MARTINSVILLE — Columbus North boys basketball coach Paul Ferguson said it takes time for a young team to learn how to win close games. In time, the Bull Dogs will put it together — but the growth process has been a pretty painful one.
Levy Chandler’s putback bucket at the buzzer helped Martinsville finish off a last-minute rally, dooming North to a disheartening 65-63 defeat Saturday night.
“Tough way to lose,” Ferguson said.
The Bull Dogs already had a pair of narrow early-season defeats — one in which they lost a big fourth-quarter lead to Hauser, and one in which a late rally fell just short Friday at Shelbyville.
Saturday’s tilt was close throughout, with neither team holding a lead of more than six all night. There were six ties and 11 lead changes — none more shocking than the last.
Alex King’s three-point play with 1:55 to go gave North a 61-56 lead, but a pair of baskets from Zach Anderson cut the Bull Dogs’ lead to one with 26 seconds remaining. King made a pair from the line with 20.2 seconds left, but Keegan Northern was fouled at the other end shooting a 3-pointer, and his three free throws tied it with 13.5 seconds on the clock.
North (1-3) turned over the ball on its final possession, setting off a Martinsville breakaway. Logan Ratts missed a contested layup, but Chandler was able to sneak in behind the action and put the ball in just ahead of the final horn.
Despite the setback, Ferguson said he felt North had its best game of the season.
“I was really pleased with our effort and our execution, and we obviously still need to learn how to win a tight ball game,” he stated. “It’s been three in a row. This one hurts a little more, because we played so well and were also in control for the majority of the second half.”
“We had lots to prove tonight,” added King, who finished with a game-high 24 points. “No one in this gym expected us to win. This team has nine seniors on there, and we’re just coming off a loss to a mediocre basketball team. We played well throughout the whole game; we just couldn’t close it out.”
Nathan Van Deventer added 12 points for North, with 10 coming in the third quarter. Northern led the Artesians (3-0) with 17 points.
Life won’t get much easier anytime soon for the Bull Dogs, who play their next four games away from home, but Ferguson is focused on peaking at the end of the season.
“We’re trying to see the big picture,” he said. “We’re building for February. Does this game make us better for February? Absolutely. If we can learn from our mistakes and learn how to win a close ball game, we’ll be a much, much tougher team by the end of the season.”
Former Columbus North star Josh Speidel was in attendance, sitting next to the Bull Dogs’ bench. He received an ovation when introduced prior to tipoff.