LEBANON — When he found out earlier Wednesday that his team was ranked fifth in the Associated Press Class 1A state basketball rankings, Madison High School coach Jaime Cotto kept the information from his players.
"I'll wait until tomorrow," Cotto said after the Trojans withstood a late comeback by Columbia and posted a 56-43 victory at the Lebanon/BSN Sports Thanksgiving Tournament. "With this team, I think it will be more of a confidence booster.
"Not to brag or anything, but the last three years we've been in the top 10 so it's not really anything new to us. I don't really think it will go to our head. If it were our first year (being ranked) I'd be concerned, but that's not the case."
The main concern Wednesday was a 15-point halftime lead that Columbia (1-2) whittled down to 46-40 with 5 minutes, 57 seconds remaining on 3-pointers by Michael Hunsaker and Adam Babb.
Columbia --playing without three injured players including scoring leader Hayden Landgraf --misfired on another 3-pointer that would have cut that rapidly declining deficit in half.
Madison regrouped and held on to reach the championship game.
Madison (3-0) will take on College Prep at Madison (3-0), a St. Louis school in its first year of existence, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
"We were tentative in the first half," Columbia coach Mark Sandstrom said. "I thought we had some good looks, we just didn't finish in the first half. We were kind of on our heels and I wanted us to be the aggressor.
"I thought we were the aggressors in the second half, but unfortunately we just couldn't climb out of the hole."
Madison got 19 points from Marquis Bourney and 11 each from Johnny Meitzenheimer and Deontay Starnes. Starnes, a 6-5 senior, is a transfer from Granite City High who asserted himself inside to score 10 of his 11 points in the first half.
"That's his best game," Cotto said of Starnes, still trying to fit in with new teammates in a new system. "Even when he got those two charge calls I told him I want a charge call out of him because I want him to use his body.
"The first two games he was fading away and wasn't being aggressive. He looked more like himself today."
Hunsaker tossed in 19 points, including a pair of 3s in the fourth quarter to keep things close. Babb added nine for the Eagles and Connor Mallinckrodt had seven.
The Madison lead was at 12-10 early in the first half when the Trojans took off on a 12-0 run that pushed that lead to 14 points.
Columbia trailed 34-19 at halftime and 46-34 heading into the fourth quarter, but refused to go away.
Turnovers and missed shots plagued Madison throughout much of the second half, but Columbia had trouble dealing with the Trojans' intense pressure most of the night.
Bourney's scoring helped the Trojans maintain their lead.
"That's where we get a spark," Cotto said. "We look for him and he's a great jump-shooter. He's going to be our main scorer this year, no doubt about it."