Cougar boys miss state tournament by 2 points

Finish out season with 4th place under first year new coach
Thursday, March 12, 2020
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Photo by Lorie Martinez

The Columbus Cougars boys went farther in the post season than any Stillwater basketball team, placing fourth in Southern B Divisionals and missing a ticket to the state tournament by two points.

The Cougars faced the Whitehall Trojans last Wednesday in a “Win to get In” game for a spot on the Southern B bracket.

Columbus started strong, scoring four points more than the Trojans in the first quarter, 14 to 10. Whitehall narrowed the lead in the second quarter, adding seven to the Cougar’s six. The score at halftime had Columbus up by three with a score of 20-17.

The second half of the game saw the lead change hands repeatedly. With the score tied with seconds left in regulation, the game came down to Trey Stampfel at the free throw line. Stampfel sunk the shots and the Cougars came out with the win with a final score of 36-34.

The first game in the Southern B bracket on Thursday was against the top-seeded Lodge Grass Indians. Columbus had a hard time controlling much of the game, with Lodge Grass outscoring the Cougars three of the four quarters.

The halftime score was 35-21. The Indians racked up another 43 points in the second half of the game. Columbus’ best quarter was the fourth when it scored 24 points to Lodge Grass’s 19, but it was not enough to save them. The final score was 78-59.

Trey Stampfel again led the team with 14 points, with Colby Martinez and Reece Hogstad adding 12 and 11 points respectively.

“Lodge Grass is a fantastic team and No. 2 in the state,” said Columbus Coach Mark Crago. “It seemed as though they were faster to every spot on the floor.”

Friday brought a rematch for the Cougars and the Red Lodge Rams. Columbus was out for revenge after the Rams beat the Cougars in the opening match at Districts on Feb. 21. The Cougars started on fire, racking up 17 points in the first quarter and 21 in the second, while holding the Rams to 10 and eight. Halftime came with Columbus holding a 20-point lead with a score of 38-18.

The Cougars pace slowed a bit in the second half, with Red Lodge gaining one point in the third quarter (14 to 13) and three more points in the fourth (21 to 18). The Cougars got the win - and the payback - with a final score of 69-53.

Martinez racked up 23 points in the win, while Stampfel added 11.

“This may have been our best game of the year. We took off fast and never looked back. What a great team effort and a fantastic win for our program,” said Crago.

The Saturday morning game was another chance for retribution for games past, as the Cougars faced the 4B District champs Huntley Project Red Devils. This was the third match up of the season for these two teams, both of which were won by the Red Devils. The Cougars were not going down without a fight this time.

Columbus started strong, outscoring Huntley 11 to nine in the first quarter. Huntley put 19 points on the board to the Cougars’ 12 in the second, putting the halftime score 28-23. Columbus reduced the lead to three in the third by adding 14 point to the Red Devil’s 12. The Cougars forced the game into overtime by outscoring Huntley 12 to nine in the fourth quarter and tying the game at 49. The Cougars came away with the win with a final score of 60-54.

Martinez posted 24 points, while Stampfel brought in another 11 points.

“Saturday morning was a very hard fought and physical game against Huntley,” said Crago. “We showed up to play and play we did. We came out of the gates firing. Game plan was to get as many shots as you could, have fun, play physical and win. We rode our early momentum all the way to the end. While it took us an overtime to get it done, we were able to beat the No. 1 team in the state.”

The consolation finals matched the Cougars against the Colstrip Colts in a heartbreaking nail-biter.

Colstrip started strong, creating a seven-point lead in the first quarter, outscoring the Cougars 13 to six. Columbus cut that lead to six at halftime by scoring 10 points in the second quarter to the Colts’ nine. The score going into halftime was 22-16. Colstrip again pulled away in the third adding another 15 points to the Cougars’ 10. Columbus came alive in the fourth quarter rallying with 27 points, but in the end, it was not enough. The Cougars’ season ended by a one-point margin with a final score of 54-53. Columbus placed fourth.

Martinez and Stampfel again led the team scoring 20 points and 16 points respectively.

“We started the game very sluggish. We put a lot into our morning game, and it was our fifth game in four days,” said Crago. “We stayed close through the first half but were down 14 with seven minutes to go. Our team has nothing but heart and determination in them. We fought back and went on a 13-0 run that proved to be just a little too late. Our loss was disappointing, but we fought hard. I am so proud of our boys and how they represented Columbus schools.”