Columbus High point guard Blake Edzards had a career-high point total of 17 in a game last season. He's now passed that mark five times in 11 games after scoring 25 in a 60-53 road win Friday at North Platte.
Edzards topped 20 points for the second straight game and the fifth time this season doing it much like he has all year - drawing fouls and scoring at the free throw line. Friday he went 16 of 18 on foul shots.
He was also 13 of 14 from the charity strip in a Jan. 7 win over Seward and has made 10 or more foul shots in a game four times.
Not every program enters its statistics onto MaxPreps, but for those that do, Edzards ranks No. 1 in Nebraska at all levels of high school basketball in free throw makes and attempts.
Adding to his heroics was his battle with an illness. Coach Jimmy Motz wasn't sure his senior leader would be able to play, let alone be effective. At halftime in the locker room, Edzards had to sit near a trash can just in case.
"I think we showed some toughness and we showed some maturity in those situations Friday night. We didn't panic. We did a good job of playing strong, and I think guys fed off of Eddie. There were times we had to take him out of the game just to give him a breather," Motz said.
"But he played hard. He hit a jumper early, he kind of got fired up and I think the guys fed off of that."
Columbus led by nine in the early going, endured some runs that brought North Platte back to within striking distance several times throughout the night but had an answer each time.
The Discoverers scored on their first possession of each quarter and, Motz said, played the type of game necessary to win on the road.
"In the fourth quarter, Edzards was, I think, 9 of 10 down the stretch from the free throw line," coach Jimmy Motz said. "He had nine of the 25
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"We had an answer for them every time, for the most part."
The win improved CHS to 7-4 and made it three wins in a row since a GNAC Tournament semifinal loss to Class B No. 1 Hastings.
Perhaps most importantly, Columbus was averaging over 65 points against during the first eight games of the season but gave up an average of just 44 during the three-game win streak.
"We did a really good job, I thought, the last four minutes of the game valuing the possessions and being smart with the ball," Motz said. "We didn't force anything, did a good job of working the clock, executing on both ends of the floor and not picking up any silly fouls."
Columbus is back in action on the road again Friday at 7-4 Lexington. The Minutemen have lost three in a row and host C-1 No. 5 Kearney Catholic on Tuesday.
Edzards is now averaging 16.9 points per game, 2.9 assists, 3.7 rebounds and shooting the ball at 46 percent.
"I think there's just a sense of confidence when he's on the floor. I think guys are comfortable when he's on the floor handling the ball," Motz said. "We're asking him to do a lot. There's time where he's trying to make plays where we might have a couple turnovers, but we're asking him to do a lot offensively.
"He did a really great job Friday night down the stretch with composure and hitting some big free throws. He was playing with a fever, wasn't playing good and comes out and drops 25. Just a gritty, tough performance."
Nate Tenopir is the sports editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.