Bench sparks Bull Dogs to victory

The Columbus North girls put four starters in double figures, and the fifth scored eight points Tuesday night, but the key to the Bull Dogs’ 43rd consecutive win was their bench.

North’s reserves combined for 24 points and 14 rebounds and made a couple of key plays early in the game when the team needed a lift. The Bull Dogs, ranked No. 2 in Class 4A, went on to post a 74-58 victory against Franklin.

“I think that’s key,” senior sixth-man Emily Kim said. “When the starters are slow, you have to have a little bit a change of pace, and I think having players come off the bench that bring energy is really key to having success.”

The Grizzly Cubs (8-11) forced five Bull Dogs turnovers in the first 3½ minutes and took a 10-4 lead with 3:38 left in the first half. Kim then came through with a steal and layup to spark a 16-3 run that put North (18-0) in control.

“We had a hard practice (Monday), so I knew we were going to be lagging a little bit behind today,” Kim said. “Mentally, I think we need to be focused better, and coming off the bench, I wanted to get everyone focused and energized.”

Trailing 12-10 after one quarter, another Bull Dog sub, Kat Norman, converted a three-point play to give North its first lead of the game.

“Our bench did give us a big lift, Emily Kim in particular,” North coach Pat McKee said. “I thought she went out there and played really hard, played smart, made good reads. Emily and Kat Norman and Amy Weisner and Nadia Lomax did give us a nice lift.”

The Bull Dogs built the lead to 35-23 at halftime and 56-37 after three quarters. They enjoyed their biggest lead at 63-40 with six minutes left in the game.

“I think definitely, it was energy from everybody,” point guard Ashlyn Huffman said. “We didn’t really bring it, but then at halftime, the coaches kind of got on us, and we all just brought it together and came out with good energy.”

Huffman led North with 12 points. Imani Guy, Elle Williams and Paige Littrell all added 10, and Maliah Howard-Bass had eight.

“It’s been kind of a weird week with the day off (Monday) and then the two-hour delay (Tuesday), so I think we were a little bit tired, but we figured out a way to pull it out,” Huffman said.

Williams grabbed seven rebounds to lead the Bull Dogs with a 32-27 advantage on the boards. North forced 24 Franklin turnovers.

“North is just a pretty tall order,” Franklin coach Walt Raines said. “Their quickness and their size just wears people down. They’re by far the best team we’ve seen and a legitimate state contender again.”

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