His surname is McFall, but given his ability to soar, a more appropriate name might be “McFly.”
Tanner McFall has developed a penchant for flying through the air for slam dunks. Most come at the end of drives through the lane or on steals and breakaways.
“Tanner is a phenomenal athlete, and he’s starting to play at a really high level,” Columbus East coach Brent Chitty said. “He can go up quickly. It is deceptive. All of a sudden, you’re like, ‘Whoa, where’d that come from?'”
Earlier this school year, McFall was measured with a 40-inch vertical jump in weights class. The 6-foot-3 senior credits his improved leaping ability to working out with trainer Nate Frasier over the summer.
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McFall estimates he’s had about a dozen dunks this season, most of which he says come from good ball movement and positive possessions.
“I think ending it with a strong finish always helps for momentum,” McFall said. “I know when Chaz (Painter) gets a dunk, it gives me more energy, and I think whenever I get a dunk, it gives our team more energy.”
Unfortunately for the Olympians, it was a dunk that wasn’t that sidelined Painter for the rest of the season. The senior center went up for a dunk against Martinsville, was bumped and fell and broke his left wrist.
With Painter, whose 10.5 points a game is second on the team to McFall’s 12.0, out of the lineup, the rest of the team has had to carry a bigger load.
“I think it’s going to be a lot of a team effort,” McFall said. “Not one guy can really replace what he did because what he does is unique. Each person on the team has a unique role, so it’s going to be a team effort.”
That was the case on Wednesday in East’s first game without Painter. Five players scored in double figures, and the Olympians snapped Class 4A No. 9 Floyd Central’s 14-game winning streak with a 79-64 upset win.
Another senior, Jonathan Foster, led East with 20 points in that game. Sophomore Matt Frost scored a career-high 16.
“Matt Frost did a great job of stepping up (Wednesday) night,” McFall said. “Jonathan did a great job of stepping up, and we know we have guys that can come off the bench. Kyle (Frost), we know can do a pretty good job of taking that big man’s spot.”
Kyle Frost is the other senior on this year’s Olympians squad. He is seeing an increased role now that Painter is sidelined.
“I think our seniors have done a great job leading,” Chitty said. “The other night, when Chaz got hurt, our seniors stepped up and brought all the younger guys with us, and I just think that’s great senior leadership.”
McFall, meanwhile, plans to return to the baseball field this spring, then continue his basketball career at the collegiate level. He has offers from Central College, a junior college in Nebraska; and Presentation, an NAIA school in South Dakota. He also has looked at Franklin, Wilmington (Ohio), Ohio Northern and Manchester and wants to go into business marketing.
This week, McFall will try to lead East to its first sectional title since 1996. The Olympians (11-12) will take a three-game winning streak into tonight’s 6 p.m. postseason opener against Shelbyville (16-6) at Bloomington North.
“We just had a couple of tough, close games that we didn’t quite finish, but I think as the season’s progressed, we’ve learned a lot,” McFall said. “But we’ve gotten to the point where we’re winning those close games. We know that if we’re on our game, we can beat just about anybody just because we have faith in our coaches and our players and our scheme and what we’re trying to do.”
Bloomington North Sectional
6 p.m.: Columbus East (11-12) vs. Shelbyville (16-6)
7:30 p.m.: Columbus North (15-8) vs. Bloomington South (19-4)
6 p.m.: Columbus East-Shelbyville winner vs. East Central (12-9)
7:30 p.m.: Columbus North-Bloomington South winner vs. Bloomington North (13-10)
7:30 p.m.: Championship