Columbus Dons find new momentum
By Hub City Times staff
MARSHFIELD – Heading into a Jan. 10 showdown with the Greenwood Indians, the Columbus Dons boys basketball team had ended a three-game losing streak with a three-game winning streak, scoring victories over Owen-Withee, Granton, and Gilman.
Following the win over Owen-Withee, the Dons defeated Granton 89-32 on Jan. 6 at Columbus Catholic High School in Marshfield, for Head Coach Joe Konieczny.
“I was happy that we had 14 players score and were able to get some freshmen and sophomores their first varsity experience and their first career points,” Coach Konieczny said. “I think in a game like this we kind of got exactly what we needed to get out of it; some experience and kids big minutes and maybe building some good habits for later on in the season.”
In building a 45-13 halftime lead over the Bulldogs, Columbus was able to suit up and play many of their reserves, getting them valuable court experience while respecting Granton’s willingness to play a superior opponent.
“Looking at the scores coming in, you knew that they were young and inexperienced,” Konieczny added. “We wanted to make sure that we played extremely hard, treated them with respect and then played a lot of guys. I thought for the most part that we took it serious, and we took a professional approach and we treated the opponent with respect by giving maximum effort.
“Grant Olson being out there was probably the highlight of our night. He is coming off an ACL injury, and it was his first game experience in a year. And for a young man like that is such a quality person and athletics has been such a big part of his life, for him to miss a whole year was really hard to deal with for everybody, so to see him out there was just awesome.”
Grant’s first varsity minutes were played alongside his older brother Zach, who is a senior this year.
“It is very beneficial for a Grant Olson to play with his brother Zach, No. 1 because I wanted his first minutes to be with his brother because that’s really cool and those two deserve it, but also because he can learn from those older guys,” Konieczny said. “In his first action in over a year, let’s put him out there with four older players and make sure that it is easy to blend in and have a quality experience.
“And, those older guys do a great job of leading and setting an example, and making sure that they understand what it’s going to be like. Leadership has been one of our strengths in this program.”
Jadon Nienast led Columbus with 21 points. Eden Jacobson added 15.
The Dons scored their third straight victory the following night, when they defeated Gilman 75-46 on Jan. 7, in a game that was also played in Marshfield.
“I thought we played a really solid first half,” Konieczny said afterward. “In the second half, I thought we coasted a little bit. But I give Gilman a lot of credit. They have some solid players. Peyton Heiman really hurt us, and Andrew Hecker as well.
“We kept letting them go left. We’re just not used to forcing guys right because we focus so much on forcing weak hand, and most people are right-handed. Gilman played a really solid second half and kept it within 20 or 25 until the very end.”
Columbus was able to build a solid 39-18 halftime lead, by shooting over a 1-3-1 zone defense.
In the second half, the Dons struggled a bit with Gilman’s switch to a 2-3 zone, and zones for certain shooters as well.
“They put a box-and-one on Tom (Nystrom), and then they put a box-and-one on Jadon (Nienast),” Coach Konieczny said. “Whenever we subbed, they put somebody in a box-and-one. I thought we handled it pretty well, but each time they changed onto a different guy and we had to adjust, and our communication could have been a lot better on both ends. I thought we just didn’t talk a lot.
“A lot of times, we wonder who is going to go get a shooter, and we’re looking at each other and nobody talks. A loose ball we should have two guys diving at, and we’re looking at our teammate hoping that they go and get it. And then offensively two or three times, we didn’t know who was going to cut high post because there’s no communication, so verbal communication is something that is very, very lacking for us, and something we need to address pretty immediately here.”
Nienast led the Dons with 15 points. Nystrom added 13. Wyatt Drexler scored 12 points coming off the bench. Cole Noreen added nine, and Jacobson had eight.
Columbus kept an undefeated streak going against Gilman dating back to 2001. The Dons improved to 5-4 with the wins, and 4-1 in Eastern Cloverbelt Conference action.
Columbus is scheduled to host Loyal Jan. 16, followed by a big game at Neillsville on Jan. 21.