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Heading into the final seconds of Columbus East’s 61-60 victory against host Brownstown Central on Thursday night, Olympians point guard Parker Chitty was 0 for 5 from 3-point range.
But when it counted most, Chitty connected.
East center Bruce Lienhoop took the ball off an inbounds play and found Chitty open in the corner. Chitty did the rest, sinking the game-winning 3 with three ticks left on the clock.
The final half-minute didn’t start so well for Chitty, who fouled Brownstown Central’s Collin DeHart.
With 31.6 seconds remaining, DeHart dropped both free throws for a 60-58 lead for the Braves.
On the ensuing play, East let some time dwindle down before Chitty took the ball to the basket, but his shot was blocked. Brownstown had the rebound but stepped out of bounds with eight seconds on the clock.
The Olympians still had hope.
When the Braves collapsed on Lienhoop on the inbounds pass, he got the ball to Chitty.
East celebrated, but the game wasn’t done.
The host Braves got the ball to mid-court and called a timeout. The Olympians then defended Chaz Schneider’s 3 from the right wing, which hit the side of the rim, and East held on.
Chitty said the play wasn’t drawn up for him, but he was happy to take the shot since time was running down.
“We kind of went with it, and whatever happens, happens,” Chitty said. “Bryce saw me in the corner, and my guy helped off of Bryce because Bryce is a great player. He got it to me, and I knew I had to hit the shot for my team, and I knocked it down.”
“Instincts just kind of take over,” he said. “You catch it, and you’re like, ‘All right, shoot it.’ You know you’ve got time to shoot it. You’ve got to shoot it, got to get the ball up, and when I released it, I knew it was going in from the get-go. You just have that good feeling.”
Chitty then knew Class 3A No. 7 Brownstown was capable of connecting from long range. To that point, they were 9 of 17 in 3s.
“My biggest thing was whenever I hit the shot, we were all celebrating, and I was like, ‘No, no. We can’t celebrate. We’ve still got to play defense,’” he said. “They are a great team. They shoot the lights out, man. So I knew we had to play defense. We played hard. They are great shooters, a great shooting team.”
Once Schneider missed, Chitty and the Olympians then knew they could celebrate the victory.
“You’ve got to remember it for now,” he said of his game-winning shot. “Celebrate tonight. Tomorrow, you’ve got to go back to work and get better.”
Olympians coach Brent Chitty didn’t want to put all of the focus on one individual after watching his team battle hard for the win.
Lienhoop, a 6-foot-7 senior, had his second foul at 2:42 of the first quarter, and then Connor Umphress, a 6-5 junior, had to go to the bench with his third foul at 1:54. Brownstown took advantage by closing the quarter on an 11-0 run for an 18-10 edge.
Nate Nolting then scored eight points in the second quarter, and Lienhoop returned to the game late in the half and made a reverse layup to pull his team within 26-24 at halftime.
The third quarter featured three ties and nine lead changes, and East managed to go on a late 7-0 run for a 43-37 lead. But Brownstown’s Austin Snodgrass scored seven points in the final 1:50 to make it 46-46 going into the fourth quarter.
The Braves led 58-53 with 2:38 to go, but Umphress hit a 3 from the right wing at 1:58, and then the Braves turned the ball over.
Umphress tied the game on free throws at 1:18, setting up the exciting finish.
“The start was suspicious,” Brent Chitty said. “But I just thought our kids battled through it and got back in the game at halftime. ... It gets under three minutes, we’re down five, and we had to get some stops. We hit some big shots and got some stops, and that gives you a chance. Our kids hit some big shots, but defensively, our team got us those opportunities.”
It was a good win for East (12-3) after suffering a four-point home loss against Franklin on Saturday.
“It was a team effort,” coach Chitty said. “I just love the way we battled. If you watched that game, our kids battled. Both teams battled, but our kids just kept banging around.”
Umphress led all scorers with 19 points, followed by Nolting with 12 and Lienhoop and Chitty with 11 apiece. Lienhoop made it a double-double with a game-high 10 rebounds.
The Braves (13-3) also had balance. Snodgrass scored 18 points on Senior Night, while another senior, Schneider was next with 16. DeHart contributed 10 off the bench.
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