‘As good as billed’ / Class 4A No. 1 Panthers hand Olympians season-ending defeat

When Columbus East hosted Class 4A No. 1 Bloomington South on Jan. 17, the Olympians were within six points midway through the fourth quarter and lost only 67-53.

Tuesday night’s rematch wasn’t as close.

The Panthers ran out to a 37-12 halftime lead and went on to end the Olympians’ season with a 67-34 decision in the opening round of the boys basketball Columbus North Sectional.

“We just did what we were supposed to do more defensively,” Bloomington South coach J.R. Holmes said. “Sometimes, we get to thinking we just want to outscore teams, and we didn’t guard them very well the first time. We let (Tyler) Boyer have five 3s, and we let their guards drive against us two or three times. I thought we did a better job guarding them, and that turned into some easy points with some steals and some breakouts, and then we hit enough perimeter shots to build the lead up.”

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The Olympians (4-19) led 4-2 two minutes into he game following a pair of baskets by Daniel Murphy. But then Panthers (25-0) went on a 33-2 run to take a 35-6 lead.

East went almost 13 minutes without a basket. The Olympians shot only 4 of 16 from the field in the first half and committed 11 of their 16 turnovers before the break.

“We have to knock down shots and become a better shooting team,” East coach Brent Chitty said. “We have to become a better defending team. We have to talk and communicate better.”

Boyer led the Olympians with nine points. Crase Bergman, Murphy and Bailey Harden all added seven.

Indiana University recruit and Mr. Basketball favorite Anthony Leal led Bloomington South with 18 points. Connor Hickman and James Bomba each added 11.

“There’s a reason they’re No. 1 in the state,” Chitty said. “They’re very skilled players, they play very smart and they play very well together. They can guard, and they can score from multiple people. They just put it to us. They’re as good as billed.”

After East fell behind 35-6, late in the first half, it was outscored by only four points the rest of the way. Chitty said that epitomized the way the Olympians played this year, despite their win-loss record.

“I thought our kids competed and didn’t quit,” Chitty said. “It was a tough year, but our kids never quit. I’m so proud of them for that. You judge a person’s character in times of toughness, not when things are going well. This was a tough long year, and those guys never gave up. It tells me a lot about their character.”