Columbia Bedevils Blue Streaks
The Columbia High School Blue Devils rode the high-flying talents of their sophomore forward Jahil Nails for a convincing 62-47 win over the Saratoga Springs High School Blue Streaks Friday night.
Nails scored 16 points inside the paint and beyond the arc. His athleticism was emblematic of his entire team and Saratoga (6-7) had trouble matching up.
Columbia (8-5, 7-4) had the hot hand in the second quarter, outscoring Saratoga 18-7 on the back of five three pointers. Ten missed field goals and three turnovers allowed the Blue Devils to leverage a 28-18 lead heading into the locker room.
“We can score with most teams,” said Columbia head coach Jim Obermayer. “It’s always a question of our defense. Today was one of our better defensive games. I’ll say, Saratoga has got some good wings this year.”
Namely forward Noah Arciero (16 points). Arciero had a quiet first half, scoring just two points. But he came out and scored 14 points in the second half to try and bring his team back. Things started to look up when Saratoga pulled to within five points of the lead, 35-30, with 3:59 left in the third quarter. On the ensuing possession, Columbia’s Kevin Smith (11 points) answered with a three to stall Saratoga’s rally.
“I knew at halftime I had to pick it up,” Arciero said. “We were down ten. We put more pressure on them, pushing the pace on offense and that helped contribute.”
Saratoga got nine points each from Jesse Alexander and Jonathan Rach.
Columbia climbed ahead by ten again, 44-34. Next, Nails stole the ball down his team’s end. He took Arciero down the other end and dunked over all 6-foot-4-inches of him to vault his team to a 12-point lead. That punctuated Columbia’s effort and dashed any hope Saratoga had at a comeback.
“He’s long and he can shoot the three and take you off the dribble a little bit,” Obermayer said of Nails. “He gives teams tough match ups.”
Add to that a smothering defense that kept Saratoga at bay scoring just four three pointers.
“That’s something we haven’t faced this year,” Arciero said. “They really extend their zone and get out on shooters and that was difficult for us because they have big guys down low. We have to find the middle and work through it.”
“They were double teaming everything,” said Saratoga head coach Jack Brock. “They tried to keep the ball out of our best player, Arciero.”
The challenge for Brock rested in getting his team’s mindset ready to rally against a Blue Devil team with a hot hand and, on this night, better athletes.
“The biggest thing for us, when you get down against a good team is just to believe in ourselves,” Brock said. “We’re not there yet. We’re starting to believe in our selves.”
No more evident with the score 35-30 in the third. When Arciero hit a lay up to close the gap, Columbia called timeout. Smith hit the three, then Saratoga tried to answer with a three of its own but missed.
“Things were going pretty good,” Brock said. “The energy level was up and they were starting to play harder. All of a sudden a kid hit a three-pointer. They shot well. That takes the heart out of you.”
Columbia closed out the fourth quarter on a 14-9 run and gave Saratoga something to think about heading into practice on Sunday.
“We need to come out and play harder than we just did,” Arciero said.
“Start believing that we’re an elite basketball team,” Brock said.
ON THE WIRE