FRANKLIN — It was a repeat performance for Columbus East. For the second straight night, the Olympians went on the road, faced a formidable opponent and came away with a victory despite missing a majority of their starters.
This time, East battled Saturday at Franklin and endured a slow first half and a shaky fourth quarter to subdue the Grizzly Cubs 49-42 to push their season’s overall mark to 11-3. The Olympians got a combined 29 points and 16 rebounds out of regular starters Ridge Harris and Bryce Lienhoop and relied on their hard-working bench players to rise to the occasion again.
“I’m just really proud of our players,” East coach Brent Chitty said. “We were without three starters, but all these guys stepped up again and got us a tough win,”
Franklin (11-4) employed a stingy zone defense and a patient offensive attack against the guests, who found themselves trailing early in the opening frame before Lienhoop dropped in five points and then found Connor Jensen under the bucket for a score to give the Olympians a lead they never relinquished.
East held the Grizzly Cubs to 13 points in the first half, including just five in the first period, but led by just four at halftime.
“We played tight that first half,” Chitty said. “But Franklin is the type of team that makes you play that way. They are physical and deliberate in what they do.”
Harris, who paced the Olympians with 15 points, opened the third quarter with a trey to push the lead to 20-13 and then added his second bomb of the contest at the end of the period, knocking it down as the buzzer sounded.
The shot was a second-chance trey, as his first attempt bounced off the rim and then off the hands of a Franklin player with 1.1 seconds remaining. The 6-foot-3 senior got the ball back and launch it over an out-stretched defender just before the horn sounded.
“I missed that the first time, but was happy we got the ball back,” said Harris, who also grabbed eight rebounds. “I then noticed my (defender) had his hand turned, and I yelled at Nate Nolting to get me the ball, and this time, it went down.”
That shot gave the visitors their largest lead of the game at the time, 38-30, and proved to be crucial down the stretch, as the Grizzly Cubs went on a 7-0 run early in the final frame but could never get over that three-point hump.
Leading 40-37 with less than four minutes remaining, East managed to once again pull away from Franklin with solid free-throw shooting and intense defense. The Olympians turned the ball over eight times in the final quarter, but the Grizzly Cubs failed to convert offensively on all but two.