Driven

RICHMOND — With senior point guard Ali Patberg having arguably the greatest game of her career, the Columbus North girls basketball team defeated Lawrence North 69-60 on Saturday to earn a shot at the Class 4A state championship.

Patberg scored 39 points as she hit 14 of her 18 field goal attempts and nine of her 10 free throws in the semistate game at Richmond High School. She did it with Lawrence North double– and triple-teaming her.

“Her performance in large part speaks for itself,” said devastated Lawrence North coach Chris Griffin, who was crouched down outside his team’s locker room, his eyes red. “She was spectacular from the opening jump. We tried to give her different defensive looks and we weren’t able to do anything with that.

“We had no answers for her.”

The Bull Dogs (27-1) moved into the 4A championship game against Homestead, a 66-52 victor against Merrillville in the other semistate game, on Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Tipoff is scheduled for 8:15 p.m.

“I’ve been at this for four years, and now we are going back,” said Patberg, who was referring to the Bull Dogs’ appearance in the state championship game her freshman season. They lost that game 50-48 in overtime to North Central.

Columbus North, which will be attempting to win its first state championship in girls basketball, had to avenge a regular season loss to Lawrence North, a 64-60 overtime decision Nov. 29.

“I think the difference is that we knew we belonged this time,” Patberg said.

Columbus North coach Pat McKee stood back and watched his players bask in the moment.

“The thing I want most is for our players to experience this joy,” McKee said. “My greatest joy is watching them do what they are doing right now. “

Although Columbus North won by nine points, it was an exciting game throughout as Lawrence North stayed close with relentless 3-point shooting. The Wildcats sank nine 3-pointers and never trailed by more than 10 points. There were seven lead changes in the game.

Lawrence North, which finished 27-2, had to play without its star, senior guard Lamina Cooper, who scored 28 points against Columbus North in the regular season game. Cooper tore her ACL in the regional round.

Cooper had the assignment of guarding Patberg in the first game, but Griffin said: “I don’t know that anyone could have guarded Ali today.”

Patberg finished cutting down the net down after her teammates had taken care of most of the work. Many of the Columbus fans attending remained to watch the celebration and were snapping photos and cheering the players.

“I will remember this forever,” Patberg said as she headed off the floor.

State title game

Columbus North (27-1) will face Homestead (26-2) in the Indiana Class 4A girls basketball state title game. Game time is 8:15 p.m. Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis. Admission: $15.