After watching his team get edged out 53-51 at home Friday night in an intense physical battle, Columbia Eagles coach Mark Sandstrom knew the biggest reason for the loss.
He pointed to Okawville sophomore Noah Frederking, who tossed in 27 points and surpassed the 1,000 point-mark quite quickly in his relatively short varsity career.
“He’s a D-1 kid and he’s only a sophomore,” Sandstrom said. “He’s smooth and the bad thing is we really didn’t have a great match for him. Not a lot of teams do have a great match for him because of size and situation. He’s a great player and he showed up tonight.
“He was by far and away the best player on the court. Not even close.”
Okawville (13-8) was happy to come out on top in a close one for once, especiallas a Class 1A team beating a 3A team. Along with Frederking’s points, the Rockets also were 26-of-35 at the free-throw line, including 12-of-15 in the fourth quarter.
Okawville’s last 11 points came on free throws after a big 3-pointer by Mason Drury gave the Rockets a 42-39 lead midway through the final quarter. Alec Wisneski added 11 points for Okawville and Nick Strubhart had seven.
“Holy smokes, we did shoot a lot of free throws,” Okawville coach Jon Kraus said. “That was the type of win that we need. We’ve been in a lot of those, we’ve been in 15 of those games probably this year like that. We’ve struggled to win some of those and we’ve been talking about it.
“We’ve been battling in practice trying to play a lot of late-game situations. Tonight we executed and hopefully it pays off for us down the road.”
It was tight throughout as Columbia (14-6) led 22-21 at the half and 35-34 heading into the fourth quarter. The Eagles hung close thanks to back-to-back 3s by freshman Jordan Holmes in the third quarter, but couldn’t stop Okawville’s parade to the free-throw line down the stretch.
“I like those games, I usually get a lot of free throw so I can knock them down,” said Frederking, who was 13-for-15 at the foul line.
Frederking said the Rockets spent the majority of their practice time this week on late-game situations. They executed down the stretch unlike in other games that have slipped away.
“That’s coach’s mentality, we’ve got to be tougher because we’re always smaller,” Frederking said. “We’re never bigger so we’ve got to be tougher and work harder than other teams.”
Asked about passing 1,000 points, Frederking barely looked up.
“It’s not about that,” he said. “It’s a team game. It’s really nice, I got a little emotional in there and (Coach) Kraus was real fired up.”
Columbia got 17 points from Korbin Farmer and 11 each from Drew Huebner and Ryan Gudeman. Okawville’s Shane Ganz had the tough assignment on Columbia scoring leader Jonathan Holmes and he came through, limiting the junior guard to just two points.
“We missed a bunch of easy ones (inside) and we missed a bunch of critical free throws, 7-of-16,” Sandstrom said. “If you look at some of our losses (like) Wesclin early on, we were miserable at the free-throw line. Tonight it happened again.”