ARVADA — Columbine’s three-headed monster was able to give the Rebels enough of a cushion Saturday night to keep Pomona at bay.
Columbine seniors Luke O’Brien and Justin Lohrenz, along with junior Garrett Rogers combined to score 38 points in the opening half at Pomona High School. O’Brien finished with a game-high 26 points. Lohrenz pitched in 13 points before fouling out and Rogers poured in 21 points.
“Garrett shot the ball really well in the first half and Justin always comes to play,” O’Brien said. “It was nice that those two and I were able to get going in the first half.”
The Rebels — No. 10 in the current CHSAANow.com Class 5A boys basketball poll — held what appeared to be a comfortable 41-20 lead at halftime.
It got a little dicey for Columbine before eventually hanging on for a 73-63 victory. Pomona (8-8, 1-2 in 5A Jeffco) picked it up in the second half and went on a 12-0 run in the third quarter that featured a handful of easy buckets off Rebel turnovers.
“We were really sloppy on offense,” O’Brien said of the third quarter where Pomona outscored Columbine 24-10. “We turned the ball over way too much. We’ve got to fix somethings on offense. Any team can come back on us if we are careless with the ball.”
The Panthers cut Columbine’s lead to 53-50 midway through the fourth quarter to make things interesting.
“They (Pomona) beat us in transition quite a bit in the second half. That is certainly something we have to clean up,” Columbine coach Clay Thielking said. “But I credit Pomona. Their defense intensity picked up and they run the floor well. We knew they would make a run.”
Columbine (13-3, 2-1) eventually were able to put the game away making 12-of-15 free throws in the final four minutes. Pomona’s shot at a comeback victory faded when senior Trevor Baskin fouled out with 3:16 remaining and senior Isaiah Tshimanga had to leave the game after what appeared to be an ankle injury with two minutes left.
“We had a bunch of mental mistakes in the first half and had some starters get into foul trouble,” said Baskin, who finished with 18 points. “Then I started fouling like crazy in the end. We just have to fix the mental mistakes. It’s disappointing, but the third quarter showed how good we can be.”
Senior Cole Stevens had a nice game with 17 points for the Panthers. Tshimanga finished with 10 points.
“I knew we were coming in to play a really good team on their home court on a Saturday night,” Thielking said. “That’s a little bit funky because its out of our normal routine.”
The match-up between two of the best players — O’Brien and Baskin — not only in Jeffco, but the state was compelling. Both are averaging a double-double this season.
“That dude (Baskin) is one of the best in the state,” O’Brien said.
“I was looking forward to it a lot,” Baskin said matching up against O’Brien. “I’ve played against him forever and always liked playing against him.”
Pomona is back on its home court Monday to face rival Arvada West in a non-league game. The Panthers will be looking to avenge an overtime loss against the Wildcats back on Jan. 24 that opened up conference play.
“We weren’t happy with the way we played against (Arvada West),” Baskin said. “We need to come out ready to play on Monday.”
Columbine has a huge 5A Jeffco League game at home against No. 5 Ralston Valley (15-2, 2-0) at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 5. The game will play a big part in determining the conference champion.
O’Brien was out with the flu in the 64-45 loss to Valor Christian on Jan. 24. The setback against Valor really forces the Rebels to win-out in league play to have a chance to grab a third straight 5A Jeffco title.
“Ralston Valley is really good,” O’Brien said. “To get back into the mix to win the league title we have to win that game.”