The future stars of Columbus basketball were on the stage during Saturday’s Elementary League Basketball Tournament finals at Columbus East High School.
After three quarters of tense, back-and-forth play between Richards and Smith in the boys game, it was the championship moment.
The Sonics knew just what to do.
With a sudden burst of offense, Smith went on a 6-0 run to claim a 36-31 lead and then held off Richards down the stretch for a 46-39 victory.
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Smith’s victory stopped Richards from claiming its third consecutive boys title.
“It was just the boys working hard and never giving up,” said Smith head coach Brad Williamson. “We had been trying to get out and run, and we were trying the get the ball to our bigger guys.”
Smith did both in the opening moments of the fourth quarter. The Sonics started the quarter with a perfect pass inside to Crase Bergman for a bucket and then after a Richards turnover, Bergman made an end-to-end dash that finished with a sparkling lay-up.
When Lake Kaisher dropped a shot on Smith’s next possession after a turnover, it was 36-31 and the Sonics had all the momentum.
The Raiders tried to battle back with Reese Harmon scoring six consecutive points for his team in the final minute, but Smith’s Ben Major put the game away with four consecutive free throws in the closing seconds.
Smith’s Kody Reynolds led the champs with 17 points that most came from his hard work in the paint. Bergman had 13 points and Major finished with 12.
Harmon led all scorers with 20 points, but it wasn’t quite enough. Kaden Wise had five points for Richards while Taylor Hollen, Chase Sams and Rhett Harmon all had four points.
Richards led in all three of the first quarters, 11-7 in the first, 21-20 at halftime and 31-30 after three.
“We just ran into a buzz saw,” said Richards coach Barry Turnbow. “We had no answer for Kody Reynolds. We also didn’t do a good job blocking out.”
Williamson was proud of his Sonics for holding together all through the season.
“I think this is a great league,” Williamson said. “I don’t think there are many communities that have a league like this. You have to tip your hat to the people who run this league.”
In the second game of the evening, Richards proved to be the dominant team on the girls side by claiming the championship with a 32-14 win over Southside.
Richards returned to championship form after losing in the finals a year ago.
First-year Richards coach Dick Macy said his team had a tough road.
“We had to play the big guns right away,” Macy said. “But against Southside, I thought we came out ready to play.”
Richards used tremendous defensive pressure to forge a 12-0 lead after the first quarter and a 22-4 lead at halftime.
Southside produced a big effort in the second half, but the deficit was too great.
“After a few losses during the season, I thought we got ourselves on track,” said Southside coach Nate Bean. “The tournament was the best team effort I’ve seen from us.”
It was the first time in four seasons that Southside had reached the finals.
“The really great thing is that all a lot of these girls (from both Southside and Richards) are going to be teammates in the future,” Bean said. “That will be really special.”
Richards didn’t have any player in double figures, but seven different players scored for the Raiders. Haylee Acton had seven points to lead her team and Kaitlin Brummett and Katy Jordan each had six points while Koryn Greiwe had five.
EBL Coordinator Dennis Pierce said more than 2,000 tickets were sold for the event, but his biggest payoff came when his son, Jacob Pierce, was announced as an “Above and Beyond” award winner as selected by his teachers for his tremendous work as an athlete and a student. The boys “Above and Beyond” winners were Jacob Pierce (Parkside), Xavion Saddler (Clifty Creek), Luke Enneking (CSA-Fodrea), Hayden Wehmiller (CSA-Lincoln), Luke Bless (Schmitt), Ben Major (Smith), Gage Bayne (Mt. Healthy), Davi Carvalho (Richards), Brody Copas (Rockcreek), Blake Stevens (Southside) and Diego Ocampo (Taylorsville).
The girls “Above and Beyond” winners were Mackenzie Whetstine (Clifty Creek), Catey Streeval (CSA-Fodrea), Alexa McKinley (CSA-Lincoln), Sydney Conley (Schmitt), Maddison Uphaus (Smith), Emma Martin (Mt. Healthy), Emily Herndon (Parkside), Megan Vetter (Richards), Makenna Piatowski (Rockcreek), Hannah Larson (Southside) and Jalynn Perry (Taylorsville).
The Cheer Award winners were Haven Eudy (Clifty Creek), Anna Kishnani (CSA-Fodrea), Emma Edwards (CSA-Lincoln), Yoko Suzuki (Schmitt), Alyse Pardue (Smith), Holly Linn (Mt. Healthy), Madison Roop (Parkside), Grace Simpson (Richards), Allison Piatkowski (Rockcreek), Ada Hammond (Southside) and Misty Waltermire (Taylorsville). The Dance Award winners were Lulu Yang of Parkside and Emily Walker of Richards.