If you’re familiar with the NBA Jam video game, you could probably picture a flaming basketball tearing through the net every time Zach Sanders shot on Tuesday evening.
If you’re not, no matter. It’s entirely possible those flames were actually there.
Sanders was in midseason form during Columbus East’s season opener, connecting on seven 3-point shots and scoring a game-high 23 points to lead the host Olympians to a comfortable 68-32 triumph against Heritage Christian.
The 6-foot-2 marksman made it sound pretty simple afterward.
“My teammates were getting me the ball, and I was able to knock down shots,” he said.
Starting its season a couple of weeks late, East was eager to get on the court against some team other than itself, and early on in the game they may have been a little too eager. Still, the Olympians came out of the first quarter with a 15-7 edge.
By the second period, Sanders was done preheating, and he buried the Eagles with a barrage of 3-pointers. The senior hit four shots from deep in less than three minute, leading the way during a 15-0 run that gave East a 34-13 cushion heading into the final minute of the half. Heritage tightened up on Sanders after the break, but the Olympians didn’t slow down — Tanner McFall, who finished with 11 points, knocked down a couple of third-quarter 3s to keep the momentum going.
While Sanders’ hot shooting night was the big story on the offensive end, East coach Brent Chitty was equally pleased with the job his post players — Alex Galle, Kevin Williams, Rhett Myers and Chaz Painter — did on the boards and on the defensive end. The Olympians ended the night with roughly a 2-to-1 rebounding edge, rarely allowing Heritage to get a second shot.
“I was really pleased with our bigs,” Chitty stated. “Our big guys, Kevin Williams and Alex and Rhett and Chaz, I thought they did a good job defending. One time I saw Chaz come out — a kid came off a screen and our guard was caught back, and Chaz just went right out there just long enough to make that kid hesitate and not get that shot off.”
The Olympians, meanwhile, didn’t need a ton of second shots on the other end, especially Sanders. It wasn’t always seamless, but it was an entertaining start to what the East players expect to be a fun season.
“We play really well as a team, and we enjoy playing together,” said senior guard Parker Chitty, who finished with eight points and 10 assists. “We’re a big family; we love each other. So it’s fun — especially whenever Zach gets hot. When he gets hot, then everything else just gets a lot more fun. The crowd gets into it and it’s just a great time.”