Less than 30 seconds after Audrey Wetzel fouled out of Saturday afternoon’s girls basketball season opener, Floyd Central rallied from a four-point deficit to tie Columbus East.
With Wetzel, the Olympians’ lone senior and their leading scorer last season, on the bench, the Highlanders had all the momentum. But with four sophomores and a freshman on the floor, East outscored Floyd Central 7-3 during the final 2:10 to pull out a 53-49 Hoosier Hills Conference win.
All seven of those final East points came at the free-throw line. Sophomore Addy Galarno went 5-of-6 during that stretch and made both of her attempts with 3.3 seconds remaining to solidify the victory.
“We knew being young, we had to pick it up,” said Galarno, who led the Olympians with 13 points. “(Wetzel fouling out) got us fired up. We knew we had to cover for her and win it for her.”
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East, which trailed 35-33 with six minutes left, took a 46-42 lead on a basket by Riley Meade with 3:17 remaining. But then Wetzel was called for her fifth foul on a charge with 2:42 left.
The Highlanders scored four quick points to tie it, but the Olympians wouldn’t give up another field goal until seven seconds remained.
“All of those sophomores played varsity last year, so they prepared for it and they know what the game is like, and (freshman) Claire (Cunningham) is not scared at all,” Wetzel said. “No one was scared just because it was four sophomores and a freshman. They’ve been playing like this their whole life.”
Wetzel and sophomore Britney Ballard each finished with 12 points. Sophomore Riley Meade came off the bench to add 10, eight of which came in the fourth quarter.
“I thought Riley Meade played one heck of game today,” East coach Danny Brown said. “She kept us in this ballgame.”
The Olympians went just 2-of-18 from the field in the first quarter and 7-of-31 in the first half, yet still led 24-20 at the break.
“We started off kind of slow,” Galarno said. “We didn’t play the best that we could have. We have a lot to improve on, but we got the win, so I guess we’re happy about that.”
“We can definitely do better,” Wetzel said. “We had some nerves in the first half and couldn’t get anything going, but luckily we pulled through and got the win. We really needed it.”
East’s defense forced 22 turnovers. Wetzel grabbed seven rebounds for the Olympians, who matched Floyd Central with 30 rebounds as a team.
“We want to be up-tempo, but we can’t do it if we can’t rebound,” Brown said. “We have a lot of work to do.”
Brown said the Olympians were fortunate to come out with the win.
“I thought we got outplayed,” Brown said. “I thought we got outhustled. I don’t think we deserved to win. Floyd Central outplayed us. They should have won the game.”