April 24, 2014

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Boys basketball: Stopper steps up for Raiders

COLUMBIA STATION — Zach Stopper’s night ended far better than it began.

Stopper, Columbia’s leading scorer, was charged with his second personal foul with only 1:31 elapsed in the first quarter of Tuesday’s game against Brooklyn. He was removed from the game at that point.

He re-entered not long afterward and began scoring. Stopper scored a lot. He finished with 32 points, sparking Columbia to a 75-62 victory that gave the Raiders a sweep of their Patriot Athletic Conference schedule.

“He has been through this,” Columbia coach Larry Babics said of Stopper. “He knew when we put him back in that he would have to play defense. He just couldn’t get that third foul. When you get three fouls in the first half you’re done. But we trust Zach. He’s a senior and he knows what to do.”

Stopper didn’t pick up foul No. 3 until late in the fourth period. By that time Columbia (21-1, 16-0) had the game in hand.

Another sterling performance for the Raiders was turned in by sophomore Kevin Simon, who scored a
career-high 17 points and grabbed four rebounds in the first half.

“Kevin stepped up big,” Babics said. “He’s usually not a scorer. He’s one of our better defensive players. He usually guards the other team’s best scorer.”

Simon’s assignment was Alex Sommers, whom Simon held scoreless until the final quarter. Simon had 13 of his points in the second half.

The Raiders didn’t always have a big cushion. After opening a 13-2 lead with 3:11 remaining in the first quarter Brooklyn (7-13, 6-9) stormed back with an 18-10 run and was down by just four points at halftime.

“Coach was not happy with some things,” Stopper said. “We had too many turnovers and not enough rebounding, but we corrected things. We made adjustments.”

The Raiders came out hard in the third quarter, scoring the first eight points of the second half and forging a lead as large as 15 points in the third.

The Hurricanes managed to cut the difference to as few as eight points early in the last period but the Raiders answered with seven in a row to again lead by 15. Brooklyn was as close as seven points at 69-62 with just under a minute to play.

With the regular season out of the way, the Raiders have their eye on a long run into the postseason.

“We’ve all had to rise up,” Stopper said. “We did this without our best player, Joe Palmer (an All-PAC selection out most of the season with ankle injuries). We’re really focused on playing good ball and winning tournament games.”

Columbia 75, Brooklyn 62

BROOKLYN (62): Alex Sommers 3-0-8, Antonio Vega 2-0-6, Dennis Clark 3-1-7, Austin Gruder 3-0-7, Michael Byndas 10-2-25, John Schnear 0-0-0, Dan Lott 0-2-2, Dan Czirr 0-3-3, Andrew Grose 2-0-4. Totals 23-8-62.

COLUMBIA (75): Brandon Severo 2-0-6, Jay Banyasz 2-1-6, Jacob Simon 3-2-9, Kevin Simon 7-2-17, Zach Stopper 12-6-32, Michael Boey 0-0-0, David Delahunty 2-0-5. Totals 28-11-75.

Brooklyn 12 17 14 19 — 62

Columbia 18 15 21 21 — 75

Three-point goals: Brooklyn 8-22 (Byndas 3, Vega 2, Sommers 2, Gruder), Columbia 8-24 (Stopper 2, Severo 2, J. Simon, Banyasz, K. Simon). Rebounds: Brooklyn 31 (Byndas 8), Columbia 28 (J. Simon, Stopper 7). Turnovers: Brooklyn 17, Columbia 14. Total fouls: Brooklyn 13, Columbia 11. Fouled out: None. DeChant, Mastroianni.

Junior varsity: Columbia, 50-48.

Contact Steve Byrne at 329-7135 or stephenbyrne@att.net.