THE Columbus East girls basketball team saw an end come to its injury-plagued season Tuesday night, falling 55-41 to Bloomington South in Round 1 of the Class 4A Sectional at Columbus East High School.
In reference to the Olympians’ season overall, Columbus East head coach Danny Brown had no other explanation besides that it was an “uneven year.”
“We added four different players at different times in the season, and we have not been able to fully recover from injuries and really get back to playing our game,” Brown said.
Bloomington South came out shooting from the perimeter, as has been its custom.
The Panthers notched seven 3-point goals in the first half alone, propelling them to a 37-22 halftime lead against East.
Although East kept the Panthers in its match-up zone for part of the first quarter, South junior Mackenzie McNew was able get loose late in the first quarter, knocking down three 3-point goals in a row on her way to a game-high 25 points. She hit seven shots from beyond the arc.
“They can shoot the ball, there is no doubt about it,” Brown said. “We tried a half-court trap to try to take them out of what they wanted to do, but they got us spread out and they were able to penetrate and kick the ball out to McNew.”
McNew and South junior Lauren Whitlach combined for nine 3-point goals, as Whitlach added 19 points for South.
East junior Allyson Bunch and senior Mikala Lomax emphasized the lack of initial energy that the Olympians have struggled with throughout the season.
“We did not come out ready to play, and that has been our problem this whole season,” Bunch said. “We need to be ready to play 32 minutes of basketball.”
Brown went deep into his bench in the second half, rotating the starters with new energy and attempting to get some momentum going on the offensive end. That showed as 11 Olympians contributed to East’s overall scoring effort.
However, South’s clock management and effective ball handling in the final quarter kept the game out of reach of East.
“We did not really play the first quarter, and then we were faced with digging ourselves out of a hole,” Lomax said. “And we were not able to do that tonight.”
“I was really proud of the effort that the girls put forth in the second half, we just were not able to get it under 11 points,” Brown said. “South is a well-coached, tough defensive team and we ran out of time.”
Lomax spoke about her final game in the Orange Pit.
“These four years have meant a lot,” she said. “High school basketball is so much fun. I have just loved playing with all of these girls. I hate for it to end this way, but I hope to have four more years of basketball (in college).”
Lomax, Molly Macy, Audrey Wetzel, Katie Ritenour and Bryn Eudy each scored five points for East. Megan Galle had four points for the Olympians.
Brown is hopeful that his team will come back recovered and ready to play its fluid, up-tempo game by next season.
“Mikala (Lomax) is a special player and we are going to miss her a lot,” Brown said. “I am confident that we have players that will be able to step up and get us back to where we need to be next season. We were not able to do that this season but we will be back.”