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BEDFORD — Host Bedford North Lawrence put the Columbus East boys basketball under a lot of pressure with a solid 3-point performance Friday night.
But with the way the Olympians were able to finish the fourth quarter of an 85-78 win, you wouldn’t have thought they were in the least bit of trouble.
Columbus East (2-0 overall, 1-0 Hoosier Hills Conference) closed its conference opener with 26 points in the final quarter. Forward Connor Umphress led the run with 14 of his 25 points as the Stars dropped to 1-2 and 0-1.
“Going into this game we thought we were lacking a little experience,” East coach Brent Chitty said. “To be able to win in the fashion we did against a tough senior-led squad is just awesome.”
The Olympians came out of the half connecting on seven straight points to put them up 47-34, but the lights-out shooting of Stars guard Blaze Byrer started to cause chaos. Byrer scored 11 of the team’s 22 points in the third quarter to pull the Stars within 59-56 going to the final eight minutes.
Then it was Umphress’ turn to shine.
Umphress scored 10 of East’s first 14 points in the fourth quarter during a 14-3 run. The Olympians had a 73-59 lead.
But Umphress said the Stars’ defense caused the Olympians a lot of trouble.
“They put a lot of pressure on us early,” Umphress said. “We have gone through a lot of adversity, but our experience came through in the end.”
The Stars launched some desperation shots in the final four minutes and started sending East to the free throw line. It was in vain.
East connected on 15 of its 20 free throws in the final quarter.
“We knew in the end we had to hit some free throws,” Chitty said. “We missed a few of the final shots but I was really pleased with how our team stepped up.”
The stars connected on 12 3-pointers in the game, while the Olympians hit six.
Chitty said his defense had some problems guarding the 3-point arc.
“We had moments in the game where we were switching people and we felt lost,” Chitty said. “We have to really work on our defensive strategy in order to be a stronger team.”
East guard Parker Chitty scored 17 points, and forward Bryce Lienhoop scored 16.
“We’ve come a long way this year,” Umphress said. “We have a great group of guys that want to work hard and come to play every day, and that’s what we need to win.”
Brent Chitty said Umphress came through despite a lot of attention by the Stars.
“They didn’t make it easy on Connor,” Chitty said. “They gave him everything they had, and he really came through for us.
“Defensively we are getting better,” Chitty said. “We still need to work on a few things, and keep from open shots happening like they did tonight.”
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