Unlike the previous 10 meetings between Columbus North and Columbus East, this one went down to the last seconds of the game.
The Bull Dogs had a 12-point halftime lead, but the Olympians did not let them grab their sixth consecutive sectional championship without a fight. The Bull Dogs had to hang on at the end for a 43-41 win.
“Give East a lot of credit,” North coach Pat McKee said. “They fought hard, they made some big shots and hustled all night long.”
The Bull Dogs move on to play Evansville Central in Saturday’s Bedford North Lawrence Regional semifinals. Martinsville will play the hosts in the second semifinal, and the regional final will be at 8 p.m. Saturday.
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North (19-7) got off to a quick start in the first half and held the Olympians (15-12) to just three second-quarter points. East opened the second half with an 8-0 run cut the lead to four.
Jenna Borger hit a couple of 3-pointers to help get the Bull Dogs back on track, but her eight points was the only offense they could muster for the entire third quarter.
North still managed to go into the fourth quarter with a seven-point lead, but missed 11 of 19 free throws in the final period. The Olympians found themselves down by only three when Addy Galarno stepped up and knocked down a 3-pointer with 1:55 left in the game.
Kristen Lyons fouled out for East with 1:36 left in the game, and Columbus North hit three out of six free throws to go up 41-35 with less than a minute left. Galarno fouled out with 25.3 seconds in the game, but freshman Whitley Rankin hit a deep 3-pointer to pull the Olympians within 41-38 with 15.3 seconds remaining.
“We have a couple of set plays for that,” East coach Danny Brown said. “It’s tough to execute those against at team like North, but we did. That was big. You can beat yourself up about all the little things that went wrong in the game, but you just can’t do that. You just have to be proud of what we did as a team.”
The Olympians (15-12) were forced to foul with 10 seconds left in the game, and North’s Ashlyn Huffman hit one of two free-throws. Britney Ballard came down the court and hit a 3-pointer to pull East within one point with three seconds left.
Ballard then fouled out on the inbounds play, and North’s Maliah Howard-Bass knocked down one free throw. But the 0.8 seconds that were left was not enough time for East to advance the ball.
Claire Cunningham, Addy Galarno, Britney Ballard and Kristen Lyons all had eight points to lead the Olympians.
Imani Guy made East work for every point, recording eight blocks to go with her 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Bull Dogs. Howard-Bass scored a game-high 15 points and forced four steals.
McKee said the poor free-throw shooting in the fourth quarter can be credited to Friday’s semifinal win against East Central, a game which he felt took a lot of energy out of his team.
“We didn’t have quite the energy and bounce tonight that we did (Friday) night,” McKee said. “That impacted our decision-making and free-throw making. We survived, and it doesn’t matter if two, 22 or 52, we just have to win.”