warriors looked ready to put the game away early in the third quarter as they increased the lead to 44-28, the largest margin of the night.

Senior guard Davontay Mason got in on the fun with five points in the third quarter on a 3-pointer and then a driving lay in.

Watson and freshman Christian Jones scored in transition which forced a Columbia timeout with 4:06 left.

The Eagles second best scoring march of the night closed out the third quarter.

Peterson popped home a pair of shots near the basket, as did Khoury, as they closed the gap to 44-34 heading to the final eight minutes.

While Moore took care of the business in the first half, Watson closed the deal in the final minutes.

After a basket senior Granite City senior Justin Wiley, Watson again picked off an errant pass and then sprinted down the court for a one-handed slam dunk.

He later cashed in a 3-pointer to go along with 5-of-6 free throws in the final minutes, including a pair with :28.2 to give the Warriors their ten points margin of victory.

Watson finished up 7-of-8 from the foul line and the team was 11-of-15.

“We wanted Watson up front on defense because he is so quick,” said Coach Moore. “We wanted to put him in position to use his quickness and ability on defense.”

Columbia, when they weren't turning it over, hit 15-of-28 from the field (53.5 percent) with 5-of-10 from the arc.

The Eagles took advantage of Granite City overplaying as they got to the foul line, going 15-of-20 from the charity stripe.

They also held a 25-11 rebounding edge.

But those advantages were wiped away by the errors caused by the Warriors' defensive effort.

“This Columbia team, we were scared coming in. They are well coached and they play very hard,” said Coach Moore. “This is a difficult place to play.”

Granite City was 21-of-45 from the floor, 7-of-20 from the circle in the win.

The Warriors were much better handling the basketball on this night, as they surrendered just seven turnovers in the 32 minute conquest.

Coach Moore will send the troops out again next Tuesday, December 11 at home again St. Louis (MO.) McClur while Coach Sandstrom will take his Eagles on the road for another 4A test at Belleville East on Saturday night December 8.

“They (Granite City) shot the ball well tonight from the perimeter, which is different from what we saw of them early in the year (scouting),” said Coach Sandstrom. “This game (experience) is great along with this coming Saturday's game (Belleville East) for our young guards to understand what pressure is. Those two teams are the type of teams and athletes we are going to see in the postseason. In the last few years we have scheduled these type games and it has paid off at the regionals.”

Granite City
Granite City (60) – Mason 1 1 0-0 5, 4 2 7-8 21, White 0 0 1-2 1, Moore 5 3 0-0 19, Jones 2 1 0-0 7, Grote 0 0 0-0 0, Wiley 2 0 3-5 7, Tippett 0 0 0-0 0, Baker 0 0 0-0 0.
2FG-14, 3FG-7, FT-11-15, PF-21
Columbia (50) – Peterson 5 2 3-4 19, N. Horner 0 0 4-5 4, Hunsaker 0 0 0-0 0, James 0 1 2-2 5, Holmes 0 0 0-0 0, S. Horner 0 2 0-0 6, O'Connor 2 0 4-7 8, Khoury 3 0 2-2 8.
2FG-10, 3FG-5, FT-15-20, PF-12.

Fouled Out – Wiley - Granite City.
Technical Fouls – None.