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East edges Jeffersonville in conference opener

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JEFFERSONVILLE — A late adjustment sparked the Columbus East girls basketball team to a 53-51 win against host Jeffersonville on Saturday in the Olympians’ Hoosier Hills Conference opener.

“Jeffersonville is always an aggressive team,” East coach Danny Brown said. “We had to attack the basket and draw some fouls. I told the girls when you play a close game like this, it takes a team effort to win.”

The Olympians (2-3, 1-0 HHC) made 15 of 21 shots from the free throw line and that was the difference. Jeffersonville (6-2, 2-2) scored just one point from the line.

East forged an advantage early when it forced Jeffersonville junior Emily Gray into foul trouble in the opening minutes. Gray scored the first two points of the night, but picked up two quick fouls and spent the rest of the half on the bench.

The Olympians got help from their own bench in the first half as Abigail Wilson entered the game to score five points as the two teams were tied at 12-12 after a quarter of play. Among Wilson’s points was a 3-pointer.

East stepped up the game physically in the second quarter to match Jeffersonville’s aggressive play. East’s Audrey Wetzel, who tied with Allyson Bunch for team-high honors with 18 points, dominated inside. She eventually earned 11 shots from the free throw line, making eight.

“Coach emphasized to us before the game to drive in and draw fouls,” Wetzel said. “We needed to get to the free throw line and hit our shots.”

East backed off its press in the second quarter and slowed the tempo of the game. it was successful as the Olympians had a 28-22 lead at the half.

However, Jeffersonville started to take control in the third quarter with its press. Jeffersonville outscored East 18-10 in the quarter as Wetzel, with five points in the quarter, and Bunch, with three, kept the Olympians in the game.

The third quarter belonged to Lady Devils’ senior Aurreeshae Hines. With four 3-point shots, Hines contributed 14 points in the period as Jeffersonville led 40-38 going into the final quarter.

“Hines made us switch defenses going into the fourth quarter and we had to shut her down,” Brown said. “I’ve been coaching against Jeffersonville for 15 years and that’s the best outside shooting Jeffersonville team I’ve ever seen. (Courtney) Hunter and (Brooke) Ballard did a good job against Hines defensively in the fourth.”

Bunch scored eight points in the final quarter to help East knot the score at the end of regulation.

Jeffersonville’s Haley Vogen put her team up 48-46 in the final minute, but Bunch came up big with a basket to tie the game.

Bunch then came up with a big play on the other end, forcing a jump ball with 3.6 seconds remaining. Jeffersonville kept the ball, but great defense by East senior Courtney Hunter denied it another shot.

Hunter’s defense held Hines to one shot in overtime. Wetzel struck first for East with a 3-point shot to put the Lady O’s up 51-48. Hines did knock down a 3, the Red Devils’ only points of the overtime.

With 31 seconds left in the bonus period, East took a 53-51 lead with a Bunch shot. Jeffersonville took a time out with 12.8 seconds remaining to set up their shot, but excellent

defense denied their play, and with 7.1 seconds remaining in overtime, Jeffersonville took another time out to regroup. Jeffersonville took the last shot of the game, and East freshman Gracie Hatton blocked the attempt, giving the Olympians the win.

“We stressed in practice this week that we had to come mentally prepared,” Bunch said. “I think we played well tonight. We’ve struggled early in the season, but I feel like we’re turning things around.”

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