With its second-leading scorer Cole Fisher on the bench still recovering from an ankle injury, Lancaster Mennonite had to make some adjustments heading into Tuesday’s Lancaster-Lebanon League Section Five boys basketball matchup at first-place Columbia.
The visiting Blazers stuck 6-foot, 6-inch sophomore center David Weaver in front of the basket on the defensive end, and switched back-and-forth from man-to-man defense and a 2-3 zone. It kept Columbia from attacking the rim in the first half. The strategy worked in the first quarter. Then the host Tide got hot from the perimeter in the second quarter, opened up a sizable advantage by halftime, and later staved off a Blazers’ fourth-quarter comeback to come away with an eventual 73-65 victory.
Section champs: With the win, Columbia (6-0 league, 10-1 overall) won the Section Five crown, qualified for the L-L tournament and extended its winning streak to nine games, the longest current streak among any team in the league. The Tide also won back-to-back section crowns, a feat last accomplished by the program 31 years ago, when the league’s all-time leading scorer Mike Wisler was in a Columbia uniform.
“It’s a great feeling, especially with me being from Columbia and growing up here,” Tide senior Michael Poole, Jr. said. “Basketball has always been the big thing here. We’ll be talked about for the next couple years. It’s a big deal.”
First half: Weaver (13 points, eight rebounds) cut the Blazers’ deficit to 13-10 at the start of the second quarter. Columbia, after making one of eight 3-point attempts in the first quarter, then went on a 15-3 run that was backended by four-straight treys. The Tide shot 5-for-6 from beyond the arc and outscored Lancaster Mennonite 26-12 in the period, going to the half up 39-20. The Columbia defense also forced Lancaster Mennonite (4-2, 6-6) into 11 first-half turnovers.
“We have two guys over 6-foot-2, one them is a starter, so we don’t have a lot of interior play,” Columbia fifth-year coach Kerry Glover said. “In the first quarter, we got good shots, they just didn’t drop. So I told them if you stay consistent, they’ll start to drop. And they did, but mainly because they picked it up on the defensive end. That’s my biggest thing. Let your defense become your offense.”
Second half: With his team down 60-39 to start the fourth quarter, Blazers’ leading scorer Camden Hurst scored Lancaster Mennonite’s next seven points and 16 of his team’s next 20 points to cut the deficit to 68-59 with 2:05 remaining. The Blazers had chances to get closer but committed turnovers on its next two possessions. A Hurst layup with 34 seconds left trimmed the Columbia lead to 70-63, but Lancaster Mennonite didn’t get any closer.
The Columbia gym is still awaiting the return of the banner that lists the section titles for the boys basketball program, in part because it was sent away last year to add the one from the 2019-20 season. And then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“I told our athletic director when we get it (the banner) back,” Glover said. “Now they can put both section titles (from 2020 and 2021) on it.”
Star players: Hurst pumped in a career-high 33 points, becoming the seventh L-L boys hoopster to score 30 or more points, and just the third to score 33 points, in a game this year. He also pulled down nine rebounds.
Columbia was paced by Poole (19 points, eight rebounds, four steals), Robert Footman (16 points, six rebounds), Kerry Glover (11 points) and Ryan Hinkle (10 points, six rebounds).
Up next: On Thursday, the Tide will travel to Schuylkill Valley while the Blazers will host Lancaster Country Day.
L-L boys basketball standings
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