Olympians relying on experience, hoping to maintain momentum

Columbus East coach Danny Brown put in a new offensive system for his girls basketball team that has the Olympians averaging about 13 points per game more than last season.

East is averaging 58.5 points, which helped it start the season with a seven-game winning streak on its way to posting an 11-3 record thus far. This is the best start since the 2011-12 season, and Brown gives much of the credit to the team chemistry his players have developed.

“We share the ball a lot,” Brown said. “I think we developed that over the summer and brought it into the season. We’re just trying to make it more of an uptempo game. We put in a couple of new (defensive) presses and everything just kind of clicked. You have to give all the players the credit as far as playing together. This team really seems to have fun playing with each other.”

The Olympians defensive press has them holding opponents to 41 points per game, which is also about five points better than a year ago. Brown claims this team has the potential to finish as the best defensive team on paper he has ever coached at East.

Kristen Lyons is leading the defensive charge with 2.7 blocks per game to go with her eight rebounds and nearly nine points. Junior Claire Cunningham leads the Olympians with 2.3 steals per game.

This season’s campaign is headed by the Olympians’ most experienced players: seniors Addy Galarno, Britney Ballard and Lyons. Sophomore Whitley Ranking and Cunningham are the other two returning starters from last season, and Lyons said coming into this year with a highly experienced core really helps finish tight games.

“That definitely helps, returning all starters from last year, especially in those tough situations in close games that we stay composed and we know what’s going to happen,” Lyons said. “We just execute the plays.”

Brown said the nine points per game from Ballard probably could be higher, but he praised her for her selflessness and facilitation at the point guard position that helps keep the offense afloat. He said her 49 assists and 32 turnovers puts her on track to be the only point guard he has coached to have more assists than turnovers for two consecutive seasons.

Ballard’s ball facilitation is being converted into a team-high of nearly 14 points per game for Galarno, whom Brown said is putting up single-season numbers that align with some of the best to ever wear an Olympians uniform.

“I think individually, it’s the best season I’ve had all four years,” Galarno said. “Being a senior it makes me pretty happy, so I just hope to finish out the same way that I started.”

The Olympians had a hot start to the season, but they are more concerned with how they finish. They will start the new year with one of their toughest stretches of the season that includes five Hoosier Hills Conference games and a contest against Class 3A No. 2-ranked Greensburg.

East lost six of its last nine games to end the regular season last year but still managed to make it to the sectional championship in a competitive 43-41 loss to Columbus North. The Olympians believe they have improved from last year and are looking to end the regular season on a higher note before heading into the postseason in hopes of winning their first sectional title since 2011.

“It would be pretty awesome,” Galarno said of wining a sectional title, “We haven’t done it all four years. I think all three seniors, that’s really our main goal right now.”

Running the numbers

Season record: 11-3

Points per game: 58.5

Opponents points per game: 41.1

Leading scorers: Addy Galarno (13.8 ppg); Britney Ballard (9.2 ppg); Whitley Rankin (8.9 ppg); Kristen Lyons (8.8 ppg).

Leading rebounds: Lyons (7.9 rpg); Claire Cunningham (6.6 rpg) .

Leading steals: Cunningham (2.3 spg); Ballard (2.1 spg); Rankin (2.1 spg).

Leading blocks: Lyons (2.7 bpg); Cunningham (1.4 bpg); Ballard (1.2 bpg).

Leading assists: Ballard (3.5 apg); Rankin (2.4 apg); Galarno (2.3 apg).

Author photo
Frank Bonner is a sports writer for The Republic. He can be reached at fbonner@therepublic.com or 812-379-5632.