AS Columbus East went into a three-game slide late in the boys basketball regular season, Nate Rich was in a shooting slump.
It hasn’t been a big coincidence that, as the Olympians have rebounded to win three games in a row heading into tonight’s sectional semifinal showdown at Class 4A
No. 3 Columbus North, Rich has regained his shooting touch.
The 5-foot-10 senior averaged 18.7 points a game during East’s past three games, with most of the points coming from long range.
“We kind of got in a slump,” Rich said. “We got back on our feet, and now we’re rolling. We’re glad we have another chance (tonight).”
After scoring 15 points in a 68-58 win at Madison, Rich unloaded seven 3-pointers and scored a team-high 23 points in a 101-66 blowout of Plainfield to close the regular season. He hit four more 3s and scored a team-high 18 Tuesday night to lead the Olympians to a 76-65 opening-round sectional victory against Shelbyville.
“It’s just confidence,” Rich said. “I got in a slump halfway through the season, and I’m kind of picking it back up. I just kept shooting. We shoot a lot of shots in practice. We do three or four shooting drills a day, and I shoot after practice sometimes. I just kept shooting like coach told me to.”
Rich is shooting a sizzling 46 percent from 3-point range.
“He’s a great leader and a great 3-point shooter,” said junior center Bryce Lienhoop, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder. “He spreads the court very well; and whenever we need a 3, we can count on him.”
For the season, Rich is averaging 9.6 points a game. He ranks 14th on East’s all-time scoring list.
“He’s had a great career,” East coach Brent Chitty said. “He’s a ‘yes sir, no sir’ guy, and just a fine young man. He gets it done academically. He’s just a great kid.”
Chitty said that, besides shooting from long range, Rich has improved in shooting off the dribble and creating his own shot. Chitty also has seen an improvement in Rich’s defense.
“Defensively, he gets a lot of steals,” Chitty said. “His hands are active. He’s in the right place at the right time.
“Whatever we ask him to do, he does.”
Rich practically eats, sleeps and lives basketball and soaks up various nuances of the game like a sponge.
“I watch basketball as much as I can on TV,” Rich said. “I like to go to games. If we don’t play, and North has a home game, I’ll come and support them. I just like to watch basketball. Basketball is the love of my life.”
For his high school career to continue, Rich and the Olympians will need to play perhaps their best game of the season. East fell to North 69-59 on Dec. 18.
“We just have to play hard and smart,” Rich said. “We believe we can do it. We thought we could win Dec. 18, and we came in here and lost. We think we have a chance to beat anybody in the state. It’s going to be a great test. We’re going to have to play with a lot of energy and effort throughout the whole game.”
No matter when his high school season ends, Rich hopes to play at the next level. He has received some interest from a couple of Division III and NAIA schools and plans to take some visits after the season.
“I don’t know where yet,” Rich said. “Just wherever God takes me.”
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