TO understand Columbus East’s first-round, 76-65 Class 4A sectional playoff victory against Shelbyville on Tuesday night at Columbus North High School, take a look at Olympians senior forward Zach Martindale.
To put it mildly, Martindale struggled as the Golden Bears hung close into the third quarter.
Always reliable, Martindale didn’t seem to be able to get off a shot as several Shelbyville players would collapse on him when he had the ball in the paint. Or he would have trouble handling the ball.
He just kept playing.
As he usually does, Martindale went on a spurt, helping the Olympians (14-6) pull away as he scored all 11 of his points in the second half.
The same could be said for the rest of the Olympians, who managed to work the ball inside in the first half, but had trouble finishing.
“You just keep playing,” East coach Brent Chitty said. “We just weren’t taking advantage of our opportunities.
“But our defense helped us a bunch.”
Indeed, the defense helped East move into Friday night’s 7:30 p.m. semifinal matchup against host Columbus North in the battle for city bragging rights, and much more, a shot at a sectional championship.
With East leading 45-40 toward the end of the third quarter against Shelbyville, Martindale stole the ball and raced the court for a lay-up, finally giving the Olympians some breathing room at 47-40. Early in the fourth quarter, East junior Bryce Lienhoop kept the Olympians rolling with two steals and length of the court drives. Lienhoop scored 13 of his 14 points in the second half.
Also putting together a big second half for the Olympians was guard Nate Rich, who scored 13 of his team-high 18 points in the second half. Rich could seem to break free at the 3-point line but he managed to hit three of his four 3-pointers in the final 16 minutes.
“You’ve just got to survive,” Chitty said. “Shelbyville had some strong guys and they beat us up on the boards.”
The Golden Bears might have held their own against the Olympians on the boards, but they had no answer for East point guard Kyle Taylor, who had 11 points, but also a very impressive eight assists.
Taylor easily could have had a double-double if his teammates didn’t have some trouble handling the ball inside for much of the first half. The score was tied 23-23 at the half.
The second half was a different story as East either finished inside or made it to the free throw line. Taylor was nine of 12 from the line.
Five Olympians scored in double figures. Besides Martindale, Rich, Lienhoop and Taylor, senior Connor Jensen scored 11 points. Jensen did almost all of his damage inside.
Center Ethan Runnebohr led Shelbyville, which finished the season 6-15, with 15 points while Adam Eads had 14, Reilly Reinbold scored 13 and Mitchell Orem had 12.