If the Orange Pit is rocking tonight, it will be with good reason.
Columbus East has a chance to do something tonight that it hasn’t done in 22 years — win a boys basketball sectional title. And they can do it on their home floor.
The Olympians, who are hosting a sectional for the first time in school history, are looking for their first sectional crown in the Class Basketball Era. Not since 1996 — the next-to-last year of one-class basketball — has East cut down the nets.
Not only will the Olympians be seeking to break a long sectional drought, they’ll be playing in their first sectional final since 2011. That year, they fell to Bloomington South 66-34, and the Panthers went on to win the Class 4A state title.
Tonight’s opponent — Bloomington South.
The Panthers might not be the juggernaut they were in 2011, but they’re not far from it. They’re 25-2 and finished the regular season ranked No. 5 in the state in Class 4A.
“We need to come out and compete as hard as we did tonight, and we need to keep our composure throughout the whole game and play four quarters to beat B-South,” East senior forward Thomas Myers said. “They’re a great team.”
The Panthers’ only losses have come against 4A No. 3 New Albany and 3A No. 1 New Castle. Bloomington South is the only team to have beaten 4A No. 4 Floyd Central.
The Panthers beat the Olympians 61-45 Jan. 16 at East. That was the third win in Bloomington South’s current 15-game winning streak.
“I think we have to hit shots,” East coach Brent Chitty said. “Their pressure is phenomenal. You have to try to attack them, and they you have to defend them. They have guys that can score at every position. I think we need to guard better.”
In that earlier matchup, the Panthers shot 10 of 14 from 3-point range. Senior Chance Coyle led Bloomington South with 18 points, and sophomore Anthony Leal added 14.
“Bloomington South has great shooters,” East junior guard Drew Johnson said. “They’re really well coached. We’re going to have to play with the same effort (as on Friday night) and even more.”
The Olympians advanced to the sectional final with a 48-45 win Friday against Columbus North. The Bull Dogs played Bloomington South to a two-point game last month.
Senior Drew Hasson, who led East with 14 points and eight rebounds on Friday, knows the Olympians will need a big effort to dethrone the Panthers.
“We’re going to have to play as a team and play with the same toughness that we did tonight,” Hasson said.