BLOOMINGTON — In most of its games this season, the Columbus East girls basketball team has known how things were going to go based on the first few minutes.
The Olympians didn’t mess around on Tuesday night.
Using a strong defensive start as a springboard, East grabbed a quick lead and never looked back on its way to a 55-37 triumph over Shelbyville in the opening round of the Class 4A Bloomington North Sectional.
“We’ve been really focusing on playing all minutes of the game and coming out ready to play,” East senior Audrey Wetzel said, “because there’s been games where we come out and just let them take the lead, and we never get it back. So it was very important for us to come out focused and ready; I think it carried on throughout the game.”
With the victory, the Olympians (14-9) earned a semifinal rematch with crosstown rival Columbus North. The Class 4A No. 1 Bull Dogs defeated East 63-21 in December.
Against Shelbyville (12-10), Columbus East nearly reached 21 points in the opening quarter.
The Olympians came storming out of the gate, taking an early 10-2 lead on back-to-back corner 3s by Wetzel and Britney Ballard. Defense helped fuel that opening blitz — East forced seven turnovers in the first period, and sophomore center Kristen Lyons added two of her six blocked shots.
“If we wouldn’t have gotten that start, it would have probably been more of a battle throughout the game,” Ballard stated.
Another pair of deep balls, this time from Riley Meade and Kennedi Satterfield, helped Columbus East grow its advantage to 27-13 midway through the second quarter, and when a subsequent putback bucket by Wetzel was immediately followed by a steal and layup from Addy Galarno, Shelbyville found itself buried in an 18-point hole.
The Golden Bears whittled away at the deficit after halftime, scoring the last six points of the third quarter to get within eight at 39-31. East responded, though, with another 3-pointer from Ballard sparking an 8-0 run that doubled the Olympians’ cushion and essentially sealed the outcome.
“I thought that was a key shot in the game,” said East coach Danny Brown, who also praised the effort he got off the bench from Satterfield.
Ballard paced Columbus East with 14 points, while Wetzel finished with 13 points, seven rebounds, six assists and three steals. Morgan Parker paced all scorers with 18 for Shelbyville.
Next up for the Olympians is a chance at redemption — a particularly important one for Wetzel, the lone East senior.
“Anything can happen in sectionals,” she said. “It’s obviously going to be a very tough game, but we have two days to prepare for it, so we’ll see what happens.”
Asked for his thoughts on Friday’s matchup with the Bull Dogs, Brown wasn’t biting.
“We beat Shelbyville tonight, and we’re moving on,” he said with a smile.