Olympians rally after slow start

Throughout the first half of Friday night’s Hoosier Hills Conference matchup against Jennings County, Columbus East relied on its defensive pressure to stay in the game.

Missing open opportunities around the basket, it was a matter of time before the Olympians found the bottom of the net. As the second half began, senior Zach Sanders finally had enough of it and got hot at the right time.

Sanders drained three 3-point shots in the third quarter en route to a game-high 18 points to lead East past the Panthers 54-43.

The Olympians (10-8, 3-2), struggling on the offensive end, used suffocating man-to-man defense to take a 23-22 lead into the half. Coming out in the third quarter, East’s Parker Chitty was able to slice through Jennings’ zone defense, leading to open shots for the Olympians.

Back to back 3-point shots by Sanders and Tanner McFall midway through the third sparked what would become a 14-4 run by East. Sanders, who sank four 3-point shots on the night, attributed his hot streak to his point guard.

“Parker was really trying to find me and get me going there in the third quarter,” Sanders said. “I wasn’t able to hit my shots in the first half, I knew these shots would lift our team so I had to knock them down.”

Chitty, who has signed to play at Eastern Kentucky, became East’s all time assist leader in the first half with his 350th. Chitty finished with eight points to go along with five rebounds, six assists and three steals.

“Anytime you break a record like that one of the first things you have to think about is the players he has played with,” said his father and coach, Brent Chitty. “Parker can get them the ball, but his teammates have to come up and hit big shots. It’s also a testament to Parker, as he is the kind of kid that tries to get teammates in the position to where they can be successful.”

Heading into the fourth quarter with a 10-point lead, the Olympians continued their dominant play on the defensive end. Using their size down low, they forced the Panthers (6-11, 2-4) away from the basket. Jennings, normally an outstanding 3-point shooting team, was unable to convert at a high percentage from downtown.

Brent Chitty said his team’s focus heading into the night was to limit second-chance opportunities for the Panthers.

“We had to push them off the boards and limit their second chance points,” he said. “They shoot a lot of 3s and have good shooters, so we couldn’t allow them to get offensive boards and kick out to open shooters.”

The Panthers suffered through a four-minute scoring drought in the fourth quarter, eventually broken with just under two minutes to play by Adam Jackson.

Jennings was led by 17 points each from junior Tyler Vogel and senior Justin Pettit. Both Vogel and Pettit sank three 3-pointers.