IT didn’t appear it would be host Columbus East’s night against a tenacious Seymour squad Thursday night even though the Olympians found a way to pull out a 50-43 overtime victory in Hoosier Hills Conference girls basketball action.
Olympians star player Allyson Bunch, who was making her first appearance of the season after recovering from ACL surgery, struggled to shake off the rust in the first half.
The Owls, meanwhile, had all the energy early and pounded East in the first two quarters, as they built a 23-13 lead at halftime.
And even luck seemed to be against East in the second quarter when the ball was inbounded to Seymour’s Sidney Carr under the basket when the buzzer sounded to bring in subs. Everyone stopped on the court for several seconds before Carr realized that the ball was live and put it into the basket as everyone else watched. The officials never blew the whistle to stop play.
Topping that off, Seymour guard Paxton DeHaven buried a desperation 3-pointer from just over mid-court as the halftime buzzer went off.
Even in the third quarter, the Owls (5-10, 1-3 HHC) continued to hold their own in a game that had turned into a no-holds barred wrestling match. They led 35-24 going into the fourth quarter over East, which raised its record to 7-5 overall and 1-1 in conference play.
From there on out, though, the East defense dominated. Seymour scored just six points in the final quarter of regulation and only one basket in overtime.
Seymour coach Jason Longmeier felt he knew why his team couldn’t manage any offense over the final 12 minutes of the game. “It’s one thing not to get breaks on the road,” Longmeier said. “But I thought there were a lot of body shots that didn’t go our way.”
Longmeier was pleased that his Owls played hard until the end when everything seemed to go against them. “I thought we out-played them most of the game,” he said. “In the fourth quarter, I think the physicality of the game wore us down a little. I probably should have substituted more. At the end of the day, we had the opportunity to make some free throws, and we couldn’t put it away.”
A look at the statistics showed by Longmeier was annoyed. East shot 33 free throws to 19 for Seymour.
That being said, fouls took East forward Mikala Lomax out of the game with 6:35 remaining in the fourth quarter. Lomax, who had just two points, has been arguably East’s best player this season.
With Lomax gone, East coach Danny Brown had to turn to Bunch, who went 2 of 9 from the floor in the first half. “I sat her out 8.6 seconds of the whole game,” Brown said. “We had an agreement going into the game that if she couldn’t go, she just needed to tug on her shirt and I would take her out.”
Bunch didn’t come out. Instead, she finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds. Brown said he wasn’t worried that Bunch was slumping from the field in the first half. “Being a former shooter myself, I know that, absolutely, you have to shoot your way out of it at times.”
Although Bunch never looked smooth on offense, she found ways to get it done, going inside to draw fouls and get herself to the line. Then, with 54 seconds remaining in regulation, she drilled a 3-pointer that tied the game at 41-41.
Seymour’s Brianna Gillaspy opened overtime with a drive to the basket that looked clean, but she was called for a charge. Longmeier said the call caused a huge shift in momentum. East scored the next four points, and after Carr hit an inside basket to cut East’s lead to 45-43, the Olympians scored the final five points of the game.
“I’m always happy with a win in this conference,” said Brown, who admitted that his team looked sluggish early. “It can be like the Big East sometimes.
“But I told our team at halftime that it looked like we were just standing around. We didn’t have much movement. But those last 12 minutes we played well. It showed a lot of grit and a lot of heart.”
Bunch, a junior forward, was just happy to get a win. “I’m pretty tired,” she said. “I’m still out of shape. I am no where near where I was. But it felt great to be out there.
“I think our whole team was a little off. Mikala and I haven’t played together in 31 games (Lomax missed last season with a torn ACL). It’s a little different to have me in there.”
Carr led Seymour with 13 points. Audrey Wetzel had 12 points for east and Kristen Bellinger added 10 points off the bench.