Columbus East guard Parker Chitty was asked how difficult it was to guard Bloomington North’s Seikou Jallow in the Olympians’ 78-67 home win Saturday night.
Chitty smiled and then offered, “Which way did he go?”
If the Olympians (9-2) never did get a handle on Jallow’s direction (he led all scorers with 28 points), they knew exactly where they were headed as a team.
East played one of its best basketball games of the season, breaking through the Cougars’ trapping defense with an exact passing game that led to easy buckets.
Several Olympians took turns playing the role of hero. Connor Umphress led East with 21 points, but both center Bryce Lienhoop and Kevin Williams scored 17.
Chitty played a huge role by getting the ball up the court through the Cougars’ full-court press and guard Nate Nolting, who usually is more of a set-up man than a guy who pulls the trigger, scored 16.
“It was a good team effort,” Nolting said after the Olympians never let Bloomington North get closer than four points in the final quarter. “My teammates really opened it up for me. (The Cougars) were all keying on Bryce, and I was just working the ball, getting my opportunities.”
No one worked his way into opportunities more than Williams, a 6-5 sophomore who scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half, including nine in the fourth quarter.
The Olympians had no trouble trusting Williams to finish plays. He did.
“One of the keys to our success is our team’s ability to play unselfishly,” East coach Brent Chitty said. “That was a quality win for us. Bloomington North is a really good team that plays hard and plays to its strengths.”
Its biggest strength is Jallow, a 6-3 senior who cut to the basket at will, leaving East’s defense dazed and confused.
“You just can’t simulate a kid that good in practice,” Brent Chitty said. “He is a Division I guy. But you also can’t leave Grant Sims or Tyler Truesdel open. Those guys will knock down some shots. And they are going to find the open man.”
The open man for East was Nolting in the first half as the Olympians built a 28-20 lead.
“Everyone on the team sees the floor well,” Nolting said. “And there is this unselfishness on this team.”
Nolting, however, opened up the floor for his teammates by proving he could be an offensive force.
“I don’t take Nate off the floor,” Brent Chitty said. “He does so many positive things for us. He wanted a breather, and I wouldn’t take him out. He just looked at me and laughed.”
While East got contributions from all over, Lienhoop and Umphress were again huge.
Much of the East offense flowed through Umphress, and Bloomington North couldn’t handle him inside.
After the Cougars cut East’s lead to 50-46 early in the fourth quarter, East went on a 6-0 spurt keyed by two huge Lienhoop drives to the bucket.
“He’s our best player,” Brent Chitty said.
All the Olympians will be tested once again if they meet the Cougars again in the sectional.
Bloomington North fell to 9-7 on the season but has wins over Bloomington South and Franklin Central.
“Every team in our sectional is tough,” Nolting said.
Parker Chitty put it another way.
“It’s going to be a fun sectional.”
It might be fun for Parker Chitty as he learns how to handle the intense defensive pressure offered by Bloomington South.
“I know I have to handle the pressure better,” Parker Chitty said. “But I will learn from it.”
His father and coach agreed.
“I just tell him, keep it low (the dribble) and be strong when you’re attacked,” Brent Chitty said. “You just have to battle through it.”
Once again on Saturday night, East found a way to battle through it.