In Danny Brown’s 10 years at Columbus East, he can’t remember Bloomington North playing much zone defense.
But Tuesday night in the Orange Pit, the Cougars played a stifling zone that left the Olympians searching for answers. East cut a 14-point deficit to two three times late in the game, but Bloomington North held on for a 41-35 win.
“We’ve tossed zone out several times throughout the year,” Bloomington North coach Alana Harrington said. “I’m a big believer in man first, zone second. For our team, I think that right now, our zone is really our best defense.”
The Olympians (5-3) shot 27.5 percent (14-of-51) from the field, including 16.7 percent (3-of-18) from 3-point range.
“We struggled the first half,” Brown said. “Bloomington North always plays good, solid defense. The first half, they played a zone against us. We have to have somebody hit that outside shot. They were just tempting us to shoot the first half, and we couldn’t knock them down.”
“That’s what we want to do,” Harrington said. “We want to keep the ball out of the middle and force them to shoot outside, and I think we did a really nice job of that. (East forward Mikala) Lomax had to work for everything she had, and that was the goal.”
The Cougars (4-5) led 28-14 two minutes into the second half when the Olympians came to life. East cut the lead to 33-23 after three quarters, then scored the first eight points of the fourth to cut it to 33-31 on a Lomax basket with 2:35 remaining.
Following a Bloomington North basket, the Olympians cut it two again on a pair of Lomax free throws with 1:48 left. After holding the ball for 50 seconds, the Cougars got a layup from Grace Luce to push the lead back to four before Courtney Hunter scored to make it 37-35 with 42 seconds remaining.
The Cougars converted a pair of one-and-one opportunities, and East missed a pair of 3-pointers in the final 30 seconds.
Lomax led the Olympians with 10 points. Hunter added nine.
“We could have gave up, but we didn’t,” Brown said. “This group never gives up. I can’t fault them for the effort, and I told them that (Saturday) at Jeffersonville. They play hard. They work hard, and they defend hard, and they’re playing at the best of their abilities. That kind of effort is going to help us down the road.”