Tonight’s the night, Dog-gone-it!

Columbus North fans are hoping tonight’s the charm, becoming the first girls basketball team from Columbus to win a state championship.

Parents of the players on the 27-1 Bull Dogs team are planning an enthusiastic send-off at 5:30 p.m. today when the team bus leaves from North High School on its way to Bankers Life Fieldhouse for the Class 4A championship game against the 26-2 Homestead Spartans.

When the team bus leaves this afternoon, families of the players will continue their tradition of cheering on the team from the roadside as the bus heads north on U.S. 31, said Julie Davis, mother of North standout Ali Patberg.

Parents hold up brand-name Fathead wall graphics with life-size images of the players and cheer along the side of the road as the team bus passes, Davis said.

In response, team members generally open the windows and yell their appreciation, and the bus driver gives a friendly honk of the horn, she said.

Parents also have continued with personal encouragement this week for the players, including locker-room decorations and signs.

Davis encourages others to join in on the fun.

Lights and sirens

Columbus Police will have squad cars with lights and sirens to escort the Bull Dogs bus to the city limits this afternoon. After tonight’s game, the team will return home with a Columbus Fire Department escort from the city limits back to the school.

The Bull Dog bus will be decked out with liberal doses of window paint in North’s colors of royal blue and white courtesy of the basketball cheerleaders, said Sarah Frasier, varsity cheerleader coach.

Cheerleaders also are working on signs and messages to put on the bus ceiling — with plans for streamers and other decorations.

Earlier this week, cheerleaders painted school spirit messages at the North entrance doors and cafeteria windows.

On Friday night, the cheerleaders gave the players special “game bags” of treats to take on the bus to the game, Frasier said.

The cheerleaders also wore #joshstrong T-shirts at Thursday night’s pep session, remembering North boys basketball standout Josh Speidel, hospitalized in Indianapolis with a traumatic brain injury from a car accident Feb. 1.

“He (Josh) has definitely been a part of the games,” Frasier said.

Hoosier Sporting Goods in downtown Columbus has sold about 70 specially designed Lady Bull Dogs state championship game shirts, with a portion of the proceeds going to #JoshStrong, the gofundme.com site raising money to help the Speidel family with medical expenses.

Band plans to get loud

The North team will be supported by 40 musicians from the Bull Dogs pep band, a group that normally numbers as many as 100 during home games. The Indiana High School Athletic Association limits the number to 40 for each school, however.

Director Keith Burton said band selected performers based on seniority, with seniors and juniors making up most of today’s crew.

The band will be wearing their pep band shirts, but musicians often enhance the look with some school spirit wear at times, he said. The band will play from the same set of about 50 songs they have played throughout the season — tunes from the ’70s to current hits.

A full drum kit is headed to Indy, along with conga and bongo drums, among other assorted percussion instruments.

IHSAA rules don’t allow fans to bring cowbells into state championship games, but that doesn’t apply to bands.

So there will be plenty of cowbell in tonight’s pep band’s performance, Burton said.

His only regret is that the school can’t take the whole band to the state finals to perform.

No shirt? No game

For fans thinking about getting a little wild and crazy in the stands at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Indiana High School Athletic Association does have a few limits on behavior and clothing.

Fans are required to wear shirts, although it appears body paint on exposed skin is allowed.

Balloons, banners and posters are all prohibited, however, as well as cowbells, shakers or other noise makers in the crowd.

And if you were thinking of bringing your pet bulldog as a mascot, all live mascots are prohibited, too.

The North student cheering section generally chooses a theme — and today’s homage appears to be honoring Patberg and her plans to attend Notre Dame next fall.

The theme is “Luck of the Irish” for St. Patrick’s Day, according to the cheerleaders.

So don’t be surprised to see green amid the royal blue in the North student section as leprechauns may be sprinkled among the cheering Bull Dogs.

“They are going to go all out,” Frasier said of the student fans. “They will do it up big.”

Ticket info

What: IHSAA Class 4A girls basketball state championship game

Who: Columbus North Bull Dogs (27-1) vs. Homestead Spartans (26-2)

When: 8:15 p.m. Saturday

Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis

How much: $15 per person per session, tickets available at Bankers Life Fieldhouse ticket office.

Directions and parking: Visit bankerslifefieldhouse.com

Gates open: Bankers Life Fieldhouse will open gates to fans prior to the start of each session, 9:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. The venue is cleared between the 2A and 3A games.

Where to watch

All four of today’s girls state championship games will air live on Fox Sports Indiana Plus.

  • For viewers outside of the Fox Sports Indiana coverage area, a live stream of the games will be available at IHSAAtv.org. For those within the Fox Sports Indiana coverage area, the stream will be available only on a delayed basis following the conclusion of the telecast.
  • The IHSAA Champions Radio Network will broadcast all four games to affiliates statewide. Radio stations in Bedford, Indianapolis, Jasper, Rockville, Seymour, Sullivan and Shelbyville will carry the games.
  • WCSI 1010 AM and Mojo 102.9 FM in Columbus will both broadcast the North game, scheduled to start at 8:15 p.m.

Show us your spirit

Fans are invited to stop in at Columbus North High School before the team bus leaves at 5:30 p.m. today to give the Bull Dogs a rousing send-off.

The school is at 1400 25th St.

About the teams

Columbus North Bull Dogs

Coach: Pat McKee

School colors: Royal blue and white

Enrollment: 2,044

State finals history:

Runner-up in 2012 in 4A

Homestead Spartans

Coach: Rod Parker

School Colors: Royal blue and gold

Enrollment: 2,300

State Finals History:

First appearance.

Author photo
Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.