North girls keep faith

INDIANAPOLIS — What, McKee worry?

When the Southport girls basketball team got its crowd going with a 9-0 run late in the first quarter Thursday evening, Columbus North head coach Pat McKee sat calmly in his chair. Calling a timeout never crossed his mind.

The Bull Dogs rewarded his faith, scoring the next 12 points and cruising to a 72-37 Conference Indiana victory.

Of course, it was easy for McKee to maintain his composure — the North girls had already built a 16-2 lead before Southport’s one shining moment. They had perhaps earned some equity in the trust department as well, having won each of their previous seven games by an average of 29 points.

“We’ve got good players, and give all credit to them,” McKee said. “And when they bring energy and focus, they’re really, really good.”

Southport experimented with a potpourri of matchup zone defenses in the opening quarter, including a box-and-one and triangle-and-two. None of them prevented the Bull Dogs from getting as many open shots as they liked from long range.

“It’s not what we were expecting,” North guard Ashlyn Huffman said of the Cardinals’ defensive looks, “but (the 3-point shot) was open.”

Huffman, Maliah Howard-Bass and Paige Littrell combined for five makes from deep in the game’s first three minutes to create the early 14-point lead.

Five more 3-pointers in the third quarter helped the Bull Dogs stretch the lead to 54-23, and McKee substituted liberally in the final period.

Howard-Bass (a game-high 23 points) and Huffman (17 points) each had five treys for North.

“I just take whatever the defense gives me,” Howard-Bass said. “If they back off, I’m going to shoot the 3. If they are on me, then I’m going to drive, and if someone helps, I’m going to kick out for another person.”

Elle Williams added eight points and grabbed seven offensive rebounds, extending several Bull Dog possessions.

Emma DeHart scored 19 points to lead the Cardinals (9-8, 3-1), with many of those coming against the North reserves in the second half.

By then, North had done more than enough.

“When we’re locked in and we know what needs to get done, we always get it done,” Huffman said. “We just need to stay focused every game.”

Winners of 41 in a row, the Bull Dogs will be back in action Saturday against one of Kentucky’s top teams, Franklin County, at the Challenge Cup in Frankfort, Ky.

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Ryan O'Leary is sports editor for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at roleary@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2715.