There have been a lot of good teams in Northeast Indiana over the past 5-10 years.
But very rarely are those teams great and it is because there are always flaws. It is a lack of interior presence or it is selfishness at the wrong time or it is inconsistent shooting. There is always something that keeps teams from being the complete package and something really special.
Columbia City has the chance to be different and Tuesday night’s win over a very very very good Snider team is the biggest point the Eagles have been able to make thus far.
We knew going into the game that the Eagles were going to be a formidable foe, perhaps the best that Snider was going to see all season before it gets into the Class 4A playoffs. But then Columbia City was more clinical than expected, winning every quarter and holding the offensively gifted Panthers to just seven points in the second quarter as the Eagles built a lead that Snider couldn’t work their way back from.
To top it off, we now look at a situation where the Eagles have won five straight in the series against Snider, but more importantly thee last three while the Panthers have ben considered among the best, if the not the top team in Northeast Indiana. It is a fun budding rivalry, but one where Columbia City is consistently better on game night at this point.
And with final scores for the Eagles the last three seasons of 54, 55 and 55 points, it really is like they know they just need to get to a certain magic number to seal the deal.
Columbia City’s ball movement was one of the most impressive things they use to break down Snider on Tuesday. Countless times, we saw an Eagle drive to the basket and draw defenders in but the exceptional court vision of the Eagles’ guards led to open shots around the court. Early on there was a perfect snapshot of this when Addison Baxter’s dribble drive drew all kinds of Snider attention and she was able to find a posting Molly Baker at the rim for an easy two.
The Eagles are so good everywhere on the court, they are able to consistently draw their opponents out of their comfort zone defensively, even when you are a high end defensive team like Snider is. The head and body fakes from the Eagles sold Snider to hard defend all night and it led to buckets time and time again. Columbia City’s continued willingness to share the ball and not hesitate offensively is something beautiful to watch. Their six key players all were just as impactful as the next on Tuesday night, even as Baxter’s 14 points led them.
Tessa and Anisa Tonkel continued to hit big shots throughout the game, including a dagger of a transition three pointer from Anisa Tonkel, who filled out the wing well and saw space created as Snider had to hedge on a Baxter drive.
As I said, Tuesday night’s win was just clinical and that is always impressive, but so much more when it comes against a team so talent laden as Snider.
And that win alone could possibly be enough to anoint the Eagles. Tuesday night could have been enough to say that Columbia City is the most complete team we have seen in the area in the last five seasons. But its not like they just did it on Tuesday night. In fact, we are on year three of them doing it, but something feels different about this season, at least right now.
Dare I say that I feel the last time we saw a team who was able to break down every opponent, including the really good ones, this well was the 2017 Homestead Spartans? Now, it is certainly too early to say that Columbia City will replicate all of that success that the Karissa McLaughlin led Homestead had on their road to a state title this season. There are still massive challenges awaiting Columbia City in the regular season and even locally in Class 4A in the playoffs before you’d even look to the rest of the state.
But…it feels similar right now.
Defensively, this team is stout and they get into passing lanes, they defend at the rim well and they force teams to settle for mediocre shots quite a bit. The Eagles had 14 steals Tuesday in the win over Snider and Baxter herself had six of them to go with a pair of blocked shots.
But it is the offense that stands most impressive. They don’t have to score 80 points a game and their defense makes sure of that, but Columbia City’s continued resilience to make sure they get thee best shot possible as much as possible has kept other teams scrambling. The ball movement remains crisp, they show no ego when sharing the ball and every girl who is on the court for the Eagles is a weapon; and a willing and ready one at that.
This team is the complete threat.
How does that pan out? Time will tell as we are still only a couple of weeks and four Columbia City games into this young season. But right now, we can be excited and very excited about what the future could hold. And better yet, we can and should be impressed about who the Eagles are as a complete team.
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