Columbus High boys basketball faced a pair of double-digit first-quarter deficits on back-to-back nights and never recovered during a pair of losses to Lincoln East and Papillion-La Vista.
CHS started the weekend down 27-10 against the Spartans at home then went on the road Saturday evening and tried to climb out of a 18-4 deficit to the Monarchs. But East had 49 points by halftime en route to a 76-38 win. Papio didn't have quite the offensive success, but the Monarchs limited the Discoverers to two quarters of fewer than 10 points in a 52-33 final score.
Columbus High dropped to 3-9 and goes back on the road Friday to Grand Island.
Coach Jordan Hitchcock was disappointed his group didn't have better starts. Taking the next step as a program, he said, requires learning how to win some of these contests against teams that are a rung or two above Columbus but not quite at the level of teams like Omaha Westside, Millard North and Bellevue West.
"The next step we need to take is beat some of these teams that are mid-HAC, mid-Metro. We just couldn't hit a shot, first of all," Hitchcock said. "Right now we don't have that belief that, 'Hey, I'm going to knock down this shot.' So we're second-guessing things and passing up open shots. Offensively, we've got to figure things out."
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Papillion-La Vista 52, Columbus 33: The Monarchs stuck to a rotation of just seven players, two of which will play Division I football, and four of which are 6-foot-4 or taller. That kind of imposing presence forced an adjustment by CHS shooters to try and find opportunities.
Columbus shot 2 of 12 in the first quarter and trailed 18-4 when 6-6 Papio senior Kyle Ingwersen came out and scored 11 first-quarter points including three three-pointers.
The defense held the Monarchs to just eight in the second quarter and trimmed the deficit to 26-18, but a 1 for 11 frame in the third pushed the difference back out to 36-23.
Ingwersen finished with 21 points while Ashton LaPointe led Columbus with 10.
"Although we lost both games, we haven't taken a step back," Hitchcock said. "It's not that we were going the wrong direction, we just need a new mindset. We've broken through the expectation of beating a team. Now, when things don't go our way, we've got to play with poise. We did that last weekend. Now we've got to learn to play with poise and beat these next group of teams above us. Anytime you break through a ceiling it can take a couple tries. You might fail a few times in the same situation before it happens."
Lincoln East 76, Columbus 38: The Spartans started with a barrage of threes and never looked back. East hit five in the first quarter from five different players and built a 17-point advantage. Columbus did a better job guarding the arc in the second quarter but then junior Christian Melessa scored nine points and the Spartans put up 22 more.
Columbus trailed 49-23 at the half, only allowed 10 in the third quarter, but also scored just seven in that frame.
Melessa led with a game-high 15 points while CHS senior Sam Kwapnioski had 11.
"Our defensive intensity wasn't as good. East came out and pressured us. They usually pack it in and protect the paint, but they've seen the film and they know we don't have a true point guard," Hitchcock said. "They wore us out by pressuring us all game. We didn't have the poise and composure to get the ball where we wanted to get us into our offense."
Nate Tenopir is the sports editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at email@example.com.