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Daunting Deja Vu: Eagles fall by 1 point in final seconds of sectional semi-final ­— again

March 10, 2014

Columbia City Head Coach Chris Benedict stands with his fists clenched and in shock after Mississinewa hit a basket at the buzzer to win the game, while the Indians’ crowd goes wild in celebration in front of him.

OSSIAN — Jaws dropped. Fists clenched. Heads buried. Complete silence — again. Columbia City’s boys basketball fans were dealt another heart-breaking sectional semi-final loss.
Last year, the Eagles fell by one point to DeKalb with a pair of free throws with less than two seconds to play, leaving fans speechless.
The crowd was yet again shocked and awed as the buzzer sounded Friday night in Norwell, after the Eagles fell 41-40 to Mississinewa.
The Indians didn’t have the lead for the entire game — until the last possible moment.
With no time left on the clock, and Mississinewa trailing by one, Indian Sam Cerny grabbed a rebound and threw it at the basket as a last-ditch effort to win the game — and it went in.
Columbia City had a 40-39 lead with 46 seconds left on the clock. They held on to that lead through strong defense that kept Mississinewa from taking a shot.
Forced to call a time out with less than five seconds to go, the Indians set up a play for Caleb Swanner to take the last shot. But he missed it.
Assuming the buzzer had gone off, the Eagles claimed the win and began to cheer — but according to the referees, the game wasn’t over yet.
With nearly all of Columbia City’s defenders focused on Swanner, Cerny swooped in for the rebound, and in the same motion, took the shot that swished through the hoop and sent the Indians to the sectional title game against Norwell Saturday night.
The Eagles led by eight in the beginning of the fourth quarter, but the lead was quickly squelched, as the Indians outscored Columbia City 11-5 in the last eight minutes.
Columbia City’s Brachen Hazen scored the Eagles’ lone field goal of the quarter, and Columbia City turned the ball over four times in the final minutes.
“We just had to do a better job in the fourth quarter,” Columbia City Head Coach Chris Benedict said. “We had the opportunity to pull ahead and take care of the game but we didn’t.
“I feel bad for our kids. It’s a tough pill to swallow.”
Columbia City started the game with a 5-0 lead, after a 3-pointer from Justin Bachelder and a bucket from center Brachen Hazen, who was faced with a double-team most of the night.
One of the Eagles’ leading scorers, Hazen was held to eight points by the Ole Miss defense.
The inside pressure forced Columbia City to take more perimeter shots, as the Eagles scored 18 of their 40 points from behind the 3-point arc.
Hazen sparked the Eagle offense in the first quarter with a dunk to make the score 9-2, but Mississinewa slowly worked its way back into the game to tie the score at 12 with 1:30 to play in the first quarter.
Eagle Tyler Green knocked down a 3-pointer to take back the lead and end the first quarter with a 15-12 score.
Baskets from Green, Mason Coverstone and a traditional three-point play by Ryan Mosher made the score 23-14 with 4:53 left in the half.
However, the Eagles were scoreless for the remainder of the second quarter, and Mississinewa again worked its way back into the game to tie the score at 23 at halftime.
Columbia City outscored the Indians 12-7 in the third quarter, thanks to two 3-pointers from Bachelder, two field goals from Hazen and a pair of free throws from Coverstone to make the score 35-30 going into the fourth quarter.
Bachelder opened the final period with the traditional three-point play to take an eight-point lead, but the Eagles didn’t score another field goal for the rest of the game before Cerny hit the game-winning shot.
“We had to play the game to win it not just maintain the lead,” Benedict said. “We’ll get there. We were playing our best at the end of the season and we have a lot of guys coming back next year.
“It’s a hard pill to swallow, but it’s one we’ll get better with. When life throws things at you, you have to learn how to respond. I’m confident our guys will respond to this loss with a great offseason.”
Bachelder led the Eagles in scoring with 16 points, followed by Hazen with eight and Coverstone with seven.
Cerny finished the game with four points for the Indians.
Columbia City ends the season 10-13.

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