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Senior’s toughness lifts East on off night

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COLUMBUS East senior forward Ridge Harris missed what would have been a thrilling alley-oop dunk in the second quarter against visiting East Central on Friday night and had to hang on the rim to prevent what could have been a even more spectacular wipe out.

For his trouble, Harris was called for a technical foul (hanging on the rim is illegal). His teammates didn’t seem to care because their game was in the bank against an inferior opponent. The play, after all, was fun.

In the end, though, the Olympians’ 66-59 victory was anything but fun. Other than a few select moments, East seemed to show little emotion in raising their record to 9-2.

Their priorities appeared to be a little out of whack.

Fortunately for East, senior forward Zach Martindale was all business. His 17 points, mostly accomplished by pure hard work along the baseline, were the difference between the Olympians being able to dodge an ugly upset by the Trojans, who fell to 6-8.

“It was just a weird night,” said Martindale, who was working his way free under the basket while his teammates were hoisting up 3-point shots that weren’t going down. “This was just the way we practiced all week. We had guys who were sick and injured. Every game is different.”

Harris added 14 points for East and Bryce Lienhoop scored 12.

The question remained, though, why the Olympians didn’t work the ball inside with Martindale, Harris and Lienhoop all being able to score at will whenever they were in the paint.

“We just got out-played,” said East coach Brent Chitty. “We should never have to say that we didn’t have a lot of energy. But we didn’t. East Central played their guts out.”

Chitty was concerned that his offensive players would flip the ball around once or twice and then heave up a 3-pointer. He said a more patient offense and five or more passes a possession would have led to an easier night.

East made three 3-pointers on the night, and missed 14.

“We weren’t shooting well and we weren’t playing defense,” Chitty said.

The Olympians might have fallen into a false sense of confidence after taking a 9-0 lead to start the game. Lienhoop already had a couple of offensive rebounds and put-back baskets and it appeared they could win by 50.

Instead of putting the Trojans away, the Olympians let them hang around with an eight- to 10-point deficit through three quarters.

When the fourth quarter began, East Central’s Howie Backherms (13 points) nailed a 3-pointer and after an East miss, Payton Stonefield made a driving bucket that cut the Olympians’ lead to 48-45.

East was all-out the rest of the way, unable to put the game away until the final seconds. Stonefield, more well-known as an exceptional linebacker on the football team, played like a linebacker in the second half. He scored 13 of his 15 points by rushing right down the lane at the rim. The Olympians couldn’t do much to stop him.

Martindale showed his toughness as well. He answered with a three-point play with 1:22 remaining that gave East a 60-55 lead.

East made six of eight free throws down the stretch to put the game away.

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