By Paul Lecker
MARSHFIELD – More than likely, if the Columbus Catholic boys basketball team was going to stay in the Cloverbelt Conference East Division title chase it had to beat first-place Neillsville on Monday.
Down by double digits at halftime and trailing by six with 4½ minutes to go, Columbus dug in, forced overtime and ended up pulling out a 61-60 victory in double overtime.
Blake Jakobi scored 21 of his game-high 29 points in the final 4½ minutes of regulation and the two overtime periods to lead the way for Columbus Catholic, which improves to 15-3 overall and 9-1 in the Cloverbelt East, one-half game behind Neillsville (15-4, 10-1).
“I thought in the first half they (Neillsville) brought their zone up and we did a poor job of finding gaps against it,” Columbus Catholic coach Joe Konieczny said. “In the second half we did some more cutting and attacked the high post from different areas. It seemed to be a little more effective. We’re a team that relies heavily on the outside shot. Charlie (Moore) started out cold and hit some big shots late, and Blake hit big shot after big shot. When Blake had big shots, he just didn’t miss and you really can’t say enough about his effort tonight.”
Neillsville led 25-14 at halftime after the Dons shot just 17 percent (4-for-24) from the field.
Columbus didn’t do much better for the first 13 minutes of the second half, going 5-for-19 from the field and trailed 36-30 after an offensive rebound and basket by Neillsville’s Andrew Brown with 6:11 remaining in regulation.
Suddenly, the Dons started to find it. Sophomore Blake Jakobi took over, scoring eight-straight points to give Columbus its first lead of the game at 38-36 with 3:01 left.
Jakobi scored off a steal, made two free throws after a technical foul, had another steal and layup, and hit a flip shot in the lane to push the Dons ahead.
“We were down four and that technical foul that gave us two points and a basket, and all of a sudden it was tied, and it seemed like we had new life,” Joe Konieczny said.
Back-to-back 3-pointers from Columbus’ Emmitt Konieczny and Charlie Moore were countered by a free throw and a Alex Roman 3-pointer for Neillsville.
Hanging on for its life in the game, Neillsville turned to its big man, 6-foot-6 Mason Roenz, who scored twice in a row to tie the game at 44-44 with 28 seconds left.
Columbus turned the ball over in the final seconds driving to the basket and it was off to overtime.
In the first extra four-minute period, Moore hit two 3-pointers and Jakobi added another with 10 seconds left to give the Dons a 53-51 lead.
Again, Neillsville went to Roenz, who scored inside with four seconds left to tie it. Columbus turned the ball over and Brown had a shot from half-court bounce off the backboard, sending the game into a second OT.
Jakobi drilled two more 3-pointers and two free throws to give the Dons a 61-57 lead with 32 seconds left.
Brown made his fourth 3-pointer with 9 seconds left to cut it to one and Columbus threw the ball away after a tipped inbounds pass giving the ball back to the Warriors with 6.8 seconds to go.
A 3-pointer from the corner by Alex Roman missed and Lucas Kreklau rebounded for the Dons as time expired.
Roenz finished with 27 points and 18 rebounds, Brown had 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Santana Subke had nine points and 10 rebounds for Neillsville, which held a 50-27 rebounding advantage in the game.
“He (Roenz) finished a lot down there, but there were a lot of times when a guard would collapse and knock it out, maybe not always get the steal, but extend the possession,” Joe Konieczny said. “I thought we had one or two big ones in the overtime where we got the steal and had just enough of those to keep them at bay.
“I’m really, really proud of our boys and I give a ton of credit to Neillsville and Coach (Michael) Gaier on the way they kept battling back. What a high school basketball game.”
Konieczny added 11 points and Moore finished with nine for Columbus Catholic, which after shooting 21 percent for the first 31 minutes of the game, finishing by going 10-for-13 during the final 13 minutes.
Columbus Catholic plays at Gilman and Neillsville hosts Colby (13-4, 10-2 Cloverbelt East) in a pivotal conference game Thursday. Columbus and Neillsville will meet again in Neillsville in the final conference game of the season on Feb. 21.
Dons 61, Warriors 60 (2 OT)
Neillsville 25 19 9 7 - 60
Columbus Catholic 14 30 9 8 - 61
NEILLSVILLE (60): Braylon Boyer 0-2 0-0 0, Bryce Erickson 1-11 0-0 2, Andrew Brown 5-11 0-0 14, Taytor Lowry 1-2 0-0 2, Alex Roman 2-9 0-0 6, Michael Byrne 0-0 0-0 0, Mason Roenz 11-18 5-8 27, Santana Subke 4-12 1-2 9. FG: 24-65. FT: 6-11. 3-pointers: 6-28 (Brown 4-9, Roman 2-8, Subke 0-1, Lowry 0-1, Boyer 0-2, Erickson 0-7). Rebounds: 50 (Subke 18). Turnovers: 19. Fouls: 13. Fouled out: none. Record: 15-4, 10-1 Cloverbelt Conference East Division.
COLUMBUS CATHOLIC (61): Emmitt Konieczny 4-10 0-0 11, Cole Noreen 2-5 0-0 5, Charlie Moore 3-11 0-0 9, Sam Wilczek 0-8 0-0 0, Blake Jakobi 9-14 6-6 29, Grant Olson 1-2 1-2 3, Lucas Kreklau 0-6 4-4 4. FG: 19-56. FT: 11-12. 3-pointers: 12-34 (Jakobi 5-10, Konieczny 3-8, Moore 3-9, Noreen 1-2, Wilczek 0-5). Rebounds: 27 (Noreen 10). Turnovers: 16. Fouls: 14. Fouled out: none. Record: 15-3, 9-1 Cloverbelt Conference East Division.