The way Columbus East senior Bryce Lienhoop played on Tuesday in a 58-48 loss to visiting Bloomington South proved how valuable he is to the Olympians.
Lienhoop did his best to play through an illness, but it was obvious he was hurting from the opening tip. Although he finished with 13 points, he didn’t establish control under the basket as he does on a game-to-game basis.
He simply didn’t look like the player who tends to be the toughest guy on the floor.
With Lienhoop a bit under the weather, the Olympians (6-2) sagged. Bloomington South (8-3) out-toughed East for the loose balls and offensive rebounds.
Going into the fourth quarter, East had a 36-35 lead, but the Olympians couldn’t match the Panthers’ energy in the final quarter.
“You can’t make excuses,” East coach Brent Chitty said. “Bloomington South outplayed us. They really caused us trouble on the offensive boards and we seemed to stand around on offense.”
With East unable to establish an inside presence, its offense was stagnant outside of sophomore point guard Parker Chitty, who scored 21 points and did his best to provide a jolt of energy that was missing.
However, Parker Chitty even seemed to lose patience at times when the Olympians’ offense came to a halt, and he would try to force things by penetrating down the middle off the dribble. That ultimately took him right into the teeth of the Panthers’ defense, which was sagging in the paint.
His father knows that patience will come in time.
“To be a young player is tough,” Brent Chitty said of his son. “To be a point guard is tougher.”
“In the end, we just have to go back to work and learn from our mistakes,” Parker Chitty said. “You have to give credit to South. I was out there trying to do what I could for our team.”
Parker Chitty said that the Olympians are so used to Lienhoop being a dominant force that it is just a given.
“When you don’t have him, you think, ‘Man, he is pretty good,’” Parker Chitty said.
Brent Chitty said he would take things “one day at a time” with his talented senior center. East hosts another sectional opponent in Shelbyville on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Although Lienhoop might be back to full strength by then, Brent Chitty said his team needs to get more contributions from its bench along with his starters needing to realize how to pick it up a bit when someone is off their game.
“We talk about not being heroes,” Brent Chitty said. “But we need to do a little more as a team and we have to be tough. That means getting rebounds and hitting free throws.”
East played poorly in the first half on Tuesday but was down just 24-23 when the Olympians scored the final six points of the half. Bloomington North hit just 2 of 9 shots from the floor in the second quarter and had six turnovers.
Nobody seemed to want to take control in the third quarter, but Chitty stole the ball from the Panthers’ Noah Marks and scored on a driving layup at the buzzer to give East the 36-35 lead.
The Panthers opened the fourth quarter on an 11-4 run and East never was able to get closer than four the rest of the way.
Keaton Hendricks led Bloomington South with 21 points while Tucker Blackwell added 15 points.