BLOOMINGTON — A late-season surge by the Columbus East boys basketball team came to a crashing halt in the second half of Friday night’s Bloomington South Sectional semifinals.
The Olympians, who came in riding a six-game winning streak, ended up falling to the host Panthers 54-39. Bloomington South moves on to face Bloomington North in tonight’s sectional final.
East finishes the season 14-9.
“We had a good finish to the year,” East senior Connor Umphress said. “The first 16 games didn’t go how we wanted it to. We should have won a lot more, but I’m really proud of everybody.”
Nate Nolting, who battled through a rough senior season, was proud as well. He overcame an ankle injury and illness.
“It was a good season overall,” Nolting said. “We all fought hard, and we all played together well. We came together at the end, and I’m proud of my team for that.”
The Olympians looked like they might be headed for tonight’s finals when they led the Panthers 25-20 late in the first half. But Bloomington South, 20-2, scored the final six points of the first half from the free-throw line to begin a 26-5 run that put it away.
“We were knocking down shots in the first half, and we were playing well together,” Umphress said. “Toward the end of the game, we just couldn’t get anything going. They’re the most physical team we ever played against, but we didn’t play our game.”
East went 1-of-8 from the field in the fateful third quarter.
“I think we were still battling hard all the way through,” Nolting said. “The third quarter, our shots weren’t falling the way they were in the first half, and South picked up a lot.”
“The third quarter, we came out and had a little lull, and they hit shots and we didn’t,” East coach Brent Chitty said. “We kind of lost our rhythm there a little bit.”
Parker Chitty scored 10 of his 14 points in the first quarter to lead the Olympians, who were out-rebounded 34-17.
“That was one of the things that we couldn’t do,” Brent Chitty said. “They beat us up on the boards, and that hurt us bad.”
John Jager led the Panthers with 15 points. Tucker Blackwell added 13.
“It was a scary game,” Bloomington South coach J.R. Holmes said. “It was scary to me all the way until a couple minutes to go in the game.”
Holmes said East should be dangerous next season with Parker Chitty, Zach Sanders, Kevin Williams and Alex Galle returning.
“They’re going to have a nice team,” Holmes said. “They have four of those starters back, and they had a good JV team. Brent does a great job with them.”
The Olympians lose Umphress, who will play at St. Francis next season, and Nolting, who will attend Indiana University, along with the Purdue-bound duo of Kelley Foreman and Matt Sublette.
“Those kids are going on to bigger and better pastures,” Brent Chitty said. “I know I am blessed to have an opportunity to coach this group.”