Boys Basketball

Columbia, East St. Louis face difficult sectional games

Jordan Holmes (left) is Columbia's leading scorer and rebounder.
Jordan Holmes (left) is Columbia's leading scorer and rebounder. BND file photo

In the postseason, momentum is everything. The Columbia Eagles have it.

It's an intangible that can be fleeting, but coach Mark Sandstrom hopes it lingers at least one more game as his Eagles (20-11) face Marion (20-11) in the semifinals of the Class 3A Centralia Sectional at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Columbia won the Waterloo Regional on Friday by taking down previously unbeaten Alton Marquette 55-53 in overtime.

"They're kind of like us. They got hot at the right time," Sandstrom said of Marion, which upset Carbondale 61-59 in the championship game of the Carbondale Regional. "Like a lot of our kids, they've stepped up and really elevated their games."

Sandstrom said the Eagles have the confidence that accompanies a 10-1 stretch that began Jan. 26 with a narrow victory over Okawville.

"Momentum is contagious," Sandstrom said. "Right now, we're guarding pretty well; we're a lot more physical and, of course, a lot of nights when you have the best player on the court and he plays really well, you've got a chance to win. That was the case Friday night."

Sandstrom is referring to senior Jordan Holmes, the Eagles' star guard who scored 31 points and corralled 10 rebounds in the win against Marquette (29-1). The 6-foot Holmes, who will be a preferred walk-on with the University of Illinois football team, averages 18.5 points and 7.4 rebounds.

"He played absolutely superb," Sandstrom said. "Any time you have Jordan Holmes and everybody else is kind of fulfilling their roles, and we have good size, we're able to (win).

"But the game (against Marion) is going to be controlled on the backboards. We're rebounding really well right now. That's part of the reason we are where we are right now. Jordan's our leading rebounder out of the point-guard spot, and that's something you don't normally see."

Junior Jon Peterson, a 6-6 forward, averages 13.2 points and 6.4 rebounds. Junior Cole Khoury, a 6-8 center, is a presence in the paint.

The Columbia-Marion winner will play East St. Louis (15-10) or the host Orphans (24-4) in the championship game at 7 p.m. Friday. East Side and Centralia meet in the other semifinal at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

"We're just worried about Marion right now," Sandstrom said. "We just show up and play and go about our business. We've been very fortunate to be able to advance."

East St. Louis coach Mark Chambers could not be reached for comment. The Flyers, led by senior Joe Reece and junior Terrence Hargrove Jr., won the Highland Regional with triumphs over Central and the host Bulldogs..

Sophomore Jashawn Anderson and junior Cornelius Leflore stepped up against Highland. Anderson scored 15 points and Leflore pumped in 14 as the Flyers downed the 21-win Bulldogs.

Centralia advanced with a 57-44 win over Salem in the Mount Vernon Regional final.