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Sectional Stage: Schumacher, Cougars top Bulldogs, move to state quarterfinals

Feb. 27—The stage was set: Class 2 State Sectional 6, Tuesday night at College Heights Athletic Complex.

And sophomore Ben Schumacher didn't flinch on the biggest stage of his career as he helped lead the Cougars of College Heights Christian School to a 61-51 victory over Blue Eye.

"We've seen it before, I was happy to see it again. I've never seen that kid show that much emotion," CHCS head coach Stephan Harrel said. "He's a real quiet kid. So for him to be showing emotion lets me know he was dialed in, he was ready to go."

Now, coach Harrel wasn't willing to call this the game of Schumacher's career because, like he said, Schumacher has done this before. In fact, he's seen the young player go over 20 already in his career and the sophomore tallied 16 on Tuesday night.

In the game that he broke the 20-point barrier, he did a lot of his scoring in the fourth quarter and coach Harrel said it earned him the nickname "fourth-quarter Ben."

But it wasn't just the fourth quarter tonight. Schumacher had it going on offense for the majority of the game. His defense got it done as well as he came away with a steal that turned into a breakaway layup as well.

He talked about playing on the big stage in front of a packed house and letting those emotions out that Harrel mentioned.

"I was really nervous to start that game," he admitted. "I finally made a shot. My teammates found me, that kind of kept me going. My teammates were really encouraging me. I had some really bad plays to start the game. They kept on encouraging me.

"Just the competitive spirit, the atmosphere, everything was just great. ... I've never been in this position. That's really what made it the game."

CHCS (19-10) will now meet Hartville (26-2) on Saturday evening for a state quarterfinal game to be played at Ozark Christian College in Joplin.

The Cougars struggled to find the bottom of the basket in the first quarter but only trailed by 6 at 17-11.

"College Heights does a good job of causing chaos at times," Blue Eye head coach Trae Patton said. "I thought we took care of the ball, were able to attack, get some easy shots and then tried to do our best in not letting them get out in transition early on. That's what we did well in the first quarter."

The second quarter was a completely different story.

"The second quarter it kind of flip-flopped. We started taking some tougher shots. They got in transition and started playing their game," Patton added.

College Heights came out and scored the first 9 points of the period, and they were highlighted by a 3-pointer from senior Colsen Dickens. That start gave the host team an 20-17 lead.

Blue Eye (21-7) responded with a floater in the lane from senior Braden Johnson to end the run and make it 20-19. The Cougars would score the next 5 points with another triple from Dickens and two free throws from Schumacher to make it 25-19.

Turnovers were a key for CHCS as it turned the game on a dime in that stanza.

"When we can get out and press some people, it gives us energy," Harrel said. "But when we can't it kind of stagnates us. The coach (Patton) did a great job of sitting in that zone because he's seen film and he knows that stagnates us. When we get a stop, we try to push it back up that way you can't stagnate us. Once we did that and started running, we kind of pulled away a little bit."

After a layup from the Bulldogs' Brady Isbell, CHCS rattled off 6 in a row to end the quarter and make it 31-21 entering halftime. Schumacher converted two layups down the stretch of the quarter and Caleb Quade made another.

The sophomore guard, Schumacher, came out in the third quarter and got the team going with a 3-pointer to keep the momentum on their side. Then Quade added another bucket on an offensive rebound and putback to make it 36-21.

The lead was at 13 just moments later on an Adam Stanton layup to make it 38-25 for College Heights. But that's when the Bulldogs got back-to-back 3-pointers due to a key stop on defense to cut the deficit to just 7 points at 38-31. Seniors Mason Phillips and Colton Spinning delivered those outside shots.

The 3-point basket kept Blue Eye alive as Isbell lined one up later in the quarter to make it 42-34. But CHCS had the final tally of the third period to make it 44-34 entering the final quarter of play.

The lead was double digits for most of the second half.

"We were very picky about what we did," Harrel said of his team's offense in the second half. "We didn't force stuff. We stayed in the same action and just let them overreach. And when they overreached we kind of punished them from there. That shows our maturity with us being so young."

The Bulldogs got 4 quick points to cut the lead to 6 — which was the closest they'd been since the scoreboard showed 27-21 late in the second quarter.

But College Heights scored the next 5 as Schumacher went 1 for 2 at the free throw line, made a layup and Quade cashed in on two charities to make it 49-38. The score was 47-38 when Blue Eye took a timeout with 5:13 to play. But then it fouled Quade out of that timeout and fell behind even more.

The rest of the game the two teams were separated by at least 8 points or more.

Quade led the team in scoring with 17. Dickens joined Quade and Schumacher in double figures with 13.

Blue Eye was led by Cam Fulte with 11 and Spinning with 10.

Jayce Walker didn't score a lot of points but made a key defensive play. He sped in front of a Bulldog to cut off his layup attempt and caused a strong shot off the backboard that went off the front of the rim. That kept the Cougars' lead at 25-21 in the second stanza. He also made a no-look pass to a teammate underneath the basket for an easy layup to put them ahead 42-31 in the third.

QUARTERFINAL BOUND

This is the second time in three seasons that the Cougars have moved on to the quarterfinal round of the Class 2 state tournament as they prepare for the Hartville Eagles. CHCS' first-year head coach talked about the importance of returning to this stage.

"I just want my boys to keep fighting. They bring an effort, they bring an energy. I just want them to keep scrapping no matter what," Harrel said. "We're breathing rare air right now. One of my former players said that and I totally agree with him.

"It means everything. I give all the glory and praise to God. You pray for things, you expect some things and then God always gives you more. I never would have imagined this. I thought we had a good team. I thought we would go through some growing pains but to see them elevate so quickly it's just God."

Harrel said he and his seniors have been talking about legacy this year. And the players want to take it one step further than the quarterfinal team from the 2021-22 season.

When he learned he had Hartville next and was asked what he knew about that opponent, coach had this to say:

"I know they good. ... We're going to be doing a lot of praying. A lot of meditation. A lot of fasting and throw that little orange thing up and see what happens."

PLAYING HARD AND TOGETHER

Patton, a second-year head coach, added some thoughts on his team's play this year.

"This group of seven seniors, we're small. ... But they play so hard. I've never felt like we've gone out and some team just played harder than we did. It's a special group because they just like each other."