Olympians begin tough stretch with upset win

With seven games in 15 days to close the regular season, the Columbus East girls basketball team has a chance to gain some confidence and momentum going into the sectional.

The Olympians kicked off that stretch in a big way Thursday night. They led from start to finish in a 49-42 upset of a Greensburg team that came in 15-2.

“It was a good effort,” East coach Danny Brown said. “Hopefully, this is the start of something going forward because we have an NBA-type schedule coming up. We just have to be ready.”

The Olympians (9-8) were certainly ready Thursday. They did not commit a turnover in the first quarter in jumping out to a 13-8 lead.

“I feel like that was our best quarter we’ve played this whole year,” said Britney Ballard, who led East with 13 points.

Audrey Wetzel, who added 12 points for the Olympians, agreed.

“We stress every game, ‘Be ready to play from the start,'” Wetzel said. “We just have to focus on playing all the game, and when we come out ready, we’re good.”

The Pirates were within 18-16 with 2½ minutes left in the first half before East’s Kristen Lyons scored seven consecutive points to push the lead back to nine. The Olympians led 25-19 at halftime.

East gave itself a little cushion to start the second half after Ballard converted a 3-point play, and following two Greensburg free throws, Wetzel hit three free throws to make it 33-21, the Olympians, biggest lead of the night.

East led 38-29 after three quarters, then went 11 of 15 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter to seal the win. The Olympians, who finished 22 of 28 from the line, did not attempt a field goal in the final period.

“We always tell our kids we have to be aware of the bonus situation, and they were, especially when it came to the two-shot fouls,” Brown said. “We definitely wanted to take care of the basketball and run some time off the clock, but we knew they had to foul us.”

East shot 52 percent (13 of 25) from the field.

“I thought we battled for the most part,” Brown said. “I’m very proud of the effort tonight. We hit some big shots when we needed to, especially Korin Humes hitting two big free throws. That was big tonight.”

The Pirates outrebounded the Olympians 25-17. Wetzel and Claire Cunningham each grabbed four rebounds to lead East.

“We went after all the loose balls, and we just did the little things, and it all came together for us,” Ballard said.

“I think that we played all 32 minutes of the game,” Wetzel said. “That’s something that we’ve been wanting to do every game this year, and usually we take a quarter off or so. But this game, it felt like we played the whole game, and we pulled through with the win.”

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.