ST. LEON — Over the past few years, a few things have become constants in area high school girls basketball:
— Columbus East and Columbus North fans turning out to see their teams play
— East playing a 2-3 zone defense
— North making a deep postseason run
While the first of those held true Friday night, the Olympians turned the latter two on their heads. They started most possessions in a 1-2-2 zone defense, and they upset the Bull Dogs 39-29 in the East Central Sectional semifinals, ending North’s streak of six consecutive sectional and three straight regional titles.
“I think we really wanted it tonight, and that helped,” said senior Addy Galarno, who led East with 17 points. “Our whole entire team contributed today. We played with complete confidence. Going into this game, we just had a different feeling, and that really paid off. It’s our first time beating North, and it couldn’t feel any better.”
The Olympians ended an 11-game losing streak against their crosstown rivals that spanned seven seasons. East hadn’t beaten the Bull Dogs since the 2011 sectional final, also coming at East Central.
The first nine of those 11 North wins all came by at least 19 points. But a two-point loss in last year’s sectional final and a three-point loss at North in December gave a veteran Olympians squad confidence that they could end the drought.
“We didn’t want to end our season to them, and we came out ready to play,” senior Kristen Lyons said. “We’ve been waiting for this game since last year when we lost by two points to them on their home court in the sectional championship. We’ve waited a year for this, and we’ve worked hard for it. I think this year, we just believed in ourselves, and we had a lot more confidence, and we played with a lot more heart than we have.”
One of the big keys Friday night was East coach Danny Brown’s switch from his traditional 2-3 zone to a 1-2-2. The Olympians practiced it for a couple of possessions in Tuesday’s first-round blowout win against Shelbyville and then at practice on Wednesday and Thursday.
Brown also rolled out a little halfcourt pressure that East hadn’t employed all year and then got back into a matchup zone. The Olympians turned the Bull Dogs over 10 times in the first quarter and jumped out to a 10-0 lead.
“The girls really bought into it the last two days, and they executed it brilliantly,” Brown said. “We got off to a good start, and I think our defense created that.”
That defense held North to a season-low 29 points. The Bull Dogs went 1 of 16 from 3-point range.
East held North’s leading scorer Jenna Borger, who had 25 in the Bull Dogs’ regular-season win against the Olympians, to two points.
“We just had to keep an eye on her at all times and keep an eye on her when she was running baseline,” East senior Britney Ballard said. “We didn’t want to lose her out of our sights, so every time we down the court, we were pointing out where she was and where their shooters were.”
As excited as East was after Friday’s win, the Olympians knew they would need to turn around and play another game 24 hours later against an East Central team on the Trojans’ home floor. That won’t be an easy task.
But the Olympians, having conquered one demon, are now primed to capture their first sectional title in seven years.
“They haven’t give out the prize for beating North,” Brown said. “They give out the prize for winning the sectional.”