WHEN Columbus East’s season-opener with New Albany went to overtime Friday night, the Olympians weren’t feeling much fatigue.
A rigorous offseason workout prepared East to play 32 minutes of basketball and beyond, and Friday, the Olympians put that training to good use. They went 12 of 15 from the free-throw line in the second extra session to pull out a 99-92 double-overtime Hoosier Hills Conference victory.
“I don’t feel like this game was won today,” said junior Bryce Linehoop, who led East with 21 points and 19 rebounds. “I feel like it was won over the offseason. We did so much stuff over the summer — flipping tires, swinging sledgehammers, running, all that stuff, and it just feels great. It’s finally paying off.”
Leinhoop led all five Olympian starters in double figures. Ridge Harris scored 18 points, while Zach Martindale added 16, Kyle Taylor 15 and Nate Rich 11.
“There wasn’t a lot of defense played out there tonight by either team,” East coach Brent Chitty said. “It was an offensive showcase. It was crazy.”
Rich converted a 3-point play five seconds into the second overtime to spark a 9-2 run that put East in control. Then Taylor, who missed three of his first four free throws in the second overtime, hit eight in a row to keep the Bulldogs (1-1) at bay.
The Olympians finished 28 of 35 from the line.
“We hit free throws,” Chitty said. “You have to hit free throws, and we got a few stops when we had to.”
East got off to a slow start, falling behind 20-9 after one period. But the Olympians began the second quarterer with an 11-2 run to pull within two and still trailed 31-29 at halftime.
“We’re never a team that’s going to back down,” Linehoop said. “No matter what the score is, we’ll always be playing hard.”
After five lead changes in the third quarter, East broke open a tie game with a 9-0 run. But then New Albany scored two baskets in the final four seconds of the period to pull within 49-44.
The Olympians pushed the lead back to nine, but the Bulldogs rallied to tie the game at 66 on a 3-pointer by Jeff Byrne with 28 seconds left in regulation. Harris scored on a back-door layup with nine seconds remaining, but New Albany’s Jermaine Parrish hit two free throws with 2.6 seconds left to send it to overtime.
The first overtime featured six lead changes, the last coming when Taylor scored to put East ahead 77-76 with 45 seconds remaining.
After Parrish made a free throw with 32 seconds left, the Olympians played for the last shot, but Lienhoop missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
That set the stage for East’s 22-point outburst in the second overtime.
The Olympians hope the victory is the start of a strong beginning — they started 1-6 this past year.
“The first game is really important,” Lienhoop said. “It sets the tone for the rest of the year.”