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Champs in the making? We’ll see

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One thing we know about this season’s Columbus North and Columbus East boys basketball teams, they aren’t perfect.

In a way, that makes it even more fun.

Who wants to watch a team that simply crushes everyone and wins the state title? OK, maybe that would be fun, too.

But watching high school students overcome adversity can be fascinating stuff, and we should appreciate the job done by our schools’ coaching staffs to help these local kids reach some pretty lofty goals.

Both North (11-3) and East (7-2) have some problems to sort out (doesn’t everyone?) if they expect to challenge for sectional or regional titles.

The good news for those teams, and area fans, is it seems both have the talent to get the job done ... if everything goes to plan.

And how often do plans go as scheduled during a basketball game?

Let’s start with East and coach Brent Chitty.

The Olympians accomplish the most powerful part of Chitty’s plan on a regular basis, and that means playing intense team defense. On an overall scale, East is not going to out-talent the best teams at the sectional or regional level. That means they need to out-tough them over 32 minutes.

East’s ability to play that brand of defense is going to give it a shot to win every game.

The problem for the Olympians at times has been putting the ball in the bucket. Shelbyville stuffed all its defenders into the paint on Friday against East and took the Olympians to overtime before bowing out.

Truth be told, the Golden Bears are a gritty team, but not really comparable to the type of teams East will have to beat to win a title. Shelbyville’s three wins have come against teams that don’t have a winning record.

East has two prolific scorers in Bryce Lienhoop and Connor Umphress. Sophomore point guard Parker Chitty quickly is developing into a guy who could provide double figures on a nightly basis.

But if the Olympians can just get a couple more sources to knock down a few mid-range jumpers, it might open up things inside for Lienhoop and Umphress, who are being mugged on a regular basis.

That mugging will increase times 10 against really good teams if East can’t develop other scoring threats. The best defense in American won’t save the Olympians if they can’t score.

It should be interesting to see how coach Chitty moves his chess pieces around.

At North, coach Jason Speer has an interesting challenge as well.

He has enough offensive versatility in his lineup that he can adapt to whatever the opponent’s defense is throwing at him.

He could pound inside to Josh Speidel and Elliott Welmer or he can knock

down shots from the perimeter with Evan Henry, Kooper Glick, Trent Larson or Christian Glass.

North is outstanding in transition but it is adept at the half-court offense as well.

So what’s the problem?

At times, North has fallen into a lull, especially when it has assumed a commanding lead.

So how do you get a team to focus for 32 minutes? Just ask any high school basketball coach. That’s a tough one.

I’m sure at this point, the Bull Dogs know they can play with anyone in the state. Their three losses have come against teams with a combined record of 30-3.

The cruel, and exciting, nature of basketball is: One loss in the playoffs, and you are done. Every possession is crucial, whether a team is up by 10 or down by the same margin. A few silly, unforced turnovers in the second quarter might eventually lead to a team’s downfall.

Sure, North’s losses have been painful. But you would expect these Bull Dogs are learning valuable lessons along the way, lessons that might just lead to another sectional championship.

The pressure is on Chitty, Speer and their players to figure it all out.

We hope they have fun.

We will.

Jay Heater is The Republic sports editor. He can be reached at or 379-5632.

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