When Silver Creek took the lead midway through the fourth quarter and had all the momentum, Columbus East didn’t panic.
The Class 4A No. 10 Olympians got a big bucket to retake the lead, and clutch free throw shooting down the stretch helped the Olympians hold off the 3A No. 4 Dragons 65-61 in girls basketball action Tuesday night.
Following the game, it was an emotional time for East seniors Koryn Greiwe, Albany Speer, Harley Gant, Kaitlyn Carothers and Jordan Sims. The reality set it that it was their final time playing in their home gym. Even though East celebrated senior night earlier in the season, it felt like senior night to the team.
“It’s definitely a bittersweet feeling,” Greiwe said. “I’m so happy and thankful to be a part of such an amazing program. To be able to be with amazing teammates and amazing coaches. It’s not over yet, but it was great to get a win the last time on this court.”
“In the beginning, it was nerve-wracking because of the last-game jitters,” Speer added. “I know I had to go out on a good game because it was going to be the last time I’ll play here. At the end, it was great. I couldn’t have had a better game here.”
Speer was right. She went out and had one of her best performances of the season. Whenever Silver Creek (20-2) started making a run at any point during the game, Speer came up with big 3-pointers to help the Olympians (17-3) stall the momentum.
“Albany hit some big shots at the end and also hit some early on,” East coach Danny Brown said. “She played great. It’s an emotional time. It’s senior night, but it’s not senior night because we already had that, but they’re special.”
East utilized its full-court pressure early, and it helped it jump out in front 10-4. The lead could have been bigger, but the Olympians missed a couple shots in the paint early on. The Dragons came back with two 3-pointers from Kynidi Mason-Striverson and Emme Rooney to cut it to 12-10 after the opening quarter.
A 3-pointer from Lacey Tingle cut the lead 16-15 in the second quarter. East responded right back with a 3-pointer from Speer that kick started an 11-0 run to lead 27-15. Mason-Striverson hit a 3 to cut the deficit back to single digits, but Leah Bachmann found Speer on the right wing, and Speer drained an open 3 to make it 30-18. Silver Creek hit a couple more 3s to end the half to keep the game from becoming a run away as they trailed East 35-24 at halftime.
After the Dragons got the opening basket of the second half, Speer once again knocked down a 3 that led to an 8-0 Olympians run to increase the lead to 43-26. Silver Creek came back, however, with help of four more 3-pointers to cut it to 47-40 and eventually trailed 50-42 heading into the fourth quarter.
In the fourth, Speer hit another 3 to grow the lead to 53-42 for the Olympians. The Dragons then went on a 15-3 run that was capped off with a 3 from Rooney to take their first lead since they hit the opening bucket of the game to lead 57-56 with 3:38 left, setting up the final sequences.
Saige Stahl finished with 22 points to lead East. Speer scored 17, and Harley Gant added 12.
Free throw shooting was key once again for East. As a team, the Olympians shot 21 for 25 from the charity stripe with 7 of 8 coming late in the game to seal the win.
The win gives East a six-game winning streak and plenty of momentum heading into next week’s sectional, where they’ll take on host Bloomington North on Tuesday.
“We came out into this game focused. We wanted to end this season going into the tournament with a win,” East junior Saige Stahl said. “We came out here as a team. We really played for our seniors. Those guys are the leaders on our team. The thing we could do to give back to them was to win this game because it’s the last game on their home court. It’s a pretty special moment.”
Brown appreciated his seniors and how much they meant to the program.
“They’ve meant a lot,” Brown said. “Now we’re at the point that this was where it was going to be a special time. We thought this would be the special year, and now, it’s just beginning. We are done with the regular season, and we played a tough schedule. We’re tested and ready. Now, we’ve got to prove it. Anything can happen with sectional play in Indiana. We know that, and hopefully, our experience and talent will overcome some of those odds and get us over the top.”