During Columbus East’s remarkable run to a state championship in football, I remember talking to head coach Bob Gaddis about his team’s apparent slow start during a regular season game.
The Olympians had given up a touchdown early.
“You have to remember that the other guys practice, too,” Gaddis said.
Sometimes, such as Friday night when the Columbus North and Columbus East boys basketball teams were eliminated from the Shelbyville Sectional, you can forget that the other team puts its heart and soul into winning a game.
It’s easy to look at Friday night’s anguish as our local teams’ failures. Certainly, it’s harder to give a tip of the cap to Bloomington North and Bloomington South for some terrific basketball.
In reality, everyone should have known going into the sectional that it was a wide-open shootout between at least four pretty good teams.
If you want to play the blame game, that’s your prerogative. But before you do, just think about the excellent basketball that has been played in town over the past three seasons.
In that time, coach Brent Chitty has led the Olympians to a 45-21 record. Jason Speer has piled up a 62-14 record at North, which won the sectional last season and a Conference Indiana co-championship this year.
Now that’s some exciting stuff.
Try to remember those good times next season when both North and East will face some daunting challenges.
Although East returns four of its five starters, it loses 6-foot-7 senior Bryce Lienhoop, who was the straw that stirred the drink. Next season, East forward Connor Umphress, a 6-foot-5 forward who has exceptional perimeter skills, will likely need to handle more of the inside duties.
Considering that Lienhoop is the team’s most dangerous 3-point shooter, Chitty is going to have some problems to solve and decisions to make.
At North, the days of having a wealth of big men might be over for a while.
Certainly, 6-foot-8 power forward Josh Speidel will be one of the state’s top returning players. But North loses senior Elliott Welmer, the second-straight year that Speer’s roster has lost a 6-foot-9 player (Tori Jackson graduated last year).
The Bull Dogs also will say goodbye to guard Evan Henry, who has played a key role in North’s great run the past three seasons.
Both Chitty and Speer have built successful junior varsity programs as well, so help might be on the way. Both programs have football tight ends — 6-foot-4 Rhett Myers at East and 6-foot-5 Drew Schoeberl at North — who might develop into inside enforcers if they decide to continue playing two sports.
The point is that the two programs will feel the sting of their sectional losses for quite some time, and it’s up to the community to provide a little pat on the back. Some kind words for either Chitty or Speer, or to any of the players, would mean a lot.
Programs can be victims of their own success and the fact is that high school basketball is alive and well here in Columbus, and in far better shape than most towns of this size in not only Indiana, but the country.
Jay Heater is The Republic sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 379-5632.