The Columbine Rebels can happily say that everything this season is downhill after Dec. 1.
That’s because the Rebels hosted defending champion and preseason No. 1 Regis, which returned four starters from a season ago. The Rebels, on the other hand, graduated nine seniors and are a young team with a new identity.
Naturally, the Raiders did what was expected, breaking loose in the second quarter and pounding away for an 88-56 Class 5A nonleague victory that was surprisingly positive for both teams.
“What’s great about this is they’re the top team in the state (and) now we have something to shoot for,” Rebels coach Jeff Wennberg said.
Stopping the Raiders will be a tall task for just about every team this season. In addition to their experience and the savvy coaching of Ken Shaw, they start three versatile players all taller than 6-foot-5, while the fourth returning starter is 6-3.
But the Rebels battled for 32 minutes, through foul trouble, cold spells and moments when the Raiders were hitting shots the rest of Columbine’s opponents probably won’t hit this season. The Rebels have seen the best, which should provide some valuable perspective as the season unfolds.
“I think we played hard until the end,” senior Nick Isenburg said.
Isenburg, who battled foul trouble, still managed to lead the Rebels with 21 points -- 13 of which came in the third quarter. Junior Adam Wilson had 12 points and 11 rebounds, Matt Huntington grabbed 10 rebounds and freshman Jon Snow made his varsity debut with nine points off the bench.
“I think we played fairly well together and we got our big men involved,” Isenburg said.
The Rebels ran a smoother and faster motion offense, displayed better passing and looked to work the ball for inside shots or mid-range jumpers. Isenburg did drill three 3-pointers, but the majority of Columbine’s success came inside, despite Regis’ big bodies.
“We proved to ourselves that we’re already better offensively now than we were at any point last year,” Wennberg said.
The back-and-forth game slowly went Regis’ way before the Raiders ran away with the second quarter. With Isenburg and guard Neil Myer (three points) in foul trouble, the Raiders turned a nine-point lead into a 23-point advantage by halftime.
Behind 28 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots from 6-6 senior Bud Thomas, the Raiders pushed their lead to 34 in the third quarter and led 82-47 with 5:20 left in the fourth quarter.
The young Rebels also made plenty of preventable mistakes, which helped fuel 22 turnovers.
Regis 25 22 26 15 - 88
Columbine 16 8 19 13 - 56
Columbine - Myer 1 1-3 3, Carpinello 3 0-0 7, Isenburg 7 4-4 21, Wilson 5 2-2 12, Huntington 2 0-4 4, Smith 0 0-0 0, Dorris 0 0-0 0, Osborne 0 0-0 0, Snow 4 1-2 9. Totals 22 8-15 56.
3-point goals - Isenburg 3, Carpinello.