Columbus North’s inability to put away Heritage Christian in the third quarter of Tuesday night’s season opener could be attributed to the Bull Dogs’ youth and inexperience.
But after the Eagles threatened early in the fourth quarter, North played like season veterans. They went 5 of 8 from the field and 6 of 6 from the free-throw line in the final period to pull away for a 55-40 win.
“It was good to see our guys step up and knock those down because the first game of the season, those guys are feeling some pressure,” said Paul Ferguson, who was making his debut as North coach. “I thought in the last four minutes of the game we executed really well and made some good decisions.”
The Bull Dogs led by as many as 17 in the first half but saw that lead cut to 37-29 with 6:22 left in the game. Nathan VanDeventer then nailed a 3-pointer, and Stephon Peters-Smith scored on a putback to push the lead to 42-29, and it never dipped below single digits again.
“We’re going to have some growing pains this year,” Ferguson said. “I think learning how to win a game is something that takes an inexperienced team some time, but I love the way we competed tonight.”
Junior Alex King went 4 of 6 from 3-point range and led North with 16 points and seven rebounds.
“It’s a great way to start the season,” King said. “We need to improve on defense maybe and be a stronger defensive team. Everyone can apply more ball pressure, and we and close out better.”
Still, the Bull Dogs limited Heritage Christian to 29.8 percent (14 of 47) shooting from the field and forced 16 turnovers.
“I loved our intensity,” Ferguson said. “I thought defensively, we did a lot of things we talked about. We worked hard on our defense, and I thought our guys played with a lot of energy, and I thought we executed defensively.”
North overcame 15 turnovers of its own.
“We have to work on, when they do apply pressure, not panicking, going through an offense, passing it around and not freak out when someone is up on you,” King said.
Trey Vincent scored 10 points for the Bull Dogs. Peters-Smith added eight points and seven rebounds, and VanDeventer had eight points.
That all added up to a victory in the Indiana coaching debut of Ferguson, who had spent most of his career in Illinois.
“It’s been a lot of time and effort in and energy in the offseason coming toward this moment,” Ferguson said. “It feels good for the whole program. I like being undefeated.”