Forty-four is the number the Columbus North girls basketball team was trying to achieve Saturday afternoon against Bloomington South, and after a hard-fought battle the Bull Dogs did just that with a 61-48 win.
The 61-48 victory was Columbus North’s 44th in a row helped the Bull Dogs clinch the outright Conference Indiana title and moved them to 19-0 on the year and moved to 6-0 in Conference Indiana with one more conference game remaining.
In the first two quarters of the game, Bloomington South was being dominant on the offensive boards as Columbus North was having a hard time boxing out. Bloomington South won the overall rebounding battle 25-18.
North (19-0, 6-0) has had a few close, tough games, and early in this game, South was hanging close. The Panthers (10-9, 2-3) held a 7-5 lead at the five-minute mark of the first quarter. However, for the next two minutes, Imani Guy and Maliah Howard-Bass helped North start a 10-0 run that pushed its lead to 15-7.
South cut it to 15-10 after finishing the first quarter with a 3-pointer, one of seven it hit in the game. The Panthers carried that momentum into the second quarter by scoring seven of the first nine points to force a 17-17 tie. That would be the last tie of the game, as North’s Elle Williams had a jumper in the lane and Howard-Bass converted a four-point play. The Bull Dogs led 34-26 at the break.
Guy was in foul trouble all game but provided big minutes and a tall presence under the basket.
“Now since we have one more conference game before becoming conference champs, we want to come out strong,” Guy said. “They are a possible sectional opponent, so we wanted to shut them down early.”
Howard-Bass carried much of the offensive load for North, finishing with 25 points. She hit three 3-pointers and was 8 for 10 from the free-throw line.
“We were not really playing our game and were being sloppy, but the coaches calmed us down and that was when we got in our rhythm,” Howard-Bass said. “We just have to come in and be prepared for anything, because teams are looking out for you, scouting you and trying to beat you since we are the team to beat right now.”
North held a 44-35 lead in the third quarter after Ashlyn Huffman made a 3-point play. South scored the next seven points to cut the deficit to 44-42, but Guy had a basket and Howard-Bass closed out the quarter with five straight points to push the Bull Dogs’ lead back to nine, 51-42.
Guy added 12 points for Columbus North. Williams and Howard-Bass each had six rebounds. The Panthers were led by Cherise Otter’s 15 points.
North will look to keep its streak alive Tuesday when it travels to play Class 3A No. 2 Heritage Christian.