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The Columbus East boys basketball team should be feeling pretty good about itself heading into Tuesday night’s neighborhood tussle with Columbus North.
With impressive victories over New Albany, Heritage Christian and Bedford North Lawrence on its undefeated resume, East added Hoosier Hills Conference rival Floyd Central to its list of victims Friday night at home.
After a sluggish first quarter, the Olympians (4-0, 3-0 HHC) scored 21 consecutive points in the second quarter and then coasted to a decisive 60-35 victory over the visiting Highlanders.
“I’m a big believer in this group,” said East coach Brent Chitty. “They’ve worked hard to improve. In fact they’ve worked their guts out. They are so coachable. We have fun.”
With center Codie Hamsley doing eight points of damage on the inside, Floyd Central stayed close the first eight minutes and trailed only 13-10 at the first stop. Chitty denied the slow start was the result of looking ahead to North.
“It wasn’t a lack of focus,” Chitty said. “It was kind of like a heavyweight fight in the first round. Not much happens because the fighters are just kind of feeling each other out. But then something happens in round two.”
The happening in quarter two was primarily created by the long-range artistry of Olympian Nate Rich. The senior guard nailed three consecutive 3-pointers in the space of two minutes midway through the period.
With the score having quickly ballooned to 22-10, Chitty emptied his bench. Reserves Connor Umphress, Dakota Thompson and Connor Jensen then showed no let-up and combined to score the next 12 points as East blew the game open to lead 36-14 at halftime.
Hitting two more 3s in the third quarter and 6-of-9 for the night, Rich finished as the game’s leading scorer with 18 points.
“I didn’t shoot well at the start of the season,” Rich said. “But coach told me to keep shooting and now I have a lot of confidence.”
Shooting only 3s and layups, East blazed to victory by hitting 64 percent from the field.
“We thought East would be the best offensive team we had faced,” said Floyd Central coach Randy Gianfagna. “That includes New Albany that scored (88) a lot on us. “East is very good.
“It starts with (Bryce) Lienhoop either standing on the perimeter looking over everyone or dropping low and creating a mismatch,” said Gianfagna, whose team dropped to 1-3. “And then if Rich is hitting ...”
East set the defensive tone at the outset of the game. The Olympians scored six points before Floyd Central attempted a shot from the field. Guard Kyle Taylor’s defensive pressure harried the Highlanders’ offense throughout.
“Our kids are really playing hard on the defensive end,” Chitty said. “Kyle did a really good job tonight pressuring the ball. But for us to continue to be competitive, we all have to improve.”
Taylor did not score, but in addition to his defense, he got the ball to Rich, Zach Martindale and others who did score.
“I enjoy playing defense,” Taylor said. “My main roles are to play D, get the ball to Nathan on outside or dumping it down low to the other guys.”
Martindale hit all four of his field goal attempts, scored 11 points in the second half and complimented Rich with 13 points. Eight Olympians scored in the well-balanced East attack. Lienhoop led the Olympians with six rebounds.
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