WORDEN -- The Columbus girls ran away from Huntley Project in a District 4B basketball game on Thursday night, 60-34. The Project boys avenged a loss that ended their 2020 season with a big win over the Cougars, 55-42.
Columbus 60, Huntley Project 34 (Girls)
Columbus didn't have its best on Thursday night in Worden, but the Cougars hit their stride in the second half to pull away for a 60-34 win over Huntley Project.
Columbus grabbed a 28-15 lead at halftime, but Project hung around by hitting seven of its eight free throw attempts in the first 16 minutes. The Cougars' offense began to hit its stride in the second half, though, as they buried three 3-pointers in the third quarter to bust the game open.
"They'd probably tell you I get after them at halftime regardless, but we just came out and didn't shoot as well as we did last weekend. Then we got away from some of the stuff we know that we need to do to score when we're struggling," Columbus head coach Jeromey Burke said. "They still played hard and they still tried. In that third quarter they kind of got back to doing what we do and got the looks that we wanted. I just think that we'll shoot better, a lot. I think we got the shots we wanted in the second half."
It was a balanced effort for Columbus on Thursday, as five players had at least eight points, led by 15 from Sawyer Wiggs and 14 from Payton West.
A big test looms on Friday for the Cougars when they travel to Roundup, which will be one of the top teams in District 4B and the Southern B, as well.
"We'll probably have to play better, for sure, but take nothing away from Huntley, either. They play really hard and they have really good athletes. And they made shots. They made some big shots. If we left any girls they knocked them down," Burke said. "But Roundup is going to be a test. I told the girls we're going to have to play better (Friday) if we want to get out of there with a win."
Huntley Project 55, Columbus 42
Huntley Project wasn't going to let this one slip away.
After Columbus ended Project's 2020 season at the Southern B divisional tournament, the Red Devils were counting down the days for a chance at vengeance. Project got it, holding off the Cougars for a 55-42 win at home on Thursday.
"It was almost every single open gym there was someone bringing up divisionals last year," Huntley Project senior Noah Bouchard said. "We can't have this happen. We'd play bad one day and say we have to pick it up, we don't want to lose out at divisionals again. We want to make it to state and make a name for ourselves, so it definitely stuck with us."
The Red Devils jumped out to a 26-12 lead midway through the second quarter, but the Cougars closed that to nine, 28-19, by halftime and to three, 28-25, just minutes into the third quarter. Project pushed the lead back to 10 before Bouchard ended the third quarter in style.
Bouchard grabbed a defensive rebound, shook a defender in the back court and pulled up just inside half court as he found the glass on a 35-foot buzzer beater to give the Red Devils a 43-30 lead with eight minutes to play.
"That shot by (Bouchard), you don't make those very often. When you do, you've got to be excited and be hyped for him," Huntley Project senior Tim Rose said.
Project kept its foot on the gas as the lead grew as big as 17 before going four corners on offense to burn the final few minutes. Bouchard's exclamation point came when Rose found Bouchard on a dive to the basket that he hammered home with one hand.
"(Head coach Mark Branger) is always telling us, 'Fundamentals, discipline and stay locked in.' You can't give up two minutes of a game, that could be the difference. So staying locked in and keeping everyone involved is what we need to win the game," Rose said.
Bouchard led all scorers with 17 points. Jake Fox added 15 for Project. Colby Martinez was the only Columbus player in double figures with 13.
Columbus will visit Roundup on Friday night, while Huntley Project plays host to defending Class B co-champion Lodge Grass.