Columbus boys put stranglehold on Eastern Cloverbelt
By Hub City Times staff
MARSHFIELD – The Columbus Dons boys’ basketball team has put a stranglehold on the Eastern Cloverbelt Conference for now, after two big wins in the past week. The Dons scored their biggest win of the season thus far, defeating conference co-leader Neillsville, 96-89, on Jan. 15.
“I was proud of our boys”, Columbus coach Joe Konieczny said after the game. “I thought that we played a really good team with a large number of kids that can shoot the ball from the outside. We beat a good team on the road and learned some things. Our communication defensively just wasn’t there. The plan was to deny (Alex) King and (Braden) Trunkel and to try to run the other three off (the three-point line).
“I thought we did a really poor job of taking away their strong hand when we tried to run them off and forced them to put the ball on the floor. We let them go right too many times and get to their strong hand. They run the same offense we do, the dribble drive, where they’re trying to drive, drop it to the block or kick. But we let those other three guys get right way too many times. And then I thought we gave up some (shots) because we just didn’t rotate. Some of those threes were uncontested. And as impressive as it is, when you’re totally standing out there by yourself, shooting percentages go way up. So, being able to recognize they gotta rotate and then to run them off, and make them go left, are two things we could definitely do better.”
Four players scored in double figures for each team. Columbus was led by Ethan Meece with 25 points. Jarred Mandel had 23. Bryce Fuerlinger dropped in 22 and Noah Taylor added 19. Trunkel led Neillsville with 27. King scored 26. The Warriors made 17 three-point baskets, including seven by Trunkel. The Dons hit on just six three pointers, five of them from Mandel.
The win was the eighth in a row over Neillsville by Columbus, and moved the Dons into sole possession of first place in the conference, while handing the Warriors their first conference loss of the season.
The Dons followed that win up with another road victory in conference play, beating Colby 77-50 on Jan. 18. Fuerlinger led Columbus with 18 points. Taylor had 16, Meece 13 and Mandel 11. Jarred now has 724 points for his Columbus career. The win improved the Dons’ conference record to 9-0 with seven games left to play in the regular season. Columbus will face Spencer on Jan. 24 at Columbus High School, followed by a game at Granton Jan. 29.