SHEFFIELD TWP. — Apparently you can bring in a Stopper to save a basketball game.
Columbia’s Zach Stopper may not have come out of the bullpen, but he did save the Raiders’ undefeated season Tuesday. Stopper drained a pair of free throws with 10.6 seconds left in regulation as Columbia held on to beat Clearview 61-60 in a Patriot Athletic Conference Stripes Division game.
“I knew I had to knock them down and put my team in position to win,” Stopper said after helping Columbia improve to 10-0, 6-0 in the league. “You just have to keep your confidence.”
Stopper’s free throws were necessary after the Clippers (4-6, 2-4) crawled back from a double-digit first-quarter deficit with a defensive effort that led to a 10-2 run at the start of the second quarter.
Daimon Knowles started the run with a 3-pointer, which was followed by three points from Gerrell Williams and four from Clifton Brown.
Brown led Clearview with 20 points, while Williams added 18 and Knowles 11.
Columbia’s Jacob Simon thwarted the Clearview comeback early, scoring 11 straight points for the Raiders as they pulled away for a 35-27 halftime lead.
“I really needed to step up and score some points,” Simon said. “They (Clippers) were coming out under control, so I pump-faked and was able to go to the hole.”
Simon and Stopper tied for game-high honors with 24 points each.
After Simon’s offensive display, Stopper took over, scoring eight third-quarter points, icluding a 3-pointer with 1:51 left on the clock to give Columbia a 48-40 lead.
But Clearview came all the way back with a 16-4 run over the end of the third and the first half of the fourth quarter to grab a 56-52 lead.
Six Clippers aided the run as Knowles and Darin Sturgill hit 3-pointers and Brown scored four points to give the Clippers their largest lead of the game.
The lead change hands five times over the final 2:52 as the Raiders’ Jay Banyasz came up with three straight steals that led to five points to give Columbia a 57-56 lead.
Buckets by Williams and Browns swung the lead back to Clearview at 60-59, but when Williams missed the front end of a one-and-one with 24 seconds left, it set up Stopper’s chance to keep the season perfect.
After the two free throws by Stopper, the Clippers had one last chance to grab victory, but Banyasz came up with his fourth steal of the quarter to seal the deal.
“We had that lead early and we just couldn’t put them away,” Columbia coach Larry Babics said. “They (Clippers) hit some shots and really made us work on offense.
“I think we may have played good defense in the last two minutes and the other 30 was a myth. We really were out of sorts and you have to give Coach (John) Szalay a lot of credit.”
The Clippers’ Szalay was pleased with his team’s effort, but is still looking for answers.
“We just haven’t gotten any breaks,” he said. “I just thought our kids played their hearts out and we just fought and fought and fought. We made our share of mistakes, but hopefully with that effort we’ll get some wins.”
Columbia 61, Clearview 60
COLUMBIA (61): Jay Banyasz 2-4 9, Jacob Simon 10-3 24, Kevin Simon 2-0 4, Zach Stopper 8-6 24. Totals 22-13 61.
CLEARVIEW (60): Gerrell Williams 5-8 18, Chad Anderson 1-0 2, Eric Burkey 3-0 6, Clifton Brown 9-2 20, Daimon Knowles 4-1 11. Totals 22-11 60.
Columbia 21 14 13 13 — 61
Clearview 11 16 20 13 — 60
Three-point goals: Columbia 4-16 (Stopper 2, Banyasz, J. Simon), Clearview 2-12 (Knowles 2); Field goals: Columbia 22-63 (35 percent), Clearview 22-49 (45 percent); Free throws: Columbia 13-22 (59 percent), Clearview 11-17 (65 percent); Rebounds: Columbia 35, Clearview 39; Turnovers: Columbia 9, Clearview 18.
Junior varsity: Clearview, 54-48.
Contact James Brady at email@example.com.