The Columbia Eagles defeated the rival Waterloo Bulldogs 45-40 in the “Pack the Place” game Tuesday night.
The Eagles were coming off a 56-36 loss to Central and spent the week working to improve, coach Mark Sandstrom said.
“We had a lot of quick shots, and they were by the wrong people in those quick situations. We’ve got a young squad, and we’ll learn from that,” Sandstrom said. “Most importantly, though, our defense was outstanding tonight. We didn’t take one possession off. We had a couple mistakes, but defensively we were a lot better than we were last week.”
Waterloo (5-10) had won four of its previous five games.
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An 11-0 run helped Waterloo cut the Eagles’ lead down to 37-35 with 2:46 remaining on a free throw by Dylan Hunt. Columbia stepped up at the free-throw line, sinking nine of 13 foul shots in the fourth quarter to hold off Waterloo’s spirited comeback bid.
“It’s a rivalry game. It’s ‘Pack the Place.’ You expect it to come down to the wire, and it did,” Sandstrom said. “Luckily we were able to pull through.”
Waterloo’s Ben Huels scored twice off Columbia turnovers, and after Hunt’s free throw, the Bulldogs seemed ready to take the run further.
However, Columbia’s van Breusegen hit three of four free throws in the final 43 seconds, and Holmes sank two more with 23.7 seconds remaining to ice the win.
Columbia broke open a close game with a flurry of 3-pointers from Holmes, Greg Long and Peterson. That helped spur an 11-2 run that pushed the Eagles’ lead to 19-10, and they were still up 19-13 at halftime.
Junior guard Jordan Holmes led the way for Columbia with 19 points and had the ball in his hands much of the fourth quarter with the Eagles trying to protect the lead.
“This rivalry, I’ve been looking forward to it ever since I was in middle school, coming to my brother’s games,” Holmes said. “The atmosphere was just outstanding; it’s just a great atmosphere to be out there on the court. The fans are always into it, and the place is packed, so it’s a great feeling.”
Jon Peterson, a 6-foot-6 sophomore, had 10 points for Columbia, while senior Greg Long had nine and Brennen van Breusegen had eight.
Waterloo’s Griffin Lenhardt scored 14 of his team-high 16 points in the second half, including seven in the fourth quarter. Hunt added 9 points for the Bulldogs.
“Holmes had the ball coming down the stretch, and that’s always tough to deal with,” Waterloo coach Dane Walter said.