CONNERSVILLE — There was one word to describe the performance of the Columbus East girls basketball team through the first three quarters of their matchup against Connersville.
Once the Olympians secured the lead off of a Britney Ballard basket early in the fourth quarter, the rest of the way they played a game of keep-away from Connersville. The Olympians gave themselves a lot of opportunities, and they kept the Spartans scoreless in the fourth quarter as they were able to hang on for a low-scoring 31-22 victory.
“Not too often in my coaching career have I gone to a game of keep away in a 24-22 game with six minutes to go,” East coach Danny Brown said. “I give (assistant) coach (Willie) Humes a lot of credit for that. He was the one that wanted to do it. I was a bit skeptical but as it usually happens, coach Humes was right.”
East (11-5) kept rotating the ball endlessly in the fourth quarter, but Connersville’s (9-9) attempts at a trap were defenseless as Kary Horner earned a trip to the line and a Kristen Lyons basket extended the lead 27-22. Once the Spartans were forced to foul, Ballard and Addy Galarno combined to hit four straight free throws to seal the game.
“We had an off night but we picked it up and we needed to win this game,” East freshman Whitley Rankin said. “It set an example the rest of the season that we have to pick it up more.”
Early in the game, Galarno and Riley Meade hit back to back triples, and a Lyons basket gave the Olympians a 10-6 advantage after one quarter of play.
Rankin saw extended minutes in the game and made the most of the opportunity. In the second quarter, she was able to draw a foul while shooting a 3-pointer. She converted two of three foul shots. Rankin also got a bucket late in the half to give East a 16-11 lead at the half.
Rankin also played in the crucial fourth quarter.
“I was pleased to have that time because I wanted to prove myself and my team helped me out a lot,” Rankin said. “They make me get focused and confident out there.”
Connersville picked up their second lead of the game when Mikalia Taylor hit a basket to go ahead 22-20. Meade converted two free to tie the game entering the fourth quarter.
Brown hopes this game is a huge wake up call for his team.
“We did not come out ready to play and you can’t do that with our schedule,” Brown said. “We do that with our schedule, we will not win too many more games if we play like that. We got to be ready and respect your opponent. We got to bring every night and we did not do that until the last six minutes.”