The play was a typical hustle effort from Trent Larson.

The Columbus North senior had nailed a 3-pointer to cut Southport’s lead to two with less than two minutes remaining, and with the Cardinals trying to salt the game away, Larson dove to tip a pass.

He landed on his knee and immediately knew something was wrong.

Still, Larson finished the game, which the Bull Dogs ended up losing 60-57 in a battle of Conference Indiana unbeatens. But he would miss North’s next three contests with a torn PCL and lateral meniscus in his left knee.

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Saturday night, Larson was back in the lineup as the Bull Dogs lost to East Central 58-56 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Since he isn’t planning to play in college, he wasn’t afraid to risk further injury.

“I wanted to play on Saturday,” Larson said. “I can’t damage my PCL more because it’s already torn. The only thing I could do is probably hurt my meniscus more, but I’m already having surgery sometime to fix that.”

Larson’s return, even on a limited basis, gives a shot in the arm to a North team which has struggled without its top two scorers. Leading scorer and rebounder Josh Speidel was seriously injured in a car accident Feb. 1, ahd he remains hospitalized.

Without Speidel and Larson, the Bull Dogs went 0-3 last week.

“It was definitely tough to watch with everything going on,” Larson said. “I wished I could be out there for my teammates. That was a contributing factor of why I played Saturday.”

An MRI on Feb. 2 revealed the extent of Larson’s injury. He received a special knee brace Feb. 4 and practiced in it that day and Thursday, but didn’t feel the knee was strong enough to play in Friday’s loss at Bloomington South.

“I wasn’t used to it,” Larson said. “I couldn’t really push off my left leg. I’m not used to putting pressure on that leg as much, so I’m going to have to get used to that. But I feel if I keep working on it and get a little more strength and be able to move a little bit more laterally, I think I can contribute.”

That was the case Saturday when Larson, the team’s top 3-point shooter, hit two 3s to score six points against East Central in about five minutes of play.

“It was nice to be back out there with my teammates again,” Larson said.

“There was an evaluation process and a specialized knee brace that controls his movement, so it ultimately was a surprise,” North coach Jason Speer said. “We’ve been working on things since (Feb. 4) just to see how it went and see if he could go. Ultimately, what it revolved around was what Trent’s college plans were going to be, so he decided to go ahead and give it a go.”

Larson’s sister Courtney, a senior at Miami (Ohio), knows what her brother is going through and attended Saturday’s North game. She had knee surgery two years ago but has recovered to become the RedHawks’ starting point guard.

“Trent obviously has to learn new movements this week at practice,” Speer said. “Hopefully, he’ll get better and better every practice and every game.”

Trent Larson was the Bull Dogs’ second-leading scorer at 14.5 points a game when he was injured. With him and Speidel out of the lineup, that left much of the offensive load to fall on fellow senior Kooper Glick.

“It’s great to play with Trent,” Glick said. “I’ve played with him for so long. We have great chemistry together. It’s great to have him on the court. I don’t know what percentage he’ll be at, but either way, it’s good to have him back.”

“The guys that we have are working really hard,” Speer said. “We’re just trying to learn how to play without Josh. It’s going to take some time.”

Bloomington South, which beat North 64-55 on Friday, is the solid favorite to win the Bloomington South Sectional. But with Larson on the court, the Bull Dogs hope they can make up that nine-point difference.

“I think Trent’s leadership and just the morale for the team and the confidence the team has with Trent out there will help us a lot,” Speer said. “It will give us a big boost emotionally and basketball-wise.”

“I think anything is possible,” Larson said. “We’re going to play inspired from now on. We’re going to play for each other, like our coach told us to.”

The Larson file

Name: Trent Larson

School: Columbus North

Year: Senior

Height: 6-foot-3

Position: Guard/forward

Key stats: 14.8 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.2 spg

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.