In every practice, Columbus East boys basketball coach Brent Chitty tries to teach his players about composure.
He never calls fouls. If one of his guys gets hammered, he must keep playing and keep his mouth shut.
That discipline came in handy during East’s 62-49 victory over visiting Floyd Central on Friday.
Already an emotional game because it was the Olympians’ Senior Night, the game disintegrated into a wrestling match, or perhaps a rugby scrum.
One female Floyd Central fan had to be escorted by a security guard out of the building and Floyd Central coach Todd Sturgeon was given a technical, finally, after berating officials for an extended period of time. Sturgeon stood in front of the scorer’s table and proclaimed that he had been trying to get a technical and just couldn’t get one. He eventually got his wish, ironically on a play where an East player blatantly traveled and was not called.
One of the Highlanders even passed the East bench and offering the Olympians’ coaching staff a few choice and obscene words. It was, indeed, strange at best.
To the credit of both coaches, they did a nice job controlling their players and not allowing matters to get completely out of hand.
“Now you know why we don’t call fouls in practice,” Chitty said. “We were facing a very athletic team and they battled us. I was proud of how our guys kept battling. I was proud of our composure.
“And I really think our seniors set the tone.”
Chitty started all four of his seniors, forwards Connor Umphress and Matt Sublette and guards Kelley Foreman and Nate Nolting, along with junior Alex Galle.
The group simply overwhelmed the Highlanders with its defensive energy. Floyd Central managed only three baskets in the first quarter and finished the first half with nine points. Umphress outscored the visitors by himself with 11 of his 15 points in the first half.
“It was emotional, but I think we were more fired up than anything,” Umphress said. “Our senior group came out with a bang, but we’ve played together forever.”
It was a pleased Columbus East locker room at halftime as the Olympians built a 25-9 lead.
“Our defense has come a long ways,” Umphress said. “That’s what wins us ball games. Defense is where we make our mark.”
Sublette scored all six of his points in the first half.
“We just wanted to play as hard as we could,” said Sublette, who started for usual starter, junior Kevin Williams. “Playing that kind of defense was a great feeling.”
Floyd Central, 12-8 overall and 3-4 in the Hoosier Hills Conference, cut East’s lead to 43-31 going into the fourth quarter, but the Highlanders never could make any kind of sustained run at the Olympians, who won their final six regular season games to build their record to 14-8 overall and 5-2 in the HHC.
East point guard Parker Chitty, who led the Olympians with 17 points, was fouled attempting a 3-point shot and sank all free throws for the first points of the final quarter. Williams followed with a thunderous dunk. Chitty scored 10 points in the quarter to keep Floyd Central at a safe distance.
Now East can turn its attention to the sectional playoffs, which begin on Tuesday. The Olympians have a first-round bye.
“I hope we can keep it going,” Brent Chitty said. “We’re getting hot at the right time.”