Coming off a fourth-quarter comeback victory against Floyd Central Friday night, the Columbus East girls basketball team faced another emotional challenge Saturday afternoon.
The game against visiting Southport marked their final game of the regular season, and the final time the senior players would step onto their home court.
The Olympians responded by defeating Southport 70-57. The game marked a milestone in the impressive high school career of senior Allyson Bunch, who led all scorers with 19 points.
“I told the team beforehand, “Let’s go out with a bang,’” Bunch said. “I couldn’t ask for better teammates. It’s bittersweet, it’s great to win but its emotional knowing this is our last home game.”
Bunch started the game strong, scoring 15 points in the first half and helping her team to a 46-22 halftime lead. When East coach Danny Brown went to the bench, the senior showed her leadership skills, encouraging and supporting her teammates from the bench.
“We listen to the coach, but it’s always nice to have a teammate to help reassure you it’s all right if you struggle,” Bunch said. “It’s a part of being a senior and helping my team.”
Bunch came back into the game late to help the Olympians (10-9) hold off an attempted Southport comeback. The Cardinals (5-15) outscored East 35-24 in the second half, but clutch defense late in the fourth quarter helped secure the victory.
“Southport is a quality team, and they’re not just going to back off and give up,” Brown said. “I think we played one of the best halves we’ve played the entire season in the first half, and Southport adjusted and responded strongly in the second half.”
With the game secure, Bunch again came out of the game, receiving applause from the Olympian crowd showing their appreciation for her play.
“I’m very proud of my years here so far,” Bunch said. “I’ve worked really hard and had great teammates, but we’re not done yet. I won’t be completely satisfied unless we win a state championship.”
“Ally’s been a starter since Day 1 as a freshman,” Brown said. “Her first game for us, she had 21 points and 10 rebounds, and we knew we had something special. She’s going to be remembered as one of the greatest players to ever play at Columbus East.”
Bunch credits her teammates for her success, especially her fellow seniors who have grown into quality players. The foursome of Bunch, Courtney Hunter, Katie Ritenour and Moll Macy have developed a strong bond and friendship from their years playing together.
“This is a special group of seniors,” Brown said. “They’ve really come together these past four or five games, and they’re ready to lead us into sectional.”
Other top contributors for the Olympians were Bryn Eudy with 11 points and Audrey Wetzel with 10.