Anyone who thought Thursday night's men's basketball matchup between Columbia College and the unbeaten No. 5 Missouri Baptist Spartans wasn't going to be a contest was dead wrong.
After a successful four-point play and a rebound off a missed free throw from the Spartans' Kai Woodfall, Cougars guard Justin Shaw had the ball in his hands with five seconds remaining and a chance to tie or overcome Missouri Baptist's 75-73 lead.
After passing up court to junior guard Braden Wendel, Shaw found himself with the ball again just behind the three-point line after Wendel was trapped in the corner. With time slipping away, Shaw put up a three that had a chance.
"I honestly thought it was good, that's what hurts the most," Shaw said. "I thought I saw it go in but I left it just a little short, man. I really wanted that one."
Shaw's shot bounced off the front of the rim and the Spartans remained unbeaten on the season. But Missouri Baptist did not leave Columbia unscathed.
The Cougars (8-8, 4-6 American Midwestern Conference) put up an unexpectedly valiant effort against the Spartans (18-0, 10-0 AMC). Columbia College led by as many as nine, but the Spartan lead never eclipsed eight points.
"All year, we've lost some close games to every team," Shaw said. "I'll take my team any day. We'll be one of the tougher teams to beat come tournament time."
"It was a tough one tonight," Cougars guard Desmond Funches added. "We come out every game the same way. Same attitude, same mentality. Just because it's a ranked team, we're not going to hang our heads. We're going to come out and fight every night."
The game went back-and-forth and blow-for-blow for its majority. For the Cougars, the ones supplying their respective blows were Shaw and Funches with 20 and 18 points, respectively.
Columbia College guard Steven Holloway added 10 points to round out the Cougars' double-figure scorers.
After a slew of Holloway buckets ended the first half and gave the Cougars a 38-32 lead into the locker room, both teams went at each other in a game comparable only to Atari's Pong.
A Shaw floater and a Funches trey were immediately answered by a Woodfall three-pointer and a Jahmouri Robinson layup for the Spartans.
Five Spartans scored in double figures to stave off the upset efforts of Columbia College. Pablo Hernandez scored a team-high 15 points, Woodfall finished with 13 and Robinson added 11.
The balanced scoring from Missouri Baptist showed off its talents, but the Cougars counteracted that with balanced scoring of their own with 14 points off of eight Spartan turnovers.
"It was the environment I thought it was going to be. They have a well-balanced team and we have a well-balanced team," Shaw said. "Me and (Funches) don't come into the game saying, 'We're going to score this.' We just take what's given to us."
Judging by the jawing the officials stopped during the second half, the Cougars got into the heads of their opponents — if only a little bit.
"There was talking, but that's just comes with this game," Funches said. "Both teams were competitive, both want to come out and win. There's going to be talking but we played through it and stuck to our game."
Despite sticking to their game, the Cougars' turned the ball over 16 times.
There are positives to pull out of a loss like this, however. The Cougars won the assist battle 12-11 and shot a solid 47 percent from the three-point line. Plus, the confident mentality the Cougars brought was something noteworthy in their upset attempt.
"Tonight, we hit our peak ball," Shaw said. "I feel like we're going to flip the season around and get going. This is the kind of game we needed to get going."
The Cougars will play Crowley's Ridge College (5-13) Jan. 15 at Southwell Complex in hopes to get their season back on track. If it keeps playing the way it did against Missouri Baptist, Columbia College may just get back on track and then some.
"I wouldn't want to play us come March," Shaw concluded.
Columbia College women win fifth straight
The No. 2 Columbia College women's basketball team stuck to its winning formula with a 81-69 win over Missouri Baptist.
After a close first half, the Cougars started the second half with a 7-0 run to extend their lead to 50-36. That lead grew to as many as 17 but by the time that lead shrunk, Columbia College had already done its damage to the Spartans.
Spartan guard Kadesha Cooper's 22 points weren't enough to out-duel the balanced scoring from Columbia College.
Five Cougars scored in double figures. Junior guard Jordan Alford led Columbia College with 19 points on 58-percent shooting and senior guard Ashlee Marlatt added 10 points while dishing out her career-high 10 assists.
Raegan Wieser dropped 15 points while Geena Stephens and Morgan Brandt tallied 12 and 10 points, respectively, to the Cougars' effort.
Columbia College (14-2, 9-2 AMC) won its fifth straight and will look to keep the streak going against College of the Ozarks Jan. 15 in Point Lookout.
Supervising editor is Sky Chadde.