Columbia’s Jordan Holmes isn’t ready to put on his football cleats just yet.
The 6-foot senior guard poured in a game-high 31 points Friday and seemed to do a little of everything to lead the Eagles to a stunning 55-53 overtime victory over unbeaten Alton Marquette in the championship game of the Class 3A Waterloo Regional.
Marquette came into the game ranked No. 4 in the Associated Press Class 3A poll of the regular season.
“I don’t want this to end. It’s special,“ said Holmes, who will be a preferred walkon as a slot receiver for the football team at the University of Illinois after graduating from Columbia. “We’re on a really nice run, playing really good ball.
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“This is probably the best game I have ever been a part of in my entire life.”
The win was the 10th in 11 games for Columbia (20-11), which advances to the Centralia Sectional where it will play Marion in a 7 p.m. semifinal Tuesday. Marion moved on with a 61-59 win over Carbondale in the title game of the Carbondale Sectional.
Although he did score at least six points in each of the first four quarters, Holmes did not score in the overtime.
The only points of the extra frame came 48 seconds in from junior Cole Khoury after he was fouled grabbing an offensive rebound.
The Eagles had missed on a chance to win at the end of regulation when Riley Hubler went to the line with 5.4 seconds left, Marquette leading 53-52.
Hubler sank the first, but missed the second.
Khoury came through on both.
“I knew it was tied, so I had to make them,” said Khoury, who only scored two points all game. “After that, we just had to play defense.”
And Columbia did play defense, holding powerful Marquette scoreless the entire four minutes.
The Explorers missed all five of their shots, including a defended 3-pointer from Sammy Green as time expired.
“We got a little discombobulated there (on that last possession),” said Marquette coach Steve Medford, whose team bows out at 29-1. “If we had a clear (3-point) shot we were going to take it. IF not, we were going to drive it.
“It just is what it is. Just not very good execution on our part.”
“We wanted to make sure we gave them a tough look,” Holmes SAID of Marquette’s final possession. “We didn’t want to pressure them inside, because we wanted them to shoot from outside.
“If they made a 3 and beat us, it just happened.”
Here are just some of things Holmes, a three-year starter, did to help Columbia pull the upset.
- His 31 points, which came on 13-of-19 shooting, equaled his career-high, done so on two other occasions.
- He grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds and dished out three assists.
- He hit buzzer-beating 3-pointers at the end of the first and second quarters and almost made another in the third. The Eagles led 14-12 after a quarter and 29-24 at halftime.
- After Marquette scored the first five points of the fourth quarter to take a 43-40 lead. Holmes responded by scoring the first four points of a 7-0 Eagles run — the final three points came on a conventional three-point play by Hubler initiated by Holmes’ defensive rebound — to put them back in the lead.
“Coach kind of got in our grill there, woke us up,” said Holmes of the Eagles critical response to Marquette’s early fourth-quarter surge. “We could not afford to be playing flat-footed. We had to come right back and punch them in the mouth and that’s what we did.”
A basket from Jake Hall did give Marquette a final lead at 53-52 with 1:24 remaining.
Columbia decided to run the clock down for a final shot, which came from Jacob O’Connor.
It missed but Hubler grabbed the rebound and was fouled on his putback attempt with 5.4 seconds left.
His 1-of-2 trip to the line forced the overtime.
“Great effort by the kids,” said Columbia coach Mark Sandstrom, who earned his sixth regional title as coach of the Eagles. “Our schedule prepared us for this. Marquette is a great team but we were not going to be intimidated by them; we were going to go right after them.
“We’ll be the underdog next time out, too. It doesn’t bother us. “
Senior Jon Peterson had 10 points and seven rebounds for Columbia.
Hall led four Explorers in double figures with 14 points. Isaiah Ervin and Reagan Snider both scored 13 points for Marquette. Green finished with 10.
“Something just was missing these two games and maybe the last few,” said Medford of his Explorers' two regional performances. Marquette defeated Mascoutah 54-43 in its semifinal. “We just seemed a step off, especially defensively. I don’t know if it was the 10 days layoff or what.
“I am just sad for the kids. They had a great season.”