COLUMBIA – Adam Hill liked the way the Civic Memorial Eagles took charge of things Saturday in their opener of the 59th annual Columbia-Freeburg Boys’ Basketball Tournament.
The senior guard served as the Eagles’ commander. And they got going quickly and never let up while stinging Sparta, 70-44, in a Pool B game. CM, the No. 2 seed overall, improved to 8-2. Sparta, suffering its sixth consecutive setback, fell to 2-9.
“We were in our man-to-man press and got some easy steals and baskets,” Hill said. “I love to play that style.”
CM forced Sparta into making 23 turnovers and the Bulldogs never found a comfortable rhythm, coach Jeff Bowlby said.
“They play fast and furious,” he added. “We got down and never caught up. They have a pretty deep team and all of them play hard. I was impressed the way they come at you.”
So was CM coach Doug Carey. He saw 10 Eagles score and their bench produce 30 points. Hill’s 10 points led the way. Brandon Hampton, David Lane and 6-foot-4 sophomore reserve Geoff Withers all contributed 9 points as a harassing defense triggered a resourceful offense.
“We have a very balanced group, with 8 or 9 guys who can score,” Carey said.
It seemed as if the Eagles’ defense set up their offense and led to a smooth transition game. An 11-0 spree early on enabled the Eagles to build a 21-8 advantage early in the second quarter. CM led 44-22 by halftime and never looked back. The Eagles shot ahead 62-31 after three quarters and the mercy rule kicked in for the final eight minutes.
“They couldn’t handle our pressure,” Carey said of the Bulldogs. “I know they turned the ball over quite a lot in the first half and that made a difference. Adam (Hill) played very well and did a lot of good things.”
Hill figured the bench guys provided plenty in reserve. Five substitutes teamed for those 30 points.
“We’re pretty deep with our bench,” Hill added.
Gabe Yearian’s 11 points led Sparta, which connected on just 17 of 42 shots. CM hit 24 of 56 field-goal attempts and 18 of 26 free throws. The Eagles had 11 turnovers, though 7 of them came in the second quarter.
Next up for CM is a 4 p.m. date Monday with Lebanon. If the Eagles prevail, they will win their pool and advance to the semifinals. CM finished third at Freeburg – the tourney rotates each year – in 2014 and captured tourney titles in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2007. Top-seeded Columbia is the defending champion.
“In the past, we have played really well in the Christmas tournament and it has helped us get ready for the second half of the season,” Hill said. “I think if we play well here this year, we’ll play well the second half of this season.”
In early games Saturday, Southwestern dumped Dupo, 84-53, and Waterloo staged a second-half rally to trim Valmeyer, 70-54. The Pirates led 32-23 at half before Waterloo reversed things.
CM 70, SPARTA 44
CM 19 25 18 8 – 70
Sparta 8 14 9 13 – 44
CM (8-2) – Brandon Hampton 9, David Lane 5, Adam Hill 10, Brett Lane 7, JaQuan Adams 9, Geoff Withers 9, Justin Williams 2, Zach Williams 5, Caden Clark 7, Jaxson Helmkamp 7. 2FG0-20 3FG-04 FT-18 PF-15
Sparta (2-9) – Gabe Yearian 11, Alzye Nesbitt 3, Drew Kordys 5, Devin Brown 5, Naseur Hobbs 6, Jon Williams 2, Bryan Lowery 8, Issac Floyd 2, Jacob Soderlund 2. 2FG-15 3FG-2 FT-8 PF-21