A late turnover kept host Columbus East from getting a shot to upset No. 5 3A Brownstown Central on Thursday night.
After calling a timeout down 55-54 with 33 seconds remaining, East never got off a shot. Brownstown, which eventually won 57-54, took over on the turnover, and the Olympians were forced to foul.
The Braves (17-1), whose only loss came in late December to Class A No. 3 Barr-Reeve, grabbed the lead for good with 50 seconds remaining on a field goal by Brett McCory. East turned the ball over with 16 seconds remaining, and Brownstown’s Skyler Thompson hit two free throws with 10 seconds left to seal the outcome.
“We beat a very good team here tonight,” said Brownstown coach Dave Benter, now in his 15th year at the Jackson County school. “We have a lot of respect for them.”
“Brownstown is a very good team,” East coach Brent Chitty said. “They are one of three or four teams in 3A that have a good chance of winning a state title.”
Out of the gate quickly, Brownstown broke to a quick 11-3 lead. A pair of early 3s by McRory, a trey by Austin Snodgrass and a two-point field goal by Thompson were eventually answered by East’s Ridge Harris and Bryce Lienhoop, who combined to score 11 in the opening quarter, after which Brownstown led 17-16.
Harris, a 6-foot-3 senior, continued his hot shooting in the second period and propelled East to a 27-21 advantage.
The Braves then outscored East 5-2 in the closing seconds and trailed only 29-26 at intermission.
“I was concerned at halftime,” said Benter, a graduate of Hanover College. “I wasn’t sure what the expression on our kids’ faces meant. I didn’t know if it was a focused look or something else.”
Benter was pleased at the result.
“I’m proud of our guys,” Benter said. “We got down 10 in the third quarter and then hit some very big shots. Our guys battled and played very hard.”
Chitty, who said before the game that Brownstown would play “hard, smart and shoot well,” was not the least bit surprised.
“They shot it very well,” he said. “They were very hard to defend.”
The Braves player doing the most damage was Chaz Schneider. The junior guard hit a pair of 3s midway through the third quarter and another pair early in the fourth that rendered East’s perimeter defense temporarily ineffective. Not until Connor Jensen was inserted in the final quarter did Schneider slow down.
“Connor really D’ed him up well,” said Chitty. “And Ridge and Bryce (Lienhoop) both played well offensively.”
Harris finished with 20 points to lead the Olympians. Lienhoop added 15 and led East in rebounding with nine.
Schneider and Thompson each scored 20 for the winners. McCroy had 11 points and 10 rebounds.
“Hopefully, we’ll learn from this game tonight,” Chitty said. “I can’t fault our effort. But at times, we got in a hurry, and we need to work on that.”
East will travel to Indianapolis Ben Davis (12-5) on Saturday for a 1:30 afternoon game.
The Braves will return to action Tuesday when they host Floyd Central (4-14).