INDIANAPOLIS — For about three and half quarters, the Columbus East girls basketball team looked like it could have pulled off a huge upset over Class 3A co-No. 1 and defending state champion Heritage Christian.
In the final minutes of the fourth quarter, the Eagles proved why they are one of the best teams in the state.
Heritage Christian managed only one field goal in the fourth quarter but was able to sink 15 of 18 free throws in the fourth quarter and go on a 16-0 run late to help them edge out the Olympians 58-47.
“I’m so proud of the effort of these girls. We led for three quarters against a defending state champion,” East coach Danny Brown said. “(Heritage Christian) just kicked it up a notched, and we had foul trouble for our key players. It kind of bit us in the end, but we played them tough. We showed that we could play against them.”
East junior Britney Ballard picked up her second foul with 6:17 left in the first quarter. Most coaches would have went to the bench. Brown decided to leave Ballard in the game and it paid off. She hit two big 3-point baskets that pushed the Olympians to their biggest lead of the game at 17-7 after one quarter.
“Coach Brown and (assistant) coach (Willie) Humes have a lot of faith in me taking those shots,” said Ballard, who finished with a team high 15 points. “We have been practicing much harder and we are playing more team ball this year.”
Karli Reynolds, who was a junior varsity player at Columbus North when it won the 2015 state championship. Reynolds, who was guarding top players De’Shawna Harper and Katlyn Gilbert for part of the time, gave credit to former Bull Dog star and current Notre Dame player Ali Patberg for making her the point guard she is today.
“When I was at North, I know that playing against Ali all the time. She really pushed me,” said Reynolds, who scored 15 points. “It was frustrating guarding her all the time, but she made me better, as well.”
Reynolds had to sit out last season after transferring from North.
“She is getting better and better and she is the type of player that can help take the load off of Britney and Addy (Galarno) a little bit,” Brown said.
East led 42-40 after three quarters. After an Eagles bucket to tie it, Galarno hit a 3-pointer for a 45-42 lead before the Eagles run started.
Claire Cunningham finished with nine points, and Kristen Lyons added five for the Olympians. Even in the loss, the team has plenty of confidence going forward.
“We can do a lot more this year,” Ballard said. “We’re going to keep pushing ourselves, and we’ll bounce back on Thursday (against East Central).”