Columbus East looked as though it was headed to an easy senior night win when it jumped out to a 9-0 lead midway through the first quarter.

But Southport had other ideas. The Cardinals took the lead midway through the second quarter, and after a back-and-forth third period, took control in the fourth for a 51-47 victory.

The Olympians (15-8) used 3-pointers by Britney Ballard, Whitley Rankin and Addy Galarno to take the early nine-point lead. Southport (5-16) answered with a 20-6 run to take a 20-15 lead with 3:54 left in the first half.

“They were just more aggressive,” East coach Danny Brown said. “We had an opportunity early to up the lead, and we didn’t take advantage of it. We didn’t shoot the ball well, and we didn’t get to the free-throw line enough.”

Trailing 22-19 at halftime, Ballard scored the first four points of the third quarter to give the lead back to East. The lead would change hands four more times in the period, which ended in a 30-30 tie.

The Cardinals built the lead to as big as 46-37 with 3:04 remaining. The Olympians got back to within 46-44 on a 3-pointer by Rankin with 41 seconds left, but four consecutive free throws by Southport pushed the margin to six.

Another Rankin 3-pointer cut the lead to 50-47 with 12 seconds left, but East couldn’t foul until 1.4 seconds remaining, and Southport’s Kyra Duncan made a free throw to put it away.

“It’s a tough way for the seniors to go out in their last (home) game,” Brown said. “They mean so much to this program. They’ve been so valuable to our program for four years.”

The Olympians were led by seniors Ballard (16 points) and Galarno (11 points). The other senior, Kristen Lyons, had two points, six rebounds and three blocked shots.

Junior Claire Cunningham grabbed 13 rebounds to lead East to a 35-31 advantage on the boards. But the Olympians went only 3 of 6 from the free-throw line, while the Cardinals were 14 of 19.

“I think we could have shared the ball better tonight and maybe attacked the basket more,” Ballard said. “I think that was a part of tonight’s loss.”

East is in the midst of a five-games-in-eight-days stretch. They upset New Albany 52-45 on Monday night.

The Olympians close the regular season Thursday at Martinsville. They open sectional play Tuesday against Shelbyville at East Central.

“We’re getting a lot of bloop singles right now,” Brown said. “I still think this team can hit a home run.”

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