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Columbus East used a combination of big shots and scrappy defense to give visiting Jeffersonville all it could handle before dropping an 83-79 overtime game.
Both teams entered the contest unbeaten in Hoosier Hills Conference play. It took 37 points from highly-touted senior Darryl Baker and key free throws by his teammates in the extra session before it was decided for the 18th-ranked Red Devils.
The Olympians (8-2, 4-1 HHC) put nine players in the scoring column, including four with double figures, as they battled back in the final 75 seconds of regulation to knot the game at 71-71.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by the Red Devils’ Drew Ellis kept Jeffersonville (12-2, 5-0 HHC) in front in regulation before a 3-point bomb by East’s Dakota Thompson with six seconds remaining forced the overtime.
The guests then jumped ahead again, 75-71, to open the extra period, and this time managed to answer East’s rally by going eight-for-eight at the charity stripe, including four straight by Kortrell White in the final 8.8 seconds to seal the win.
The Olympians, meanwhile, misfired with half of their free chances in overtime and came up cold from the field down the stretch, despite out-dueling the visitors in the rebounding department, 3-point shooting and at the charity stripe overall, connecting on 29 of 37 attempts.
Senior Zach Martindale paced East at the line, going 10 for 12 on the night to finish with 14 points overall, while teammate Nate Rich took honors in the deep-ball department, drilling five of seven attempts, and leading East with 17 points.
Six-foot-6 junior Bryce Lienhoop also tossed in 14 points for East and ripped down 12 rebounds, while Kyle Taylor added 11.
“Our kids played hard and hit some big shots throughout the game,” Olympians coach Brent Chitty said. “But you’ve got to hit your free throws and take care of the ball.”
Chitty said his crew came out with a great attitude and desire and it showed throughout, with the exception of the first few minutes of the third quarter when East went from having a 35-32 halftime lead to trailing 47-37 five minutes into the frame.
“I believe that’s the only time where we didn’t play hard and it came back to bite us,” Chitty said. “But the kids still managed to come back and I can’t fault them for the overall effort they gave.”
Following the first half that had the Olympians use a mix of long-range shooting (four-for-eight) and 10 of 12 from the free throw line, the Red Devils came out aggressively in the opening of the second half to stun the hosts with a 15-2 run.
Baker played a big role during the spurt, pumping in eight points and setting up another two buckets with key assists. He finished the evening shooting 14 for 29 from the field and 7 of 8 at the charity stripe before fouling out in overtime.
East determinedly charged back in the third quarter, getting a pair of treys from Rich, including one at the buzzer to pull the O’s to within a bucket, 51-49, heading into the fourth. Another triple by Rich and key free throws by Taylor, Martindale and Connor Umphress midway through the final period kept the hosts in the chase until Thompson’s only made shot of the game brought the fans to their feet.
The 6-4 senior came off the bench with 14 seconds remaining to misfire on his first long attempt, but he made good on his second chance moments later after Jeffersonville’s Jaquari Chandler missed a free throw that could have put the game away.
“Let me tell you, Dakota is a shooter,” Chitty said. “You can stick him in a freezer all night long and then pull him out and he’ll hit the big shot.”
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