With a 33-12 lead after the opening half, the Columbus East boys basketball team was in complete control against host Franklin Central on Tuesday night.
Then the third quarter happened.
The Flashes outscored the Olympians 28-11 in that third quarter to change everything.
Plagued by 10 turnovers and an incredible shooting performance by Flashes guard Lucas Huffman in the third quarter, the Olympians went all-out to turn back the host team’s challenge and eventually prevail 63-56.
Huffman scored 10 points in the third quarter as Franklin Central cut East’s lead to 44-40.
A seemingly easy night turned into an all-out battle in the fourth quarter. The Olympians were up to the task.
East extended its lead to 47-40 with the first three points of the quarter before the Flashes kept attacking inside, going on a seven-point run to tie the game 47-47.
Coach Brent Chitty’s Olympians never panicked, though, and put together a 16-9 run to close the game, Fourteen of the points in that final run came from the free throw line.
“We knew to get past them, we had to stay physical,” Chitty said. “It was one of those moments going into the fourth quarter where we didn’t need to rush anything. We had to stay patient, and stay tough defensively.”
The Olympians (13-3) finished 24 of 31 at the free-throw line.
“We started to get some good looks,” Chitty said of his team’s run in the fourth quarter. “We hit some good free throws in the end to keep the lead, and defensively we started to get some stops.”
Forward Connor Umphress, who led the Olympians with 21 points, said the team needed to keep its toughness when things went wrong in the second half.
“We didn’t battle the adversity early in the second half,” Umphress said. “Once we figured out that we couldn’t win this game without getting tough, we snapped out of it and really put up a good fourth quarter.”
Umphress scored 12 points on four 3-pointers in the opening half against the Flashes, who dropped to 9-10. Olympians forward Kevin Williams scored eight of his nine points in the first half.
“We were hitting on all cylinders,” Chitty said. “A lot of shots were going our way and we were staying after it, working inside on them and creating many opportunities.”
Williams said the Olympians needed to keep the rhythm going in the second half.
“We knew they were going to get after us,” Williams said. “They never go down easy, and it showed in the third quarter. We just had to stay patient and let our shots come to us in the fourth.”
East senior center Bryce Lienhoop scored 13 points for the Olympians to go with his 14 rebounds. East had 24 turnovers while the Flashes had 15.
“Games like this will happen,” Chitty said. “We have to take care of what we can control. If the game becomes physical or tightens up, we have to adjust to that mentally.”
“We need to stay focused,” Umphress said. “We have two conference games coming up, and they aren’t going to be easy games. We need to be smart, and play like we know we can.”