Bull Dogs overcome slow start, rout Falcons

Coming off a three-game Columbus North Invitational binge that included a title-game victory against highly-ranked Penn, the Bull Dog girls basketball team was ripe for a possible letdown.

Fortunately for North, it lasted less than a quarter.

The Bull Dogs, ranked No. 2 in Class 4A, picked things up late in the first quarter to overcome an early deficit and went on to post their 39th consecutive victory, a 72-45 Conference Indiana decision against Perry Meridian.

“I don’t think it was physical; I think it was mental,” North coach Pat McKee said. “We told them the other day that this could be a trap game coming off the high of Penn. There are some other things coming up that are pretty high-profile, and it could be easy to overlook look this. We warned them and tried not to do that.”

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But the Falcons (5-10, 3-1), who came in tied with the Bull Dogs and Southport for first place in the conference, took leads of 5-4 and 7-6 in the first quarter. North (14-0, 4-0) then went on an 11-0 run, sparked by 3-pointers from Maliah Howard-Bass and Paige Littrell, to take a 17-7 lead in the opening minute of the second quarter.

From there, the Bull Dogs gradually built the lead to 20 late in the first half. They led 41-22 at the break.

“I called a quick timeout to say basically, ‘We’re falling into the trap,’” McKee said. “Late first quarter, and certainly the second quarter, we played pretty well. Third quarter, we started a little sluggish again, but I called another timeout and talked to them a little bit, and then they responded well.”

Maliah Howard-Bass led North with 19 points. Imani Guy added 11, and Paige Littrell scored 10.

“I think we were a little tired, but we should have picked it up a lot sooner than what we did,” Guy said. “Once we stopped fouling and came together as a team and shared the ball around, it was a lot easier to score.”

Howard-Bass agreed.

“Just getting into the rhythm of the game was key to getting more points and stops,” Howard-Bass said. “We were pretty tired. This was our fourth game this week, so hopefully we can get some rest and come prepared for Tuesday.”

The Bull Dogs, who host Jennings County on Tuesday, committed only five turnovers while forcing Perry Meridian into 21 miscues. Elle Williams grabbed seven rebounds to lead North to a 36-32 advantage on the boards.

“We’re physically fine,” McKee said. “In fact, if anything, our conditioning level is really good. It’s about energy, focus and discipline. Today, our focus at points wasn’t exactly where it needed to be, but it got there, and you saw some really good stretches when we were there.”

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