Columbia High School Boys Basketball Advances

By mark-slade March 1, 2011

Columbia Boys Basketball Advances

Top seeded Cougars rout Watchung Hills.

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The Columbia boys basketball team overcame a slow start and some sloppy defense in the opening round of the North II Group 4 state sectional playoffs to defeat Watchung Hills, 70-53. The offense starred in this one for the Cougars, with three different players scoring in double figures, and the locals knocking down 54 percent of their shots in the game.
Through the first five minutes of play, the 16th seeded Warriors were hanging with the top seeded Cougars step for step – they even had a brief lead. But following an illegal pick on Watchung Hills with 2:57 left in the first, Columbia mounted a 15-4 run over the next five minutes, turning an 11 all tie to a 26-15 lead for the Cougars. A Justin Martin buzzer beating three-pointer from the top of the key just before halftime gave the locals a 41-26 lead, and Watchung Hills was never able to get back into the game.
“Not enough defense. We played defense for two quarters and you have to play for four quarters,” said CHS head coach Eddie Turner of his team’s performance.
The surprise star of the contest for the Cougars was senior forward, Maxim Michele, who had a field day inside the paint. Michele led Columbia with 16 points, six rebounds and a blocked shot. Eleven of his points came in the second quarter with Columbia still trying to put the game out of reach.
“Max gets like that sometimes, sometimes he lights it up,” Turner said. “He had a stretch in the season when he was doing that. But you never know what you’re going to get out of this team.”
Other key scorers for the Cougars included Dukens Germain with 12 points, Austin Little with 11 and both Martin and Jamar Chavis chipping in seven apiece.
“I’m happy we won and we won by a lot like we should, but we need to cut down on the dumb mistakes,” Little said.
On the other side of the ball, Watchung Hills has to be given some credit. The visitors came in with a 6-17 record and at times looked as though they could play with Columbia. They also had three players score in double figures, led by Steve Weidlich’s 18 points, to go along with 11 from Clayton O’Brien and 10 for Joe Argiro. Watchung Hills shot 43 percent from the floor in the contest, but made 57 percent in the first half. They turned the ball over 15 times, compared to 10 for CHS.
With the Warriors already trailing by 23 points entering the final quarter, they started with an 8-2 run through the first 4:20 to try and make things interesting, cutting the lead to 17. But Columbia was able to fend off the comeback and will move on to the second round on Wednesday, where they will host East Orange.
“If we get the production off of the bench that we’ve been getting the last few games, then we’ll be ok,” Turner said.
Columbia has already beaten the ninth seeded East Orange boys twice this season, with both teams playing in the Super Essex American Division.
“It’s going to be tough playing anybody three times but I think if we play a little better than we did today, it shouldn’t be a problem,” Little said.