A night of mixed emotions

ST. LEON — It was the best of times, or it was the worst of times. It kind of depended on which color you were wearing on Friday night.

Those sporting blue left the East Central gym all smiles. The Columbus North boys basketball team picked up the signature win it had been seeking all season long, and it came at the best possible time — in a do-or-die sectional game against its crosstown rival.

For those clad in Orange, Columbus East’s 59-50 setback was somehow both an agonizingly slow, painful march to the exit and and a swift demise. As the final moments ticked away in a game that North led for the entire second half, one couldn’t help but think that this group of Olympians deserved better.

In some ways, though, Friday was a perfect summation of East’s season. The Olympians displayed the ability to compete at the highest level, going toe-to-toe with nearly every team they faced all winter long.

In far too many cases, however, they couldn’t close the deal. East dropped five of its final six games, most of them nail-biters. The Olympians lost a double-overtime battle at Martinsville and fell at Floyd Central in the final seconds of regulation.

Friday night, it was more of the same. On a night where it seemed like no shot inside the 3-point line would fall, head coach Brent Chitty’s crew scrapped and clawed throughout, staying within reach until the clock — and North’s ability to make free throws when it needed to — became enemies that were too much to overcome.

It ended far too soon. The East seniors — Parker Chitty, Alex Galle, Rhett Myers, Zach Sanders and Kevin Williams — were a tight-knit, fun-to-watch bunch that I was really hoping to see more of. When things were clicking for the Olympians, it made for splendid viewing.

They just didn’t quite click consistently enough, and a promising campaign has met a seemingly premature end.

On the other side of the coin, the young Bull Dogs are playing big-boy ball now, a far cry from where they were during their seven-game losing streak back before the holiday break.

Having more than a week off after a disappointing loss to West Lafayette Harrison out in Marion seemed to be just what North and first-year head coach Paul Ferguson needed. The team came together, gained the focus it had seemed to be lacking early, and little by little, it grew up.

Since the first of the year, the Bull Dogs are 9-6. Friday’s victory was their fourth in a row, their first streak of more than two victories all season long.

Against East, Columbus North denied sharpshooter Zach Sanders the ball extremely effectively, with Nathan VanDeventer and a rotating cast of others faceguarding the senior 3-point specialist. The Bull Dogs also contained Eastern Kentucky-bound point guard Parker Chitty despite being without the injured Trey Vincent, who Ferguson called his club’s best on-the-ball defender.

The Olympians never got untracked, making just 33 percent of its shots inside the 3-point line (8 of 24) and struggling to the same percentage at the foul line (4 for 12).

Meanwhile, North knocked down 22 of 29 free throws, displaying a poise down the stretch that it hadn’t always shown during the first part of the season.

The Bull Dogs are growing up quickly. And they’re not done.

Ryan O’Leary is the sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at roleary@therepublic.com.