For the Raiders it really started back on Feb. 25. That was the date that a Columbia team that ended the regular season with a 2-18 record pulled off a shocker, upsetting No. 1 seed and defending state semifinalist Elyria Catholic, 42-38, in the Division III sectional finals.
With that one win the Raiders cast aside a season they would rather forget and set the stage for a return to the top of the Patriot Athletic Conference Stripes, a division Columbia won in 2009 and 2010.
Of course, no season is the same, and while the Raiders hope to use last year’s upset as a springboard to success, EC obviously remembered that game, as well, and handed Columbia a 71-24 thrashing in a regular-season rematch Wednesday.
Still, the three players that accounted for 36 of Columbia’s 42 points in last year’s win — Christine Lyzen, Jenna Guth and Kaley Marshall — are all back for their senior year and expecting big things.
“Beating Elyria Catholic gave us so much confidence going into this year because it showed us what we were capable of,” said Marshall, a 5-foot-7 guard who earned an honorable mention spot on the All-Lorain County team after averaging 11.4 points and 5.2 rebounds last year.
For Guth, the point guard, the win was about more than momentum going into a long offseason, it was also a much-needed boost of confidence going into her senior year.
“All of our coaches told us we could beat Elyria Catholic if we just put our minds to it,” she said. “When we beat them we were so happy, but it also put into our heads that we can have a really good team if we just put our mind into it.”
The team worked hard in the offseason and came into preseason practice with a renewed sense of purpose and discipline, Guth said.
“This season everyone wants to work harder so that we will have a better record and go even further in the tournament,” Guth said. “That means we have to work on the little things like free throws and layups and taking things more serious and not goofing off in practice.
“We lost a lot of games last year because of the little things. We are committed to being a really good team this year and not letting that happen again.”
The Raiders are an experienced team with seven returning letterwinners. However, one familiar face that won’t be on the bench is longtime coach Larry Babics, who took over the boys team. Veteran assistant Ken Marlette is the new Raiders coach.
Marlette, who was an assistant at Columbia for the past six seasons, said it’s been a smooth transition for himself and his team.
“We’re not going to scrap all the things that have worked in the past,” Marlette said. “We have won four sectional championships over the past six seasons and while our record last year was bad, we were in a lot of close game until the end.”
Lyzen isn’t worried about whose calling the shots on the sidelines because she’ll be too busy taking the shots on the court. The 5-foot-8 inch small forward hit 45 3-pointers a year ago, an average of more than two a game, including four in the win over the Panthers.
Lyzen, whose 9.9 points and 6.3 rebounds per game averages were good enough to earn her a spot on the All-PAC and All-Lorain County Division III teams, said knowing this is her final year to play alongside Marshall and Guth, as well as Shelby Stedronsky, another senior who will come off the bench — brings an added urgency to this season.
“Being a senior, it’s your last year, so it’s all or nothing now,” Lyzen said. “So, yeah, there is a little added pressure to really do your best. You only get one chance to play high school basketball so it’s really exciting.”
Guth, an All-PAC honorable mention selection a year ago, still remembers the feeling she had last February and is ready to do whatever it takes to build more positive memories in her final high school season.
“The (Elyria Catholic) game was the best game I’ve ever played in my high school career,” she said. “It was really surprising and exciting, like you wouldn’t believe it but it actually happened. I want to put 110 percent into every game and everything I do this year because it’s probably the last time I will be playing competitive basketball. I want to have that feeling again.”
Game time change
The Columbia girls varsity game versus Oberlin on Wednesday, Dec. 12, has been moved up to 7 p.m.
There will be no JV game.
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.