Defense leads Olympians past Braves

After giving up 61 points in a loss at Brownstown Central last season, Columbus East made a concerted effort to tighten its defense when the teams met again Tuesday night.

This time, the Olympians were stifling defensively. They held the Braves to 8 of 47 shooting from the field in a 49-31 victory.

“I thought we did a great job on the half-court end,” East coach Danny Brown said. “We’ve been working hard on the defensive end. For us to take that next step, we have to bring it every night defensively.”

The Olympians (3-1) jumped out to a 27-15 halftime lead. They built the margin to 36-22 in the final minute of the third quarter before the Braves (5-2) started chipping away.

Brownstown’s Kristen Stuckwisch made a free throw to close the third quarter, then made a basket and a 3-pointer to open the fourth to cut the lead to 36-28 with 6 minutes remaining. But after an exchange of free throws, East’s Kristen Lyons scored the first six points in a 12-2 Olympians run to end the game.

“They’re a really scrappy team, and we knew that coming in, so we just focused on not fouling and playing good defense,” Lyons said. “Our guards played great defense, and we got rebounds. Every day in practice, we’re there to get better, and I’m really proud with how our team is looking.”

Lyons scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead East to a 30-28 advantage on the boards. Karli Reynolds added 12 points for the Olympians.

East forced 20 Braves turnovers.

“Our press kind of slowed them down,” Brown said. “We were in position all night. A couple times we maybe didn’t close out like we can, but for the most part, we controlled the boards with our size and just did a nice job.”

Tayler Garland scored nine points to lead Brownstown. The Braves, who were playing their sixth game in 13 days, saw their four-game winning streak come to an end.

“When you play as many games as we’ve played, that takes a toll on our girls,” Brownstown coach Karla Rieckers said. “Our legs aren’t where they need to be.”