Columbus East fans filled the gym Saturday in anticipation of the girls basketball season opener against Hoosier Hills Conference foe Floyd Central, and they were not disappointed.
The Olympians wasted no time turning up the heat defensively, which played a major role in their 54-39 win.
East reached the scoring average of over 50 points that coach Danny Brown spoke about before the season, and much of that can be credited to the full-court press. The Olympians used a full-court press for much of the game, and that allowed them to come away with eight steals in the first half.
“We have two different presses, and I thought both of them worked pretty well,” Brown said. “When we weren’t getting steals, they were throwing it out of bounds, we were getting deflections. The thing about when you press is, you’ve gotta finish. When you get a steal and cause a turnover, you have to finish the play. You have to score. We did that really good in the first half; the second half not so much.”
Story continues below gallery
East created an early six-point lead at the end of the first quarter before outscoring the Highlanders by 16 in the second quarter to go up 41-21 at halftime.
The Olympians had no trouble finding the basket in the first half, but managed only 13 points in the final 16 minutes. They outscored their entire second half campaign in each of their first two quarters.
Brown said East had an exceptional first half, but told his team after the game that the last two quarters were unacceptable.
Britney Ballard scored all of her game-high 13 points in the first half. Both Whitley Rankin and Kristen Lyons, who had 12 rebounds, scored all of seven of their points in the first half.
Addy Galarno scored nine of her 11 points in the first 16 minutes. Sarah Park, who scored four of her nine points in the final two quarters, was the only player to make more than one second-half field goal.
Sophia Gianfagna led the Highlanders with 12 points.
“The teams we play (throughout the season), we can’t just play 16 minutes of basketball, we have to play 32 minutes,” Brown said. “We have a typical tough schedule. We have to have 32 minutes. Granted, when you get a 20-point lead at halftime, you have a tendency to let up, but we can’t do that. We have an experienced team, and we need to come out and execute a little better. We didn’t execute very well in the second half.”
This may have been the first game, but Brown already has the big picture of a conference championship in mind. He said the past seven HHC champions have all went undefeated in conference play, which is why starting the season with a conference win is so important.
The strong senior core of Ballard, Lyons and Galarno has given Ballard confidence in the the team chemistry moving forward.
“It’s all finally coming together now,” Ballard said. “Now we’re not the young team anymore. Now, we’re the more experienced team.”