The Columbia High School boys basketball team was kind of a mystery entering the 2021-22 campaign, but certainly turned some heads in winning the Columbia-Freeburg Holiday Tournament last week.
Eagles head coach Mark Sandstrom, who returned to the bench following a two-year break, admitted he didn’t know what was in store for his bunch this season.
“I’m really proud of our progress throughout the first two months of the season,” Sandstrom said. “Considering we didn’t have any experience returning and the number of freshmen we would have on the floor at times, I really didn’t know what to expect.”
Sandstrom said he has been impressed with his younger players’ quick grasp of the varsity game.
“They have been able to pick up schemes and we have been able to score the ball pretty well,” he said. “However, the best thing we have been able to do is make major strides on the defensive end of the floor. We would have never been able to beat Freeburg or Alton Marquette 2-3 weeks ago.”
Columbia (11-3) opened with easy wins over Piasa Southwestern and Civic Memorial in the tourney.
Last Tuesday, the Eagles won 55-39 over Freeburg. A 13-4 run in the third quarter pulled Columbia away for good.
Dylan Murphy and Glenn Powers scored 20 points each to lead the Eagles. They shot a combined 7-for-10 from three-point range.
In the tourney title game on their home court, the Eagles posted a 39-25 win over Marquette last Wednesday night.
Murphy, who was named tourney MVP, scored 21 points in the win. The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 19.5 points per game in the tournament and is averaging 16.4 points per contest this season.
“Dylan has really established himself as an inside-outside player. He has put in so much work and is hungry to get better every day,” Sandstrom said.
Powers, a 6-foot-2 senior, is averaging nearly 10 points per game this season.
“Glenn had a great tournament and we look forward to him playing like that for the rest of the season,” Sandstrom said.
Jack Steckler, a 6-foot-1 junior, is also averaging nearly 10 points per game.
“Jack has had some really big moments already this season,” Sandstrom assessed.
Sam Donald, a 6-foot-6 freshman, is averaging 10.2 points and 5.5 rebounds per contest.
“Sam hasn’t played like a freshman while making two all-tournament teams,” Sandstrom assessed.
Freshmen Hayes van Breusegen and Brady Hemminghaus have made solid contributions as well, the coach added.
The player Sandstrom is most proud of so far this season is 6-foot-1 junior Dominic Voegele.
“(He’s) one of the best QBs and pitchers in the area who gets a lot of recognition and well-deserved headlines. He does all of the dirty work for us – he rebounds, hustles and plays great defense,” Sandstrom said. “Without him, we wouldn’t be where we are today. He is very unselfish and just wants to win. He is the ultimate competitor and old-school teammate.”
Columbia hosts Freeburg on Friday and plays Saturday at Centralia and Tuesday at Metro East Lutheran.
Waterloo (8-5) also fared well in the holiday tournament, placing third. It was the highest showing for the Bulldogs in this tourney since 2013.
Following an opening round loss to tourney runner-up Marquette, the Bulldogs posted wins over Gibault, Valmeyer and Civic Memorial.
Waterloo downed the Pirates last Tuesday, 69-37. During the process, Waterloo senior Ty Lenhardt scored his 1,000th career varsity point. He finished the game with 17 points.
Logan Calvert led the Bulldogs with 20 points and eight rebounds.
Last Wednesday, Waterloo won third place with a 71-48 victory over Mississippi Valley Conference foe Civic Memorial. The Bulldogs outscored the Eagles 41-25 in the second half.
Calvert again led the way with 20 points and eight rebounds. Lenhardt scored 18 points and Ian Schrader added 16 points and seven assists.
Lenhardt leads Waterloo in scoring at nearly 17 points per game on the season. He is shooting 45.5 percent from three-point range and 84 percent from the free throw line.
Calvert, a 6-foot-5 senior, is averaging 11.5 points and six rebounds per contest.
Waterloo hosts Highland on Friday and plays Saturday at Mt. Vernon.
Gibault (8-5) closed its tourney run with a 35-21 loss to Marquette last Tuesday and a 44-29 victory over Freeburg last Wednesday.
The Hawks were held to just six second half points against Marquette and shot just 23.3 percent from the floor – including 0-for-9 from three-point range.
The Hawks and Midgets battled even for three of four quarters last Wednesday, but Gibault held a 19-4 edge in the second quarter.
Kaden Augustine led the Hawks with 16 points and Jude Green contributed eight points and nine rebounds in the win.
Augustine leads the Hawks in scoring this season at nearly 14 points per game, followed by Kameron Hanvey at 10.4 points and 2.36 steals per contest.
Gibault hosted Wesclin on Tuesday and plays Saturday at Civic Memorial.
Following last Tuesday’s loss to Waterloo, Valmeyer (0-14) narrowly missed its first victory over the season in its tourney closer against Piasa Southwestern.
The Pirates lost 37-35.
Jordan McSchooler, who leads the Pirates in scoring at 9.2 points per game on the season, scored 12 points and pulled down six rebounds in the contest.
McSchooler, a senior, is shooting 79 percent (15-for-19) from three-point range this season.
Valmeyer hosts Lebanon this Friday night.
Dupo (3-9) has been idle since a Dec. 21 win over the Pirates.
The Tigers play Thursday against Principia.