BATESVILLE — After suffering its first loss of the season against New Albany, the Columbus East boys basketball team faced an extreme challenge on Saturday if it wanted to get back on the winning track.
Showing the heart of a champion, the Olympians stunned 3A No. 3-ranked Batesville 82-74.
Olympians coach Brent Chitty said teamwork was the key to the victory.
“This team was very unselfish tonight,” he said. “Bryce (Lienhoop) and Connor (Umphress) were obviously the guys we were looking to give the ball to, but we also have our role players who can make shots for us as well. If we continue to play like we showed out there tonight, we are going to win a lot of basketball games.”
The game went down to the wire, with several lead changes in the fourth quarter.
“We were hitting our shots tonight,” said Umphress, who finished with 23 points. “We made sure to establish good communication out there and do the things we want to do. If that happens, we play really well and the team chemistry is perfect.”
Both teams started out of the gate playing up-tempo while trading baskets. With the score 18-18 after one quarter, the game was looking like it was going to be an offensive shootout.
The Olympians (5-1 overall) had momentum finally going their way when Batesville’s top player, 6-foot-5 forward Bryan Hoeing, picked up his third foul with 3:55 left in the second quarter. It opened the door for the Olympians to go on a 10-4 run to end the half to go ahead 37-30.
“It made our offense much easier for us without him on the floor because he is a heck of a player,” Umphress said. “It opened up our passing lanes to come up with some easy baskets in the paint and out on the perimeter because he is great defensively as well.”
Up 51-38 in the middle of the third quarter, Batesville started to find its stride as it started making its shots and contesting the Olympians’ jumpers on the defensive end. Batesville went on a 15-5 run to close out the quarter to pull within 56-53.
“Coach said to us at halftime that they would not go down quietly,” Lienhoop said. “He was right. They played with a ton of intensity to start the second half, and we just had to match it if we wanted to win.”
Batesville took its first lead of the game since early in the first quarter when it forged ahead 64-62 early in the fourth quarter. Both teams kept trading baskets on offense until the Olympians broke through and went on a 10-4 run in the closing minutes of the game.
Lienhoop led the Olympians with 24 points. Kevin Williams added 12 points.