Bull Dogs’ defense sets tone vs. Panthers

Some nights the basket just seems to be closed shut. On nights like those, teams have to muster up defensive effort and hustle to win games.

On Saturday night, Columbus North did just that.

Shooting just 3 of 21 from the 3-point line, the Bull Dogs relied on hard-nosed defense and second-chance points to pull out a 54-37 win against Jennings County.

“Unfortunately, it was a night we didn’t shoot the ball well,” said Columbus North coach Paul Ferguson. “But the key for us on the offensive end was that we hit the glass really hard.”

North indeed attacked the glass well, leading to 16 offensive rebounds. Many of those translated to easy layups.

Heading into halftime with a two-point lead, North came out in the second half determined to slow down the Panthers’ offense. After North’s Trey Vincent got into early foul trouble to begin the third quarter, freshman Trenton Kelley came into the game to help lead a spirited defensive effort by the Bull Dogs.

Kelley was able to help contain Jennings County point guard Kenneth Jones, making him settle for jump shots and not allowing him into the paint.

This pressure by the Bull Dogs flustered the Panthers, limiting them to only five points in the third quarter.

However, the Bull Dogs themselves struggled offensively as well, as Jennings County ran a disruptive 2-3 zone for most of the night.

Unable to hit from the outside, North began to penetrate and attack the zone with excellent ball movement, leading to wide-open shots in the paint and layups.

After allowing Jennings County forward Tyler Vogel to score 16 first-half points, the Bull Dogs contained him to only six in the second half.

Junior Stephon Peters-Smith led this effort, as he used his length and hustle to disrupt Vogel on the defensive end. Peters-Smith also led the Bull Dogs with 12 points on the night and was a perfect 6 for 6 from the free-throw line.

In the fourth quarter, the Bull Dogs handled the defensive pressure much more easily and built a commanding lead while also still being disruptive on the defensive end. North closed the game by sinking six consecutive free throws, totaling 20 points scored in the fourth quarter alone.

After starting the season with a 1-7 record, the Bull Dogs now have their first winning streak of the year. Ferguson said he hopes this two-game streak can translate into a midseason run going forward as the Bull Dogs build toward the sectional in March.