SEYMOUR — With its remaining schedule, Columbus East’s girls basketball team can’t afford a slip-up if it wants a chance at taking the Hoosier Hills Conference crown.
While they didn’t play the way they’d hoped, the Olympians were able to keep the dream of the HHC alive Thursday night. East grinded out a 52-49 win at Seymour, pushing to 2-1 in conference play and 12-3 on the season.
Both teams struggled from the field in the first quarter. The Owls (8-9, 3-2) went 2 for 12 and East made 3 of 14 attempts.
The Olympians broke a 1-1 tie with a 7-0 run on baskets from Whitley Rankin, Claire Cunningham and Addy Galarno. Grace Meyer stopped the run with a basket with under a minute left, and Makenna Fee added a score to cut the Seymour deficit to 9-5 at the end of eight minutes.
In the second quarter, East’s bench accounted for 10 of the team’s 14 points. Sarah Park scored a crucial eight points in the stretch.
At one point, due to foul trouble, the Olympians were forced to sit four starters at once.
“Sarah was aggressive going to the basket,” East coach Danny Brown said. “She has that move down (in the post). They tried to take Addy out of the game by putting a lot of pressure on her.”
While the Olympians maintained the lead for most all of the second quarter, the Owls got hot from the field in the waning minutes of the half. In the final 1:12 of the half, Seymour went on a 10-0 spurt.
A 3-pointer by Maddie Roark ignited the run, which was capped by a three-point play by Meyer with less than a second on the clock. At the break, Seymour held a 24-23 lead.
In a tight third quarter, neither team would build a lead greater than three points.
Back-to-back baskets from Galarno and Kristen Lyons put East up 35-32 with 2:30 left in the third quarter before a pair of scores from Fee cut the lead to one with 10 ticks left. At the buzzer, Kaitlyn Dougherty got a layup to fall to put the Olympians up 39-36.
The Owls jumped to a 43-39 lead on a 7-0 run to start the fourth quarter. Seymour held onto the lead until a pair of free throws by Lyons and a score in the post by Britney Ballard put East up 50-49 with 1:57 left.
“The first three quarters, we didn’t execute very well,” Brown said. “We got a bucket when we needed it. Britney had a big bucket on the play we had for her.”
The Owls turned the ball over on the ensuing possession, and East ran the clock down to 23 seconds until Seymour elected to foul. Ballard hit the free throws, and the Olympians got a pair of stops in the final ticks to hang on for the win.
“We finally executed our defense (in the fourth quarter),” Brown said. “We did not play well in this game. I give Seymour a lot of credit. Every time we had a lead, they knocked down a 3-pointer. They were hitting their big shots tonight. I knew they would be ready. It’s tough to play over here.”
Galarno, Park and Lyons all scored 10 points to lead East.
“This is important for the conference,” Brown said. “It gives us a chance. We still have a shot. If we lose this game (at Seymour), we are out of it. Usually, if you lose one you won’t get it, but we still have a shot at it.”