Turnovers, turnovers and turnovers.
That was the story for the Columbus East boys basketball team Saturday night when it hosted Southwestern (Hanover).
The Rebels began to slowly grow their lead, eventually opening it to double digits, and they cruised from there to earn a 50-31 victory. The Olympians had 23 turnovers for the game.
East had several of those turnovers early on in the first quarter. Luckily for the Olympians, Southwestern could have ballooned the lead if they converted more points from the turnovers. The Rebels possessed an 8-0 lead until Will Rieckers drained a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 8-3. Southwestern used its size to its advantage when Parker Davis scored the final six points for Southwestern to make it 14-6 after the first.
“We always wanted our defense to be our offense. Let’s get the long rebounds and go, let’s get those steals and go. I think our boys bought in really well to that,” Southwestern coach Zac Nussbaum said. “Once you get out in transition and start scoring, all of a sudden, that half-court offense seems to open up and keeping the confidence up.”
The Rebels (3-0) grew the lead to 21-8 midway through the second quarter. A basket from Rieckers stopped the East bleeding momentarily, but Southwestern finished out the half on a 9-2 run that included a 4-point play from Mitch Mingione to go ahead 30-12.
The Olympians (1-4) got the opening bucket of the second half, but the Rebels slowly grew the lead even farther, finishing out the third quarter on a 7-0 run that included a buzzer-beating jumper from Colton Cloud to make it 42-19 heading into the fourth.
“I knew that (East) coach (Brent) Chitty was going to have his guys motivated coming out in the second half,” Nussbaum said. “I told my team that they better be ready for physical play. We’ve got to be ready for the press, and those first four minutes are going to be the most important. We had to keep our foot on the gas. When you have this many seniors, and you have a kid like Zach Cole, you usually get pretty good leadership there on the floor, and they did a great job.”
Foe East, Rieckers finished with a team-high 13 points, and Julius Dailey added seven.
Southwestern was led by Mingione with 14 points. Davis finished with 12, Colton had 11 and Zach Cole added eight.
The Rebels have been one of the top teams in Class 2A over the last several years, but lost a great crop of talented seniors last year following the graduations of Foster Mefford, Matthew Williams, Austin Kramer and Billy Eccles.
“So far if you want to put it in a nutshell to what this team looks like right now, we’re just now, we’re trying to find out our identity with a new team this year,” Nussbaum said. “Sharing the ball is one of them and playing hard-nosed defense has been the other, and I’ve been proud of them for both of those.”