COLUMBIA — The Triad Knights are riding high in the Columbia-Freeburg Holiday Tournament. Unfortunately for the Civic Memorial Eagles, they were Triad's latest victim on Tuesday, losing 55-43.
With the win, the Knights are 3-0 in Columbia and advance to the tourney title tilt at 7 p.m. Wednesday vs. host Columbia. The Eagles dipped to 2-1 in tournament action and now battle for third place at 6 p.m. Wednesday against Freeburg. Columbia beat the Midgets 64-34 in the nightcap Tuesday.
CM sank to 9-3 overall on the season with the loss, while Triad improved to 5-7. The Knights entered the tournament with a lowly 2-7 record, but have caught fire with wins over Marquette Catholic, Lovejoy and now CM — all by double digits.
The Eagles saw Triad in their second game of the season, trumping the Knights 58-33. Things definitely changed on Tuesday.
“They're a lot better than they were the second game of the season,” CM head coach Doug Carey said. “They're playing with a lot more confidence, doing some good things offensively and defensively. Tonight they played pretty well defensively. They are much improved.”
Triad head coach Sam Drake admitted his team is playing with a newfound fervor and topping the Eagles was a major step in their season.
“This game especially, we had played one of our worst games I've ever seen at CM earlier in the season, we couldn't do anything right,” Drake said. “I think this is a testament to how much our kids have been sticking with it and practicing to prepare and be ready for each game. I was impressed with the way we guarded tonight. I thought we put forth a really good defensive effort. That's something I think we can hang our hat on and I thought tonight it was.”
Triad heated up quickly Tuesday. After CM's Adam Hill opened the game with a 3-pointer, the Knights strung together a 9-0 spurt to go up 9-3 and never trailed again.
The Eagles clawed back to tie it twice in the first quarter. A bucket by David Lane squared it up at 13-13 with 46.1 seconds left and then as he hit two free throws with 18.4 seconds to go it was tied 15-15, but a trey by Noah Moss as time expired catapulted Triad on top 18-15 at quarter's end.
CM knotted it twice in the second quarter, too. A trey from Hill tied it at 18-18 at the 7:00 mark and a 3-pointer by Caden Clark with 2:12 remaining in the half drew the Eagles even at 21-21. Those proved to be the only six points CM could muster in the quarter, while the Knights knocked down five free throws to enter the break clinging to a 23-21 advantage.
Despite forcing Triad into 15 turnovers, while only giving it up 8 times on their end, Carey thought the Eagles defensive effort was lackluster on Tuesday. They have prided themselves on stalwart defense and he thought that wavered vs. the Knights.
“That was the worst we've played defensively except maybe the Highland game,” Carey said. “For some reason or the other our guys didn't want to get up and pressure and run and jump and trap like we do every game. We just didn't do it. Triad played harder than we did, played smarter than we did and when you throw in we shot probably 25 percent from the field, that's a recipe for disaster.”
CM actually shot 30 percent from the field (13 of 42), but Triad fired 50 percent from the field (17 of 34) to answer.
The Knights leaped in front 38-29 after three quarters and owned their biggest lead of the game at 46-31 when the Eagles decided to kick it into high gear.
Brandon Hampton nailed a 3-pointer with 5:28 to play in the game, sparking a 9-0 spree for CM which closed the gap to 46-40 with 4:19 left. Brett Lane netted the other six points on the run.
The Eagles had a chance to get it to a one possession game, but missed their opportunity and Triad was able to close out the victory.
“We got it to six and we had the ball, too. If we would have made that it would have been a little different story, but the real story of the game is we just didn't come ready to play tonight defensively,” Carey said. “We should wear that team out, because they don't play that many players and we play 9, 10 guys at a time. We didn't do it tonight, for what reason I don't know.”
Drake was glad the Knights could withstand the late flurry of the Eagles though. He was expecting it to come.
“They're so good at forcing you into turnovers, like they did on their run in the fourth quarter,” said Drake. “It's just a matter of weathering the storm. They got it down to a two possession game and you're worried about it getting tight, but I think our boys played loose even through that.”
Moss led all scorers with 21 points, including hitting 8 of 9 from the charity stripe. David Lane directed the CM offense, netting 11 points.
Carey hopes the tides will turn when the Eagles face Freeburg on Wednesday. Time will tell.
“We'll see what they're made of, if they come out ready to play, or they come out feeling sorry for themselves,” Carey said. “We will see what kind of temperament and mentality we have tomorrow night. If they know what's good for them they better be ready to play.”
COLUMBIA-FREEBURG HOLIDAY TOURNAMENT
TRIAD 55, CM 43
Knights 18 5 15 17 — 55
Eagles 15 6 8 14 — 43
CM (9-3) — Brandon Hampton 4, David Lane 11, Adam Hill 7, Brett Lane 5, JaQuan Adams 2, Caden Clark 3, Jaxsen Helmkamp 5, Geoff Withers 5. 2FG — 5 3FG — 8 FT — 9 PF — 22.
TRIAD (5-7) — Brendan Grigg 4, Kyle Rood 2, Jaren Pino 2, Logan Buerk 10, Noah Moss 21, Beau Barbour 14, Ethan Salopek 2. 2FG — 15 3FG — 1 FT — 19 PF — 15.