The Columbus East boys basketball team was playing in a funk Friday night against visiting Shelbyville.
One of the Olympians’ top offensive players, Connor Umphress, has been trying to play his way through a shooting slump. Three of his 3-point shots against the Golden Bears were dead on target but hit the back of the rim and bounced straight up in the air and away. No good.
East center Bryce Lienhoop was playing his way back into shape after an illness, but he isn’t quite the same player just yet.
Oh, and those 16 Olympian turnovers. Many were in the careless, what-are-you-thinking variety.
And, by the way, East won 48-45 in overtime.
A game that was starting to smell pretty nasty got a good dose of grit perfume in the closing minutes.
However he might have felt, Lienhoop drove the baseline for a huge, game-timing basket with a minute left to tie the game 41-41 in regulation, and then the East defense played with incredible intensity in the closing seconds as Shelbyville drove and got off two close-in shots that really didn’t have a chance.
Lienhoop, who finished with a game-high 19 points, again blasted through the paint for a layup in the final minute of overtime to give East a 46-43 lead and, after two free throws by the Bears’ Chris Asher, East sophomore point guard Parker Chitty stepped to the line with 8.7 seconds left and dropped two free throws for a 48-45 lead.
A Shelbyville desperation shot was off, and the Olympians survived to raise their record to 7-2. Shelbyville fell to 3-7.
Umphress, who badly turned his left ankle and had to be carried off early in the overtime, said he thought Shelbyville was the tougher team Friday.
In reality, the Olympians got tough performances up and down the bench.
From key steals by Chitty and senior guard Nate Nolting in the overtime, to Lienhoop simply willing his way to the basket at key times, to Umphress limping back on the court in overtime after Lienhoop fouled out, to some great team defense, East was rock-solid tough.
Other things, though, just seemed a bit off.
“I’ve got to be able to knock down shots,” said Umphress, who scored 10 points. “We are playing very well defensively, and I’ll be all right.”
East coach Brent Chitty said his entire squad will be all right.
“You’ve got to make your free throws,” Brent Chitty said of East’s 13 of 24 performance at the line. “We’re not shooting real well right now, and we had 16 turnovers. You aren’t going to win many games doing that.”
That said, Brent Chitty said his team showed excellent patience on offense, and he was happy with his team’s shot selection.
“I think, at times, we play a little fast,” he said about his squad’s turnovers. “But they’re kids.”
Chitty said Shelbyville is a lot better team than its record.
“They have a lot of seniors on that team,” he said.
The game was a physical brawl from the opening tap, and East lost Umphress on two first-quarter offensive fouls. The first of the two bordered on hysterical, with the defender cutting in front of his drive to the basket and getting himself run over. Nonetheless, Umphress was on the bench for most of the half.
The Olympians turned the ball over on three of their first five possessions and fell behind 9-2. But good defense allowed them to claw back into the game, trailing just 11-10 at the end of the quarter.
East held an 18-17 lead at the half as Shelbyville started to get careless, turning over the ball five times during a 8-0 East run. The Golden Bears managed to score the last five points of the half to pull within one.
The game was tied 30-30 after three quarters and 41-41 after regulation.