Nearly all coaches stress the importance of senior leadership but only the lucky ones see its benefits firsthand. Bob Burchard, the Columbia College men’s basketball coach, certainly falls into that category.
Senior guards Andre Amos and Khamari Ballard led the Cougars on both ends of the court, helping Columbia College beat Hannibal-LaGrange 98-88 on Thursday at The Arena of Southwell Complex.
Amos had game highs with 31 points, eight rebounds and five steals. Ballard added 25 points on 10-of-17 shooting.
“They’re two seniors that are playing like you’d expect seniors to play in February,” Burchard said. “Their level of intensity is so high. When you talk about senior leadership, they’re living that talk. Their level of play was incredible. I’m glad they’re on our team.”
The win kept the No. 6 Cougars and Missouri Baptist in a first-place tie in the American Midwest Conference. The Cougars (24-2, 5-1) won at Missouri Baptist 84-71 on Saturday.
The Trojans (10-13, 3-3) beat McKendree (Ill.), who handed the Cougars’ their AMC loss, 107-93 on Saturday.
The Trojans shot 69.6 percent to the Cougars’ 52.2, but the Cougars attempted 23 more shots thanks to their perimeter defense and the Trojans’ careless passing. The Cougars scored 39 points off 22 Trojan turnovers.
The Trojans led 9-2 four minutes into the game. From that point, the Cougars scored 12 unanswered, giving them a 14-9 lead with 13:39 left in the first half, and jumpstarted their offense by getting steals and converting fast-break opportunities.
“We knew they were going to come in and shoot a lot of 3-pointers and then try to bang us down low,” Ballard said. “So we had to get in the passing lanes and get some deflections. Once we got some deflections, we got some easy baskets.”
The Cougars never trailed after their initial run, but the Trojans kept the game within reach. The Cougars led by as many as 17 in the second half, but the Trojans trailed 78-76 with 4:26 left. Tim Melz’s 3-pointer with 1:08 left put the Cougars up 89-80 and essentially ended the Trojans’ hopes of handing the Cougars their first home loss.
Nick Carroz, the Trojan’s starting point guard, hurt the Cougars with his penetration. He scored 24 and had a game-high 13 assists.
Kellen Fernetti entered Thursday leading the Trojans with 20 points per game and shooting 45.7 percent from the 3-point line. Ballard defended Fernetti most of the night and held him scoreless for the first 16 minutes. Fernetti finished with 10 points.
“Our object of the game was to cut down on their 3-point shooting,” Amos said.