Columbus’ top youth basketball players got to showcase their talents in front of an estimated 600 fans Saturday at Columbus East in the Elementary Basketball League Championships.
It ended up being a day of redemption for both the Mt. Healthy girls and Smith boys teams as parents, friends and peers stormed the Orange Pit wearing colored Afro wigs, antler ears and face paint to support those two teams on their way to winning the championships.
The closest the Mt. Healthy girls had ever come to winning the finals before Saturday was in last year’s devastating loss on a put-back buzzer-beater in overtime, 24-23, to Southside. The Eagles got their second chance against Southside in this year’s championship and won the rematch in a 22-21 decision to earn the school’s first championship in the EBL’s 31-year history.
“We wanted this from the start of the year,” Mt. Healthy coach David Chadd said. “This is what we shot for, and it worked out for us. I’m just so happy for them, and I’m just so glad to celebrate this day with them.”
Story continues below gallery
The Eagles spent two hours each day for four days a week in the gym trying to to perfect their craft and get back to the big game. They ended the season with a 13-0 record and scored 40 or more points in 12 of their competitions.
Sixth-grader Greta Brown was filled with tears of joy moments after the final buzzer sounded.
“Oh my gosh, it feels so good. Never done it before,” said Brown, who led Mt. Healthy with seven points. “It means a lot. This team has been everything to me.”
Elise Preston scored a game-high 15 points for Southside.
The Smith boys team had a near-perfect season, losing just one regular-season game to the only undefeated boys team in Richards. The Sonics jumped out to an eight-point halftime lead earlier in the regular season before Richards rallied back for the 46-42 win.
That caused Smith to focus more on its shortcomings in practice, and they were able to avenge their loss with a 43-34 win over the Raiders in the championship.
“We immediately went to practice the next day and said, ‘Hey, look guys, if you want to face these guys again, we’re going to have to shore up the defense and make some adjustments,” Smith coach Brayden Cosby said. “We did that, and I couldn’t be more proud of these guys.”
Sixth-grader Connor Hensley scored a game-high 24 points for the Sonics. His 13-point first quarter helped create a 10-point halftime lead.
Cosby spoke with the team in the locker room about making sure not to blow the lead this time around, and they didn’t despite Jack Fischvogt’s 10-point second half on his way to scoring 12 points for the Raiders.
“(The first loss) motivated us a lot,” Hensley said. “We thought that we needed to get revenge for that.”
Both Chadd and Cosby expressed how the EBL Championships affect the players, win or lose. It’s an exciting time for all fans, coaches and players involved, they said.
“All the fans come here, and they support whomever,” Cosby said. “It’s Indiana. It’s a basketball state, so it doesn’t matter who’s playing. People are going to show up.”
Clifty Creek: Austin Barr, boys; Tieronay Duckett, girls
CSA Fodrea: Ian Worton, boys; Alix Streeval, girls
CSA Lincoln: Phillip McKinley, boys; Adisyn Ross, girls
Mt. Healthy: Laird Stidham, boys; Nadia Harris, girls
Parkside: Chase Niese, boys; Ella Gray Partin, girls
Richards: Jake Gilbert, boys; Caroline Frost, girls
Rockcreek: Jacob Dettmer, boys; Layne Hoeflinger, girls
Schmitt: Blake Cowan, boys; Gracie Grimes, girls
Smith: Seth Lankey, boys; Meah Roberts, girls
Southside: David Zhang, boys; Carter Gant, girls
Taylorsville: Aldair Suarez Gomez, boys; Maddie Surface, girls