COLUMBUS — It was a combination that clicked for Columbus throughout the regular season. The first game of postseason play proved to be no exception.
Behind a game-high 20 points from Ben Emler and 16 from teammate Trent Casper, Columbus defeated Berlin 61-45 in a WIAA Division 3 regional quarterfinal game on Tuesday.
Emler tallied 12 in the first half, including five points during Columbus’ 12-2 run to open the game, giving the seventh-seeded Cardinals a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
“I thought we established the tempo and that was goal number one for this game. We knew that they liked to get out and run in transition and fire up a lot of shots,” Columbus coach Ben Schambow said. “We needed to try to get back on defense and get in front of them to contest their shots. And we wanted to work our offense until we got a good shot.
“Luckily, we were getting good shots early.”
Especially Emler. The 6-5 sophomore center showed a deft touch, hitting eight of 13 shots from the field and going 3-for-3 from the foul line.
Columbus (11-12) saw the 10th-seeded Indians (8-15) get within six points twice in the first half. And once in the second half — at 29-23 — following back-to-back baskets by Justin Bartol to open the period.
The Cardinals quickly regained control thanks to a 9-1 run capped by a three-point play from Casper, a 6-2 junior forward who scored 14 points in the second half — including a 10-for-10 effort from the foul line.
“They (Emler and Casper) are two forces for us and in order to proceed through the playoffs, we know that all five guys will have to step up and produce,” Schambow said.
Senior Andy Vujnovich pulled down 11 rebounds to go along with eight points for Columbus.
Bartol, a senior, led the Indians with 14 points, while senior Elias Klawitter tallied 11.
The Cardinals travel to Laconia for the regional semifinals on Friday night to face the second-seeded Spartans, who had a first-round bye.
“I’m happy with a win over a very quality team in Berlin,” Schambow said, “and we’re excited about Laconia.”
COLUMBUS 61, BERLIN 45
Berlin 19 26 — 45
Columbus 29 32 — 61
BERLIN (45) — Joey Rhein 1, Mitchell Stebelinski 3, Grant Miller 10, Justin Bartol 14, Ryan Bartol 4, Elias Klawitter 11, Ryan Krebs 2. TOTALS (FGM FTM-FTA PTS): 19 7-10 45.
COLUMBUS (61) — Trey Hensler 2, Adam Zahn 7, Bryce Miller 6, Trent Casper 16, Andy Vujnovich 8, Caden Bieker 2, Ben Emler 20. TOTALS (FGM FTM-FTA PTS): 21 16-20 61.
3-pointers: Berlin 0, Columbus 3 (Ada, Zahn 1, Bryce Miller 1, Ben Emler 1). Total fouls: B 17, C 12.