COLUMBUS East senior guard Nate Rich said his final game in the Orange Pit was “heartbreaking.”
Make no mistake about it, though, it was also a celebration.
While Rich played his final home game at Columbus East High School, he made the most of it with 23 points that led East to a 101-66 victory against Plainfield.
Rich had an outstanding first half by making all six of his 3-point attempts. He finished seven of eight from the 3-point arc.
“I’ve been shooting well the last month,” Rich said. “Coach (Brent Chitty) just has been telling me to keep taking good shots.”
The shots kept falling for all the Olympians, who had a 49-21 lead at the half so their seniors could take a second half victory lap.
Among them was Conner Jensen, who finished with 12 points. “We came out with a lot of energy,” Jensen said. “And we had a week to practice for this game and to study film. We got on the break a lot and Kyle (Taylor) found me.”
Taylor, who finished with 11 points, dominated with his quickness. Plainfield simply couldn’t deal with him as he led the break and then dished to open teammates. “With us, it’s just about having fun,” said Taylor, another senior. “That was the result. My teammates were getting open, and I was rewarding them.”
Senior Olympian forward Jesse Shea, who finished with eight points, got to celebrate his final game with a breakaway dunk early in the fourth quarter that brought down the house. Senior Dakota Thompson buried a late 3-pointer to help the Olympians reach the century mark.
Senior forward Zach Martindale had his usual solid overall game and finished with nine points.
The only East senior who didn’t get to celebrate on the court was forward Ridge Harris, who tore a calf muscle in practice and is out of action through at least Tuesday’s sectional tournament opener against Shelbyville at Columbus North High School. Ridge said he hoped to play next Friday in the sectional semifinals if the Olympians win on Tuesday.
The game opened with Rich matching jumpers with Plainfield’s Max Kurkowski, who finished with 20 points and made six 3-pointers.
Oddly, Plainfield hit 14 3-point shots, including 12 in the second half, still losing the game by 35 points.
“Losing Ridge, it showed that we just can’t take things for granted,” Chitty said. “So we came out with a lot of energy and Rich was on fire.”
With the sectionals starting on Tuesday, East goes into the tournament by winning its final two games. “Shelbyville is a well-coached team,” Chitty said. “They are going to offer us a whole different challenge. And in the sectionals, you just have to survive.”
Chitty was pleased with his team’s defense as the Quakers got nothing in the paint all night. “Defensively, we set the tone,” he said.
Rich said he wanted to give a “shout-out” to the revved up crowd. “It’s been a great four years and they’ve been awesome,” he said of the fans.
Chitty appeared to be having a great time watching his players put together an enjoyable final regular season game. “They are all fun to me,” he said. “I am blessed to coach these fine, young men.”