Of the nine girls who played for East Central on Thursday night, six stood 6-foot or taller.
That posed a matchup problem for Columbus East, but the Olympians didn’t let that stop them. They jumped out to a big lead early and withstood a couple of last-second 3-point attempts by the Trojans to hang on for a 42-39 victory.
“Their size affected us,” East coach Danny Brown said. “They pounded it inside the first half. We have to do a better job defensively. We’re just fouling too much.”
Despite the size mismatch, the Olympians (2-1) were outrebounded only 40-36 East Central (3-1). Columbus East held a 24-20 rebounding advantage in the first half.
Kristen Lyons had one of the best nights of her career. The 6-2 junior led the Olympians with 11 points, 13 rebounds, six steals and five blocked shots.
“Our guards played great defense on their guards, and when we went into the zone, we really compacted, and we all just played great defense,” Lyons said. “Our guards hit shots on the outside, which opened up the inside. Our guards looked at us (post players), and we got open shots.”
Columbus East led 13-10 in the opening minute of the second quarter before back-to-back 3-pointers by Kary Horner and Addy Galarno and two free throws by Lyons stretched the lead to 21-10. The lead stayed between five and 11 points the next two quarters, with the Olympians leading 38-28 with 7 minutes left in the game.
That’s when the Trojans came to life. They went on an 8-0 run, capped by a 3-pointer from Courtney Robbins, to cut the lead to two.
Claire Cunningham scored from inside to extend the lead to 40-36 before an East Central free throw made it a three-point game. With the Trojans having only two fouls in the second half, Columbus East went to its delay game, forcing East Central to foul.
A free throw by Galarno with 34 seconds remaining and a free throw by Lyons with 23 seconds left gave the Olympians a 42-37 lead. The Trojans’ Logan Cox scored with 14 seconds left to cut it to three, and Galarno missed the front end of a one-and-one with 11 seconds remaining.
East Central advanced the ball into the frontcourt and called timeout with 4.1 seconds left. The Trojans got the ball to Robbins, who had an open look at a 3-pointer, but it bounced off the backboard and rim. Abby Koch grabbed the rebound, backed up to the 3-point line and got off a shot just before the buzzer, but it bounced off the rim.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Brown said. “We have to get better defensively, offensively. We’re inconsistent right now through three games, but we’ll get better.”
The game was eerily similar to last year’s game at East Central, when Columbus East led the entire game before falling on a last-second shot. The game also was similar to Tuesday night’s game at Heritage Christian, where the Olympians led for most of the first three quarters before the Eagles rallied for a 57-48 win.
The difference is that this time, Columbus East held on.
“We played very well against Heritage Christian on Tuesday and had them beat for 25 minutes,” Brown said. “I felt we would have the momentum coming into our first home game this evening, but we didn’t.”
Galarno finished with 10 points for the Olympians, who bounced back from their first loss by knocking off the previously-unbeaten Trojans.
“That Heritage game, it hurt,” Lyons said. “We had it, but then we let it go. So we really practiced hard on Wednesday, and we wanted it, and I’m glad we finished here. It felt good.”