COLUMBIA STATION — An 18-point lead with 3:18 to play is usually a pretty safe bet in high school basketball, just don’t try telling that to Columbia coach Larry Babics.
His Raiders survived a furious Hawken rally Friday night before emerging with a 75-69 win in a Division III sectional final. They advance to Tuesday’s district semifinal against Villa Angela-St. Joseph at Garfield Heights.
“We knew those guys were really tough,” Babics said. “That district we’re in is incredible. We played these guys last year in the first game of the tournament and we played so well in the first quarter, it ended the game.
“We knew they were better (this year).”
“When you play a good team like Hawken, they’re going to make their runs,” said senior Jay Banyasz, who led the Raiders with 20 points and 12 rebounds. “They’re going to hit some shots. We got a little too comfortable with that lead.”
Banyasz not only scored and rebounded, he handed out a bunch of assists, finding open shooters on the perimeter.
Columbia (19-4) knocked down 12 3-pointers, one fewer than the Raiders had against Hawken a year ago in a 66-29 sectional win.
“I trust my teammates,” Banyasz said. “I know if they’re open — even for a half-second — they’re going to knock it down.”
Columbia simply couldn’t miss during a stretch in the third quarter in which it outscored Hawken 13-3 to open a 12-point lead with 5:08 left in the quarter. Brian Hershey spotted up on the left baseline for three more 3-pointers to close the quarter on a 9-1 run for a 61-46 lead.
“It felt great,” Hershey said. “I finally hit my shot. If I’m not on, I trust the others.”
Kevin Simon’s 3-pointer with 3:55 left in the game made it 71-53 and Banyasz scored from close range to match Hawken’s Warren Starks’ bucket for a
73-55 lead with just 3:18 left.
However, the Hawks scored the next 14 points to pull within 73-69 with 1:21 to go. Brandon Severo closed the scoring with a pair of free throws with 39.7 seconds left but the Raiders missed the front end of two one-and-ones and both ends of a two-shot foul with 14.6 left that kept Hawken’s hopes alive.
But the Hawks (13-9) were unable to score again.
“It was scary at the end,” said David Delahunty, who had 16 points and 11 rebounds for Columbia. “A 14-0 run or something like that. We held our composure and finished strong.”
Four Raiders finished in double figures and seven players hit at least one 3-pointer. The 12 threes matched the Raiders’ season high.
A year ago, the Raiders ran out to a 39-8 halftime lead and coasted to victory. This time, the Hawks never quit.
“We played them last year and they did the same thing to us,” Hawken coach Shawn McGregor said. “This time we did bounce back. For us, our kids showed a lot of heart. I don’t know how many threes they knocked down. It felt like it was 30.”
“They put a lot of pressure on us in the fourth quarter when they were playing for their lives,” Babics said. “I thought they had us on our heels. Uncharacteristically, we made a lot of mistakes (eight turnovers) but we were just good enough to win it.”
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
Columbia 75, Hawken 69
HAWKEN (69): Warren Stokes 6-3-16, Alex Doody 5-0-14, Langston Burton 7-5-20, Ian Bell 4-1-9, Josh Walters 3-1-7, Wyatt Beck 0-0-0, Charlie Hruby 0-0-0, Joe Dlugosz 1-0-3, Cam Mazzone 0-0-0, Tommy Dell 0-0-0, Jonathan Simmons 0-0-0. Totals 26-10-69.
COLUMBIA (75): Brandon Severo 4-2-13, Jay Banyasz 8-3-20, Michael Boey 2-0-5, David Delahunty 7-1-16, Kevin Simon 2-0-6, Brian Hershey 3-1-10, Brandon Heidecker 1-0-2, Josh Gibson 1-0-3, Cody Shields 0-0-0. Totals 28-7-75.
Hawken 10 20 16 23 — 69
Columbia 14 21 26 14 — 75
Three-point goals: Hawken 7-24 (Doody 4, Starks, Burton, Dlugosz), Columbia 12-26 (Severo 3, Hershey 3, Simon 2, Banyasz, Boey, Delahunty, Gibson). Field goals: Hawken 26-63 (41 percent), Columbia 28-55 (51 percent). Free throws: Hawken 10-15 (66 percent), Columbia 7-13 (54 percent). Rebounds: Hawken 31 (Bell 7), Columbia 36 (Banyasz 12). Turnovers: Hawken 15, Columbia 17. Fouls: Hawken 17, Columbia 17. Technical foul: Hruby. Fouled out: Starks.