The Columbus East football team ranks fourth in the state in scoring with 51.6 points a game.

Danny Brown wants his Olympian girls basketball team to eclipse that number this winter. That’s why he’s putting in a more up-tempo offense.

“We asked them to pick up the pace, and I think it’s benefited all our players,” Brown said. “They’re doing a real good job at it. Our goal this year is to score more points than our football team.”

At the same time, Brown doesn’t want to lose any of the defensive edge his team built at the end of last season. East gave up only 34 points a game over its last four contests.

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The Olympians won the first three of those games before falling to Columbus North 43-41 in the sectional final, holding the Bull Dogs to their second-lowest point total of the season.

“This is one of the best defensive teams I’ve had in a long time,” Brown said.

All five starters return from that unit that gave eventual regional-champion North a scare on its home floor in the sectional. East then went undefeated this summer, winning the Seymour Shootout and going unbeaten against teams from Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky in the Vincennes Camp.

The Olympians went 15-12 last season, including 3-4 in the Hoosier Hills Conference.

“I think the way we played together to end the season last year, anytime you return five quality players, expectations are going to be higher than they would be normally,” Brown said. “It’s not often that you can return five starting players.”

Three of those players are four-year varsity regulars. Britney Ballard, a 5-foot-11 senior point guard, led East with 10.3 points and 2.5 assists and added 2.8 rebounds and 1.4 steals a game last season in earning All-HHC honors.

Ballard’s backcourt mate, 5-9 senior Addy Galarno, averaged 9.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.1 steals. Kristen Lyons, a 6-2 senior center, led the Olympians with 8.2 rebounds and 2.1 steals and averaged 8.6 points and 1.2 assists in making honorable mention All-HHC.

“We wouldn’t have such high expectations without the leadership and commitment we’ve had from those three,” Brown said. “They have a lot of experience and a lot of skills. They’re three very hard-working, unselfish, great-attitude players. You couldn’t ask for three better leaders. They’re vocal leaders and lead by example and help the younger kids in the program.”

Claire Cunningham, a 6-1 junior forward, is entering her third year as a varsity regular. Brown said Cunningham has shown proficiency around the basket, but has extended her range to 12-to-15 feet.

Whitley Rankin, a 5-4 sophomore Whitley Rankin, moved into the starting lineup for the last nine games of last season. She will play some at the point when Ballard takes a break.

“Things started to gel with her in the lineup and continued through the summer,” Brown said. “She’s just a pure shooter. She’s improved her ball-handling. We’ll ask a lot out of her this year.”

Sarah Park, a 5-9 junior, was the first player off the bench last year. Katie Dougherty, a 5-8 sophomore, also saw varsity action.

Three players up from the junior varsity who figure to see action are 5-6 junior Nicole Reisinger, 5-11 sophomore Olivia Linnemann and 5-8 junior Beyoncey Coleman-Turner.

“Sometimes you look for a spark off the bench offensively,” Brown said. “As good as we are defensively, this summer, when the bench came in we almost got better defensively. They all get after you.”

East will host Jennings County in a scrimmage at 7 p.m. today. The Olympians will open the regular season at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at home against Floyd Central.

Brown is pleased with the unselfishness he has seen out of his team the first two weeks of practice.

“They probably share the basketball and move the basketball more than any team I’ve coached in awhile,” Brown said. “We could have a different leading scorer every night the way they make the ball move.”

If you go

The 2017-18 Columbus East girls basketball schedule:

Saturday;Floyd Central;1:30 p.m.

Nov. 9;Bloomington South;7:30 p.m.

Nov. 16;at East Central;7:30 p.m.

Nov. 18;at Franklin Central;1:30 p.m.

Nov. 21;at Brownstown Central;7:30 p.m.

Nov. 28;at Bloomington North;7:30 p.m.

Dec. 6;Silver Creek;7:30 p.m.

Dec. 9;Jeffersonville;1:30 p.m.

Dec. 14;at Columbus North;7:30 p.m.

Dec. 19;at Batesville;7:30 p.m.

Dec. 22;Franklin County;7:30 p.m.

Dec. 29;at Southwestern (Hanover) Tournament;TBA

Dec. 30;at Southwestern (Hanover) Tournament;TBA

Jan. 4;at Seymour;7:30 p.m.

Jan. 5;Connersville;7:30 p.m.

Jan. 9;at Bedford North Lawrence;7:30 p.m.

Jan. 11;Greensburg;7:30 p.m.

Jan. 13;New Albany;1:30 p.m.

Jan. 18;at Jennings County;7:30 p.m.

Jan. 20;at Madison;1:30 p.m.

Jan. 23;Southport;7:30 p.m.

Jan. 25;at Martinsville;7:30 p.m.

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.