LITTLETON — In the long run, Columbine’s boys basketball win Saturday over Fountain-Fort Carson will be seen as a fifth straight victory that allowed the Rebels to win the 7th annual Columbine Classic.
However, it also taught the Rebels (5-1 record) early on this season how to handle games where making buckets and scoring points don't come easy.
“These guys are learning through game situations right now,” Columbine coach Clay Thielking said after the Rebels took an ugly 52-39 victory over the Trojans (6-4). “This was a perfect thing for our team to not shoot the ball well, go through a little bit of adversity and figure somethings out.”
Fountain-Fort Carson actually led throughout most of the first half, taking a 24-21 lead at halftime. It appeared the late-Saturday afternoon game at Columbine High School might finish as a disappointment for the host Rebels in their own tournament.
"You could tell our shots weren’t going in early,” Columbine senior Logan DeArment said. “We just had to push past that and have our defense lead our offense.”
That’s exactly what happened in the second half. The Trojans were limited to just 15 points after halftime. Columbine took the lead for good when senior Cameron Dean drained a 3-pointer with 2:55 left in the third quarter to give the Rebels a 31-28 lead.
DeArment poured in nine of his game-high 15 points in the final quarter to help Columbine pull away late.
“Just solid,” Thielking said of the Rebels’ three-sport (football, basketball and baseball) athlete. “The kid is a winner and a competitor. He stepped up big.”
Columbine junior Luke O’Brien was the Rebels’ second leading scorer with nine points, but well below his normal scoring average. The verbal commit to the University of Colorado didn’t make a field goal after the first quarter.
“This was a horrible shooting game. It was just one of those games where you are just off,” O’Brien said. “I felt like I helped my team in different ways. Last year I probably would have shutdown and not done my part.”
O’Brien used his 6-foot-7 frame to battle down low with the physical Fountain-Fort Carson squad. Seniors Cody Ramming and Cameron Dean pitched in eight points each for Columbine.
The Trojans were led by junior Keyshawn Maltbia and senior Keiton Beck. Maltbia and Beck scored a dozen points each.
“I thought they really responded defensively,” Thielking said of holding the Trojans to 30 percent shooting from the field. “Offensively we are a work in progress.”
The win leaves last year’s Class 5A Jeffco League co-champs — Columbine and Arvada West — with the best non-league records in the conference a few weeks into the basketball season. Many think the Rebels and Wildcats will again be battling it out for the league title once conference play begins.
“I love it,” O’Brien said of Columbine being a favorite to challenge for the conference title. “The last two years we were kind of under the radar. I like being the top-dog because everyone is going to play the best against us.”
Columbine has road games next week against Legend and Highlands Ranch before the winter break.
“We’ve got so many things to clean up from within,” said Thielking about moving forward toward the winter break. “We are focused on ourselves and getting better every day.”